Faculty members at Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center are currently testing a new high-speed digital video system which will allow for detailed gait analysis, lameness diagnosis and hoof balancing in horses. The testing began in October 2006 with clinical application scheduled to start in May 2007.

Unlike most video cameras, which could only capture horses in motion at 30 frames per second, this new technology can film at 60 frames per second in high definition, permitting the center’s specialists to clearly view foot landing, break over and arc of the foot, and limb flight. Using an equine treadmill that offers graded exercise in a controlled environment, a horse’s gait can be captured at both varying and consistent speeds. The footage can then be frozen in still frames or played in slow motion, allowing for precision viewing of movements.

“We are thrilled by the possibilities offered by this new gait analysis technology,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. “The benefits of slowing or freezing high quality digital images of a horse at full gallop are endless.”

According to Dr. Curry Keoughan, clinical assistant professor in equine lameness and surgery, using video technology rather than analog film may also result in enhanced performance through more accurate therapeutic shoeing.

“Previous gait analysis systems were based on computer images that were sometimes misleading,” said Keoughan. “This system will enable us to optimize hoof balance and comfort leading to heightened performance and success.”

Keoughan notes that this new technology will be of particular benefit for athletic horses.

“To improve productivity even a half of a percent in a race horse is very significant,” said Keoughan.

Horses from the Loudoun Therapeutic Riding Foundation in Leesburg participated in the testing.

The new gait analysis service will be made available in May 2007.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a Leesburg based full-service equine hospital that is owned by Virginia Tech and operated as one of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

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