Phone sensor predicts when Thoroughbreds will go lame

By guest blogger, Sue Palmer

I couldn’t help it, the title of the article caught my eye!

I don’t have full access to this article, which was published in 2010, but the basic premise is that attaching accelerometers to a horses neck could provide early warning of lameness.  I’d add that learning to listen to the horse more carefully, understand his behaviours, and become more aware of the feel of his movement, would all help.  Although the title could be taken as a bit of a joke, I do actually believe that using technology where it is useful is an excellent idea, and the reality is that if technology could provide early warning of lameness (i.e. if it could predict when a horse was just a little bit lame, rather than waiting until it’s hopping lame), then further more serious injury could in many cases be prevented.  It’s all very well to suggest that we listen to our horse, get to know him better, etc.  But as the saying goes, ‘common sense isn’t all that common’, and there’s a huge pressure to somehow develop ‘common sense’ around horses within a short time of owning your own, which in my mind is impossible unless you have been around horses for many years beforehand.  It’s impossible to know what ‘normal’ is if you only get to see / feel your own horse, or perhaps yours and a couple of friend’s horses, and that’s why it’s important to gather a team of experts (vet, physio, farrier, equine dental technician, saddler, nutritionist) around your horse to advise you.  When I was 32yrs old I studied for my Masters in Veterinary Physiotherapy at the Royal Veterinary College.  I had been riding since I was 3yrs old, working with horses since I was 12yrs old, and competing all my life.  And yet I still struggled to ‘see’ the asymmetries (sub clinical lamenesses) that others could apparently see.  I’ve developed this skill over the years watching literally thousands of horses move.  And even now I find it easier to trust my findings from ‘feel’ than from vision.  So actually I’m a great believer in the technology that has been and is being developed around measuring lameness in horses.  As a great friend once said, ‘If I can make it easier or better for my horse by ‘cheating’, then why wouldn’t I cheat?!’.


Many vets now have technology that helps them to assess lameness in the horse, and if you’re interested in applying the techniques to your own horse, why not give your local vets a call and ask them about it?

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Why we need good foundations…

By Lizzie Hopkinson

One of my favorite quotes is a Hemingway quote: “we are all broken, it’s how the light gets in.”

When we experience setbacks we can feel as though everything that we have worked towards and built up was all pointless. But often setbacks show us where we have gone awry in our building up. Often the foundations are simply not good enough to support the work as we move forwards and the cracks start to appear.

Sometimes you need those cracks to appear to show you where the problems are so that you can address them and move on in a stronger fashion.

For example many horses struggle to stand still at the end of a rope quietly in their own space. You might not think this matters, you never need your horse to do this, but so many problems that we experience with our horses come back to this basic skill.

Many loading problems are not loading problems, but are simply groundwork or handling problems. Often by breaking the problem back down into its foundations we can resolve it at a basic level before moving forwards again.

So if something is going wrong as you try and ask more, such as moving up a height in jumping, or trying to work up a level in dressage, don’t regard it as failure. See it, rather, as an opportunity to take your training back down to the basics and see where the problem lies. It is easier at the lower levels to work round problems rather than resolve them. But problems, like molehills, have a habit of popping up again at inconvenient times.

So the next time you begin to struggle, go back to basics. Can your horse stand in his own space? Can you get on without him moving? Can you move one leg at a time? Keep working through the basics and you will find the weakness in your foundations. Fix that, and you will fix the problem higher up.

Why your vet knows best…

By Lizzie Hopkinson

There was a recent report into the use of wormer as a cure for headshaking.

Wormer may very well cure headshaking, however people were using wormer as a cure for headshaking based on other people’s anecdotal evidence on social media.

Wormer has been tested and researched and approved for equine use for the treatment of worms to the recommended dosage. The effects of over dosing with wormer are not known, but wormer contains chemicals so it is unlikely that it would have no effect.

The purpose of research trials is to find out whether something actually works. It is unlikely that something will work on every horse or every human, and the effectiveness of drug treatments often varies across subjects. But the purpose of the research is to investigate that.

There are many good things that have come about through the internet and the rise of social media, and there are some negatives. I am sure we all know someone who googles their health symptoms and self-diagnoses instantly with terrible terminal illnesses. There is a reason why they spend so long training doctors and why scientists spend years in laboratories.

I am not dismissing the notion that you can get quirky side effects from some medicines. However, it may only happen with certain circumstances or genetics, we don’t know. The worry is that people are seeing views expressed on social media on a par with consulting your vet.

If you have a headshaking issue with your horse, consult your vet. By all means read around the subject, by all means buy products to try out, such as the Shakeaze. But (please) don’t give the same weight to the opinion of “ponymadofwatford” who may have never have had a horse, but really loves them and someone in a pub said…, as your vet, who invested a lot of time and money into learning and training.