Wearable sensors can detect training fatigue in horses, findings suggest

Share
Wearable technology has the potential to detect training fatigue in horses, researchers suggest.
The study used 10 high-level dressage horses wearing heart-rate monitors. File image by Digwen

Wearable technology has the potential to detect training fatigue in horses, researchers suggest.

Benoît Pasquiet and his fellow researchers, writing in the journal Sensors, said fatigue and, especially muscular fatigue, is a normal outcome of physical exercise.

Delaying its onset in training, and avoiding crossing the point where fatigue harms the musculoskeletal system, can help minimize the chances of injury and underperformance.

“Identifying the onset of fatigue and understanding its effects are essential to optimize training,” they said.

The researchers employed inertial measurement units for their study. These wearable sensors measure linear accelerations and angular velocities, and can also provide orientation estimates.

“These sensors offer the possibility of a non-invasive and continuous monitoring of locomotion during training sessions,” they said. “However, the indicators extracted from inertial measurement units and their ability to show these locomotion changes are not known.”

The study used 10 high-level dressage horses, all wearing heart-rate monitors.

The location and orientation of the sensors used in the study. Image: Pasquiet et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22134981
The location and orientation of the sensors used in the study. Image: Pasquiet et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22134981

After a warm-up, the horses were equipped with nine sensors on various parts of their body. Locomotion measurements were then taken in a standardized way by each horse passing both ways through an arena corridor at the trot and canter (two passages at each gait).

Then, each horse completed its workout session. Immediately after, a blood sample was taken so that lactate levels could be measured as an indicator of fatigue.

Afterwards, a new series of two passages at each gait was undertaken in the corridor for analysis.

In all, eight recordings per horse were available for analysis.

The authors noted that high-level horse training requires individualized planning, so the warm-up and working sessions were decided by the rider, the key instruction being that it had to be the most demanding of the sessions scheduled for that period.

How the data was processed. Image: Pasquiet et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22134981
How the data was processed. Image: Pasquiet et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22134981

The volume of the session (gait duration, gait order, and figure repetition) was entirely managed by the rider.

The study team examined sensor data on acceleration, angular velocities, and orientation, comparing the results in the standardized test before and after each horse’s training session.

The heart rate and blood lactate readings did not indicate a significant amount of physiological fatigue, the authors said.

However, the sensor readings did show an effect of the training session, indicating a change in locomotion arising from the training session, with alterations in the movement smoothness both in canter and trot.

“Inertial measurement units seem then to be able to track locomotion pattern modifications due to training,” they said.

These indicators, they said, could be used in the future to build an on-board system that could help to anticipate detrimental fatigue during training.

Discussing their findings, the researchers said it had been expected that the training sessions would have induced fatigue.

“The riders all interpreted the instruction in the same way and worked with the same objective; however, it was well below the physiological reality,” they said.

“Given the heart rate and blood lactate values, the energy demand (anaerobic and aerobic) was indeed not elevated.”

Despite this, some locomotor indicators were statistically different before and after the training session.

The greatest number of significant variations were obtained, in descending order, from the fore and hind cannons, then for the sternum, the poll, the forehead, and lastly the sacrum sensors.

The sensor at the withers did not show significant modification, but this may have been because of inadequate fixation of this sensor.

The authors said future research should be conducted to be able to fully attribute the changes in readings to fatigue.

The study team comprised Pasquiet and Sophie Biau, with the French Institute for Horses and Riding; Quentin Trébot and Laetitia Fradet, with the University of Poitiers; and Jean-François Debril and François Durand, with the Center for Image Analysis and Sports Performance in Poitiers.

Pasquiet, B.; Biau, S.; Trébot, Q.; Debril, J.-F.; Durand, F.; Fradet, L. Detection of Horse Locomotion Modifications Due to Training with Inertial Measurement Units: A Proof-of-Concept. Sensors 2022, 22, 4981. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22134981

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

Horsetalk.co.nz

Latest research and information from the horse world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.