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Prevalence & significance of lameness in sports horses

Study honours in animal science and investigate the prevalence of objectively detected lameness in sports horses.

Equine health

Choose either Thoroughbred racehorses, Standardbred racehorses, jumpers or dressage horses and measure the impact on performance during training and/or competitions throughout the season.

Lameness is the most common clinical problems in horses and compromises performance and horse welfare since it is typically associated with pain. Continuous use of a lame horse in training and/or competitions can lead to aggravation of injuries. For example:

  • Potentially treatable lesions can become more difficult or even impossible to treat;
  • secondary lesions on another body part may occur due to the abnormal motion adopted by the horse with the aim of minimising pain; and
  • pre-existing lesions can result in catastrophic injuries - such as sudden breakdown of a structure or limb during exercise.

The prevalence of lameness in sports horses appears to be high but has not been investigated yet in a well conducted study in the field using an objective method.

Limited evidence based on horses with experimentally-induced lameness exercised on a treadmill indicates that lameness compromises performance of sports horses, but long term studies investigating the impact of lameness on a group of horses through an entire season has not been conducted yet.

Key methodology:

  • After obtaining written consent from horse owners, a portable inertial sensor-based system (PISBS) will be used to non-invasively detect and quantify lameness at the trot in 30 sports horses once a month over the entire season.
  • All lameness evaluations will be recorded in digital video and the images will be used for subjective detection and quantification of lameness.
  • Correlations between occurrence and severity of lameness and performance during training and competition will be investigated. 

Marco Lopes


Associate Professor Marco Lopes

Research area: Equine health and performance; equine surgery, intensive care, lameness and gait analysis

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Animal Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Animal science, Honours projects - Marco Lopes, Honours in Animal Science subtheme - Equine health

Competition: Young Scientist of the Year

How do we feed the world’s growing population? How do we save our wildlife from extinction? Got an idea that will build a brighter, greener world?

Australian high school students are invited to submit a short video about one of Australia’s big science challenges.

Video competition