The influence of the force applied and its period of application on the outcome of the flexion test of the distal forelimb was investigated in a group of eight sound horses. The degree of lameness after the flexion test was scored by a standard clinical classification, and by measuring the angle of maximum fetlock extension by means of the infrared light-based MacReflex gait analysis system. There was a good correlation between the clinical score and this electronically recorded kinematic parameter (r = 0.96). Both the force applied and the period of application affected the outcome of the test. Increasing the force applied by 25 per cent led to three horses being judged positive, instead of two when the normal force was applied. Doubling the time to 120 seconds resulted in four horses rather than two being classified as lame after the test. Reducing the force to 75 per cent or the time to 30 seconds resulted in all the horses being classified as sound. A flexion test lasting five minutes, either at 100 per cent force or at 75 per cent, classified six of the eight horses as lame. It is concluded that the flexion test should be defined more precisely in terms of these two factors in order to make its results more consistent and hence more useful.
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