The objectives of this study were to assess the reliability of a numerical rating scale (NRS) and a verbal rating scale (VRS) for the assessment of lameness in horses and to determine whether they can be used interchangeably. Sixteen independent observers graded the severity of lameness in 20 videotaped horses, and the agreement between and within observers, correlation and bias were determined for each scale. The observers agreed with each other in 56 per cent of the observations with the NRS and in 60 per cent of the observations with the VRS, and the associated Kendall coefficient of concordance was high. Similar trends were evident in the agreement between two observations by each observer. The correlation between and within observers was high for both scales. There were no significant differences (bias) among the observers’ mean scores when using either scale. There was a significant correlation between the lameness scores attributed when using the two scales, but the differences between the scores when plotted against their overall mean were unacceptable for clinical purposes. The results indicate that the NRS and VRS are only moderately reliable when used to assess lameness severity in the horse, and that they should not be used interchangeably.
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