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Research comment
Reliability of equine visual lameness classification
  1. Kevin G. Keegan
  1. College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA
  1. email: KeeganK{at}

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In this issue of Vet Record, Starke and Oosterlinck present a summary of the results of a study (p 63)showing that visual gait assessment is unreliable for differentiating sound and mildly lame horses, especially with hindlimb lameness.1 They also found experience or confidence in one’s ability to detect lameness did not improve reliability.

This is another study concluding that subjective evaluation for lameness in horses is not a standard of practice that we should be satisfied with.2-7 As an equine practitioner who has been evaluating horses with lameness for over 35 years, I find this a hard pill to swallow. I believe I was mentored well over the years, by seasoned lameness evaluators, and that I know how to detect and assess lameness in the horse. Yet, reflecting on the number of times I’ve been challenged on my lameness assessments and then proven wrong by observant colleagues, interns and residents and even, occasionally, good veterinary students, I understand, believe, and accept Starke and Oosterlinck’s results. If you don’t have the opportunity (some would say curse) of evidence-based assessment or other experts looking over your shoulder keeping you honest, you begin to think you are right all the time, eventually perceiving yourself as becoming gifted in a skill that is difficult to explain. This is …

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