Eventing Nation: Cardio research study takes huge leap forward thanks to girth

Jenni Autry reports from the USEA annual meeting on a girth outfitted with electrodes designed to gather data while horses gallop cross-country.

From Jenni:

Electrodes on the inside of a Professional’s Choice girth.

Dr. Catherine Kohn and Dr. Rob Stevenson led an excellent session this afternoon on how the USEA’s Equine Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research Study is progressing, and I’m thrilled to report that the dedicated individuals working on this project are making serious advancements.

One of the biggest challenges the study has faced is finding the best way to measure a horse’s cardiovascular and pulmonary systems during cross country. It’s easy to take an echocardiogram — a sonogram of the heart — while the horse is standing still, but strapping electrodes to a horse that’s galloping and jumping at 550 meters per minute is an entirely different ball game.

In early testing of recording echocardiograms during cross country, the electrodes, which are placed under the girth, would slide around and become disconnected from the box that records the data. Dr. Stevenson worked with his colleague Jeremy Oakes, a biomedical engineer, to try to develop a better system.

The box that records the echocardiogram data is connected to the girth.

What they’ve developed will truly change the scope of the study entirely, as they fashioned the electrodes from a material called Elastosil and mounted them in the neoprene cover of a Professional’s Choice girth. The wires are secure inside the neoprene, and the underside of the girth is totally smooth, preventing any irritation of the horse’s skin.

Dr. Stevenson and a handful of other riders have already tested the girth at different events around the U.S. this year, and he reported today that the new equipment works beautifully. Now the study has an excellent method for recording echocardiograms during cross country, meaning data can be collected in a much more efficient way. Go Research!


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