One of the most frustrating aspects of diagnosing and treating lameness in horses is that they can’t tell you where it hurts. But a relatively new technology to the equine world is helping some veterinarians pinpoint lameness problems. Bruce Lyle, DVM, a veterinarian who focuses on foot care in Aubrey, Texas, has been using a Matscan pressure measurement system from Tekscan in his clinic for about nine months now, and he finds it to be a very useful tool.

While an assistant walks a horse over the 28×60-inch mat (the largest of these mats currently in use in clinical practice in the U.S.according to Tekscan; the only other one is at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky), Lyle records pressure measurements on his computer. The resulting video shows the varying pressures of the hoof on the mat as different colors, much like a weather map uses color to show varying intensities of storm activity, and graphs the force over time. Coupled with physical examination and radiography, this information helps Lyle identify what structures might be subjected to more than their fair share of pressure, torque, or strain. He can then decide how to change the forces at play to optimize the healing environment, and in many cases alter high-risk or currently painful areas to gain a sounder horse.

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