Development of non-invasive marker clusters to assess three-dimensional kinematics of the lower forelimb of the horse


  • S.J. Hobbs
  • ,
  • J. Richards
  • ,
  • B. Matuszewski
  • ,
  • C. Brigden
  • , 2006

A method of tracking and analyzing three dimensional movement of the lower forelimb of horses was developed based on the Calibrated Anatomical Systems Technique. The method could measure flexion-extension angles of the three lower limb joints including the pastern, but further work was needed to extend the analysis to out of plane movements.


Out of plane motion in horses is difficult to measure accurately using non-invasive techniques. Although most of the movement found in the lower limbs is flexion-extension, out of plane movements are evident, particularly at the coffin joint.


To develop and evaluate a marker cluster set for measuring sagittal and extrasagittal movement of joints in the distal portion of the forelimb in ponies.


5 infrared cameras were positioned on a concrete walkway in a frontal-sagittal arc and calibrated. Four segments were defined: hoof, middle phalanx, proximal phalanx, and metacarpus. Rigid clusters with 4 retroreflective markers were placed on each segment. A static trial was recorded with additional anatomic markers on the medial and lateral joint lines. Those anatomic markers were removed, and kinematic data were recorded at 240 Hz during walking. An ensemble mean was computed from the 4 ponies from 5 replicates of the walks. Joint kinematic variables were calculated by use of the calibrated anatomical system technique.


The design and error dispersion of each marker were evaluated. Marker clusters were quasiplanar, but variation in orientation error was reduced because the mean radii were > 10 times the largest error dispersion values. Measurements of sagittal rotations of the distal interphalangeal, proximal interphalangeal, and metacarpophalangeal joints were similar to measurements obtained with bone-fixed triads, but larger discrepancies between the 2 methods were found for extrasagittal rotations.


Development of noninvasive methods for quantifying data pertaining to 3-dimensional motion in horses is important for advancement of clinical analysis. The technique used in the study enabled identification of flexion-extension motions with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Appropriate correction algorithms and improvements to the technique may enable future quantification of extrasagittal motions.