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Reliability of equine visual lameness classification as a function of expertise, lameness severity and rater confidence
  1. Sandra Dorothee Starke1 and
  2. Maarten Oosterlinck2
  1. 1School of Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Department of Surgery and Anaesthesiology of Domestic Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium
  1. E-mail for correspondence; maarten.oosterlinck{at}


Visual equine lameness assessment is often unreliable, yet the full understanding of this issue is missing. Here, we investigate visual lameness assessment using near-realistic, three-dimensional horse animations presenting with 0–60 per cent movement asymmetry. Animations were scored at an equine veterinary seminar by attendees with various expertise levels. Results showed that years of experience and exposure to a low, medium or high case load had no significant effect on correct assessment of lame (P>0.149) or sound horses (P≥0.412), with the exception of a significant effect of case load exposure on forelimb lameness assessment at 60 per cent asymmetry (P=0.014). The correct classification of sound horses as sound was significantly (P<0.001) higher for forelimb (average 72 per cent correct) than for hindlimb lameness assessment (average 28 per cent correct): participants often saw hindlimb lameness where there was none. For subtle lameness, errors often resulted from not noticing forelimb lameness and from classifying the incorrect limb as lame for hindlimb lameness. Diagnostic accuracy was at or below chance level for some metrics. Rater confidence was not associated with performance. Visual gait assessment may overall be unlikely to reliably differentiate between sound and mildly lame horses irrespective of an assessor’s background.

  • lameness
  • gait analysis
  • horses
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  • Funding This study was funded by the Eranda Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Figure 3 was accidentally duplicated as Figure 5 by the Publisher.

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