Are You Riding a Lame Horse?

Nearly 75% of horses in a recent study had significant motion asymmetry but were sound according to their owners.
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Are You Riding a Lame Horse?
Rhodin and her fellow researchers found that 161 of the 222 horses (72.5%) had measurements that exceeded established threshold values for lameness. | Photo: iStock
Would you knowingly ride a lame horse? Few people would, yet in a recent study, scientists found that nearly three-fourths of study horses had significant motion asymmetry, confirmed by motion analysis. Every one of those horses was being ridden regularly. And according to their owners, they were sound.

“It’s important to educate riders and trainers in visual lameness assessment to detect changes in their horses´ motion symmetry (early),” said Marie Rhodin, PhD, of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Uppsala.

Rhodin and her fellow researchers invited horse owners across Sweden to participate in their study if they considered their horses healthy and sound and rode them at least two to three times a week. The scientists accepted 222 horses into the study, and they traveled to each horse’s home site to carry out inertial measurement unit (IMU) analyses of his movement at a trot on a hard surface.

They found that 161 of the 222 horses (72.5%) had measurements that exceeded established threshold values for lameness, Rhodin said. It’s possible that this could reflect biomechanical variations that aren’t actually painful, but it’s also possible that the horse is in pain, she said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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