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Dott. Eleonora Pagliara

Phd thesis

Title: Measuring Kinematic Variables of High Motion Joints in Adult Horses using wearable Inertial Sensor: Validation Study and Application to virtual environment

Key words: equine-racehorse-lameness-locomotion-kinematics-gait analysis-inertial measurement unit (IMU) -articular range of motion (ROM)- fetlock joint-training -multibody dynamics model


Lameness can affect horses from all equestrian disciplines leading to financial loss for horse owners, day lost in training and competitions (Braganca 2018;Keegan 2007). Thus, to horse owners and horse trainers, lameness is one of the most important equine health issue they face (Keegan 2007) and its recognition, treatment and prevention is an essential part of veterinary competence. Although is widely recognized that experienced clinicians through subjective visualization can assess most gait events efficiently, those subjective analysis have been show to be somewhat flawed and there is a limited intra-observer agreement in evaluation of living horses. (Dyson 2014; Keegan 2007). Quantitative gait analysis offers unbiased gait information that can assist clinical decision making (Braganca 2018) and has the potential to be applied into a virtual environment simulation. Simulations of this type are valuable tools in research on functional anatomy and biomechanical considerations for injury prevention (Van den Bogert & Schamhardt 1993). Simulation of racehorse limb parameters on in silico fetlock motion has been computational modelled in order to study the effect of race surface and propensity for injury (Symons et al. 2017). In silico models are developed via computer simulation which allow the researcher to include virtually unlimited array of parameters of locomotion and combine the advantages of both in vivo and in vitro experimentation.

Inertial measurement unit (IMU) are sensor-based technology for objective gait analysis in horses. IMUs are electronic devices that detect rotational movement of the three-axis and rely on the functionality of accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. Currently, commercial gait analysis systems rely on sensors mounted in the midline of the horse (pelvis-head) and record motion in the sagittal plan only.

Visual assessment of fetlock joint extension a clinical parameter used by clinicians performing subjective lameness evaluation.The fetlock joint is a rotary joint that experiences the largest load during locomotion, particularly during athletic events such as racing or jumping. Quantification of fetlock joint angle patterns and range of motion (ROM) could furnish useful information for quantifying asymmetry and identifying limb phasing patterns associated with lameness in horses. Moreover, in racehorses, the majority of acute catastrophic injuries occur distal to the antebrachiocarpal or tarsocrural joints, with the highest incidence in the metacarpo/metatarso-phalangeal (fetlock) joints (Diab et al. 2017).


The main aim of the research is therefore applying IMU on high motion joints in order to characterize gait kinematic variations, dynamic angular goniometry and motion patterns of each individual lower limb of the moving horse. The study will be divided into three different and consecutive phases:

1) Repeatability and validation of measurement derived from distal limb mounted IMUs. It will be assessed through comparison with previous validated systems (optical motion capture system);

2) Kinematic variables of interest will be collected under different condition (lameness,surface, training, speed, pace) in order to understand their modifications under field setting;

3) In vivo joint kinematic data quantifyed by IMUs will be used as input for modelling particular conditions

Expected results

Dynamic measurement of ROM in field setting by IMUs will be a reliable tool in detection of abnormal gait patterns and asymmetric movements in horses with lameness. Our results will be relevant in veterinary medicine and they could be applied in two fields:

1) Distal limb analysis thought high motion joint kinematic will enable a more comprehensive assessment of normal and abnormal gait pattern in living horses assisting equine veterinarians during detection of lameness and measurement of rehabilitation progress of injured horses.

2) Validated kinematic measures could be introduced in silico models (with the aid of more complex mathematical model named multi-body inverse dynamics) to better understand joint biomechanics under specific conditions. Therefore, capturing kinematic variables of high motion joints could become a part of more complex mathematical models to assess joint biomechanics and finally leading to injuries prevention.


Bragança, F. S., Rhodin, M., & van Weeren, P. R. (2018). On the brink of daily clinical application of objective gait analysis: What evidence do we have so far from studies using an induced lameness model?. The Veterinary Journal234, 11-23.

Diab, S. S., Stover, S. M., Carvallo, et al. (2017). Diagnostic approach to catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries in racehorses. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation29(4), 405-413.

Dyson, S., 2014. Recognition of lameness: man versus machine. The Veterinary Journal 201, 245–248.

