New tendon boots can detect horses’ lameness

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  • A tendon boot with a built-in sensor that can detect lameness is being brought to market by a French technology company.

    The Ekico boot differs from other systems that detect gait anomalies, as rather than looking at asymmetry of stride, it compares the fetlock extension/loading of the front legs.

    Using the wireless sensors and an app, the boots only need to record around 15 strides to provide an immediate analysis of the horse’s locomotion.

    Morgane Gerout-Juban, a rider and jumping coach who co-founded the start-up with computer science engineer Stéphane Juban, explained that existing products usually analyse the asymmetry between the diagonals via an accelerometer.

    “In our case we give the charge repartition between the forelimb left and the forelimb right by relying on the fetlock extension,” she said. “According to Roger Smith (professor at the Royal Veterinary College) the fetlock function is key to most soft tissue injuries of the palmar metacarpus and pastern, so this information could be very interesting for the vet.”

    The Normandy-based company recently attended the World Congress of Equine Veterinarians in Beijing (20-23 April), where they presented vets with the results of their scientific study into the boots, conducted by Professor Jean-Michel Vandeweerd from the University of Namur.

    “We have had a lot of interest from veterinarians, universities and distributors of vet medical devices,” Morgane said. “Our work is closely monitored around the world and we will now need to accelerate to satisfy our current demonstration requests.”

    The boots are currently obtainable on pre-order to vets only, and will be available from early 2019, although the company hopes to release a version for horse owners in future.

    “The data visible on the application is simple to understand, but we think we must be careful when interpreting it,” Morgane explained. “That’s why we are using our first tool with veterinarians and our algorithms are created by a veterinary doctor data scientist. Obviously though, data for vets will not be the same as the data for owners [once the boots are available to the wider market].”

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    The company also plans to create a version of the boots for the hind legs in the near future.

    “We are both passionate about the project,” Morgane added. “I am a horse rider, I compete, I love, understand and take care of horses. Stephane is addicted to new technology and he is creative.

    “Locomotor problems are very common in the horse as demonstrated by numerous studies.  I thought a tool as simple as boots could be fantastic if it could help with anomaly detection. Moreover, we truly want to build a useful and accurate device, which is why we have targeted the vet market first.”

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