Last night, I saw an ad for a new device in The Horse magazine.

It’s called GaitCheck.  It looks like a walkie-talkie.  It uses sensors to detect and monitor lameness.  And its creators claim that its perception is five times as fast as that of the human eye, so it can “see” lameness far sooner than we can.

I know this sounds selfish of me, but I’m not sure I want to see any more lameness than I already do.  And I wonder whether some of the gait irregularities the device might pinpoint will be considered abnormal when, in fact, they fall within the range of “normal” irregularities for a particular horse.

I can definitely see the use of such a device to establish a baseline for a horse, and to monitor that baseline.  This could be especially useful for a horse considered “serviceably sound.”  By catching the deterioration of the gait sooner, we could take action to address a potentially career-ending lameness sooner.

An even better use, I think, would be to monitor the progress of horses in recovery from lameness.  Because sometimes we don’t see progress when it’s there.  Such is the failing of the human eye…and sometimes, the human heart.

GaitCheck has been tested at the McPhail Equine Performance Center at Michigan State University, which is where Hilary Clayton studies the biomechanics of equine gaits with her own incredible assemblage of digital and analog data acquisition devices.  If you have nothing else to do this winter, you can curl up with a few pots of coffee and read about Dr. Clayton’s work here.

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