In 1882 the British photographer Eadweard Muybridge caused a sensation with his series of still photographs showing the "horse in motion" to resolve a centuries-old question: whether a trotting horse ever had all four feet off the ground at once? He employed the then highly innovative method of installing a series of 24 cameras along the course of a racetrack. The shutter mechanism of each of the cameras was connected via a trip-wire laid across the track. The moment the horse passed by the cameras, a trip-wire activated the cameras, resulting in a sequence of photographs that depicted the movement sequence of a full stride in detail.
Muybridge's series of photographs are often quoted today as the foundation of cinematography and proved a revelation in terms of understanding and appreciating animal locomotion. Over the past century, and particularly over the past couple of decades, the interest in biomechanics and movement analysis has continued to deepen.
More recently, sensor technology has garnered more interest among researchers to study locomotion and lameness in horses. Sensors are portable devices that can easily be used in different field settings. Powered by developments in machine learning/AI and increased availability of computer power, applications to study more complex biomechanical systems such as the horse during exercise is becoming a new reality. This means that it has become possible to put into practice the lessons we’ve learned from decades of research and objectively measure the movement of horses. What's more, the effect of training and riding on the health and welfare of horses can also be determined independently and reliably.
iMotion Equine - welfare at the heart of it all
Equestrian sports are at a crossroads. We are convinced that the health and welfare of horses must be at the heart of everything we do. Every owner, rider, coach or trainer should be able to detect any change in a horse's movement pattern and adapt the training and riding accordingly in to ensure that the horse becomes fitter and healthier, while preventing overtraining or injuries even before they occur.
By using advanced gait analysis technologies aimed at measuring, analysing and defining movement, we want to map out the movement parameters of (Dutch) horses, ranging from recreational to advanced level, while also taking into account the interaction between horses and riders.
We want to establish the most comprehensive equine movement database, allowing us to develop specific reference patterns/benchmarks for horses of different ages and at various stages of training. We'll be able to use these benchmarks to help owners, riders, trainers and coaches to monitor, safeguard and improve the health and welfare of their horses throughout their lives.
With iMotion Equine, we hope to contribute towards a more sustainable equestrianism - today and in years to come.
Help us to improve equine welfare
We've got big plans, and we're convinced that we can make a real difference to horses everwhere.
But to realise our grand ambitions, we need your help. That's because research at this scale costs money. And even though we've been able to make a start thanks to the generous support of Human and Horse Academy, Abri voor Dieren, Dechra, and Mustad Hoofcare, we're not quite there yet.
So, if you think horse welfare matters and you want to know about how horses actually move, please consider supporting us today.
P.S. Do you own or look after a horse? Then you might be able to participate in our research. Click here to find out more.