Keegan, K.G., 2007. Evidence-based lameness detection and quantification. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice 23, 403–423.

Symons, J. E., Hawkins, D. A., Fyhrie, D. P., Upadhyaya, S. K., & Stover, S. M. (2017). Modelling the effect of race surface and racehorse limb parameters on in silico fetlock motion and propensity for injury. Equine veterinary journal49(5), 681-687.

Van den Bogert, A. J., & Schamhardt, H. C. (1993). Multi-body modelling and simulation of animal locomotion. Cells Tissues Organs146(2-3), 95-102.


Research activities



Articles related to the PhD project

1.Pagliara, E., Marenchino, M., Antenucci, L., Costantini, M., Zoppi, G., Giacobini, M. D. L., ... & Bertuglia, A. (2022). Fetlock Joint Angle Pattern and Range of Motion Quantification Using Two Synchronized Wearable Inertial Sensors per Limb in Sound Horses and Horses with Single Limb Naturally Occurring Lameness. Veterinary Sciences9(9), 456.

2.Pagliara, E., Pasinato, A., Valazza, A., Riccio, B., Cantatore, F., Terzini, M., ... & Bertuglia, A. (2022). Multibody Computer Model of the Entire Equine Forelimb Simulates Forces Causing Catastrophic Fractures of the Carpus during a Traditional Race. Animals12(6), 737.

Articles not related to the PhD project

1.Bertuglia,A., Basano, I., Pagliara, E., Brkljaca Bottegaro, N., Spinella, G. and Bullone M (2021) Effect of intravenous tiludronate disodium administration on the radiographic progression of osteoarthritis of the fetlock joint in Standardbred racehorses. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Sept 15, Vol.259, No.6, pp 651-661 

2.Pagliara E., Nicolo A., Rossi C., Cammaresi C., Donadio G., Bertuglia A. (2021)  Transdermal application of anesthetic preparations is effective in increasing mechanical nociceptive threshold at perineural injection sites in horses, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Vol.103  

3.Pagliara, E., Cantatore, F., Pallante, M., Valazza, A., Riccio, B. and Bertuglia A. (2020) Lateral Patellar instability in Standardbred horses at the weanling age: clinical and morphological features in four cases (2017-2019). Equine Veterinary Education.  

4.Bertuglia, A., Pagliara, E., Manca, F., Pozzolo, P., & Mannelli, A. (2020). Prognostic indicators after musculoskeletal injuries in Standardbred racehorses in Italy. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. Vol 92

5.Cantatore F., Marcatili M., Pagliara E., Bertuglia A., Withers J. (2020) Diffusion of radiodense contrast medium following perineural injection of the deep branch of the lateral plantar nerve using two different techniques in horses- an in vivo study. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol. Jul; 33(4), pp 235-242 DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1701655

Abstracts on international congress related to the PhD project

  1. Pagliara E. (2022) Recording fetlock joint range of motion using wearable inertial sensors in sound and lame horses. 11th International Congress Equine Exercise Physiology-27 June-01 July, Uppsala, Sweden- Comparative exercise physiology 22 vol.18, Suppl 1 pag 49


  1. Pagliara E. (2022) Multibody modelling of internal forces causing catastrophic carpal fracture during traditional race.11th International Congress Equine Exercise Physiology-27 June-01 July, Uppsala, Sweden- Comparative exercise physiology 22 vol.18, Suppl 1 pag 46

Abstracts on international congress not related to the PhD project

1.Cavallini D., Pagliara E., Raspa F., Valle E., 2019. Cases of stomatitis induced by Setaria glauca and Echinochloa crus-galli in horses. 23th Congress of the European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition, Torino, 18-20 settembre, 171 p.

2.Pagliara E, Cantatore F, Bertuglia A and Marcatili M.  Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) for the treatment of surgical site infection (SSI) following ventral midline laparotomy in three horses. Sive international Congress, Bologna, Italy 22-23 January 2022


3.Penazzi L. , Valle E., Pagliara E., Ala U., Nervo T., Prola L. (2022). Free dietary nucleotides in newborn foals positively affect fecal volatile fatty acids production and microbiota. ECEIM international congress, 29 October 2022, Rome, Italy

Last update: 20/01/2023 11:40

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