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22.12.2021 Sharing The Science

Effect of gamified perceptual learning on visual detection and discrimination skills in equine gait assessment

Starke SD, Miles GC, Channon SB, May SA. Effect of gamified perceptual learning on visual detection and discrimination skills in equine gait assessment. Vet Rec. 2021;e21.

I listened recently to a webinar presented by Eva Marunova (Empowered Equitation) on behalf of E-Horse. Eva encouraged us to use an online game called the Lameness Trainer. I haven’t yet made time to play the game, which takes up to 2hrs and helps players to better recognise lameness in horses.

Browsing the website though, I came across a recently published study which discussed the use of the Lameness Trainer by veterinary students. From what I can understand, the study was (unsurprisingly) showing that using the Lameness Trainer helped the students to recognise lameness, and improved their confidence in doing so. You might be interested to read just how much more difficult it is to recognise hindlimb lameness compared to recognising forelimb lameness. By the end of the learning session, 80% of students could recognise forelimb lameness of greater than or equal to 20% asymmetry, simplistic hindlimb lameness of greater than or equal to 40% asymmetry, and realistic hindlimb lameness of greater than or equal to 50% asymmetry. The human eye is generally known to be able to recognise lameness of around 25-30% asymmetry.

Something that surprised me (but is fairly unrelated to the results of the study) is that only 10-15% of veterinary students are interested in working in the equine field. I always assume, for some reason, that far more people want to work with horses! Perhaps I forget about the wet, the cold, the mud, the danger, etc…!!!


Background: Visual assessment of equine lameness is an everyday veterinary task suffering from poor diagnostic accuracy. The aim of this study was to quantify the impact of the perceptual learning game ‘LamenessTrainer’ on skill development.

Methods: Thirty-six undergraduate veterinary students engaged in four game modules teaching the assessment of fore- and hindlimb lameness. Computer animations of horses in this game displayed 0% (sound) to 70% (moderately lame) vertical movement asymmetry of head and pelvis. Performance, learning effects, diagnostic accuracy, detection thresholds and survey responses were analysed.

Results: Following staircase learning, more than 80% of students reliably classified horses with ≥20% asymmetry for forelimb lameness, ≥40% asymmetry for simplified hindlimb lameness and ≥50% asymmetry for realistic hindlimb lameness. During random presentation, on average 82% of sound and 65% of lame horses were assessed correctly during forelimb lameness evaluation, dropping to 39% of sound and 56% of lame horses for hindlimb lameness.

Conclusion: In less than two hours, systematic perceptual learning through deliberate practice can develop visual assessment skills to an accuracy level comparable to expert assessors scoring the same animations. Skills should be developed further to improve misclassifications of sound and mildly lame horses, especially for hindlimb lameness evaluation.

You can read the full article here.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

December 22, 2021
Sue Palmer