Writtle University College in Chelmsford, Essex, is using Tekscan’s advanced technology to assist in studies of animal biomechanics and wellbeing.
Writtle University College is one of the UK’s leading specialist colleges. Established in 1893, Writtle has a reputation for excellence in zoological education and research. The Animals in Motion Laboratory at the university has a history of using advanced technology to enhance analysis. Dr Roberta Ferro De Godoy is the Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Physiotherapy and Equine Science and is currently at the forefront of animal biomechanics research.
In April 2022, Dr de Godoy contacted Target3D to enquire about Tekscan’s Strideway system. The college was already familiar with Tekscan’s products, as users of the F-Scan and Animal Walkway products. Additionally, the university was ready for another CONFORMat to satisfy demands from students.
While Strideways are valuable for human gait analysis, this is not their only use. The addition of a Strideway helps to further improve the accuracy of veterinary diagnosis by assisting in research in canine biomechanics. There are also specific cases where equine use is possible.
The Animals in Motion Laboratory is currently focused on research in canine and equine biomechanics. Pressure data of dogs walking, running and jumping is among just some of the information being used to study physiology and performance.
After considering the use cases, Ben, one of Target3D’s Business Development Managers, concluded that a standard eight-tile Strideway system and an additional CONFORMat system would achieve the best results.
The animal Strideway system is a pressure mapping walkway, consisting of tiles with pressure sensors. Mid-sized animals such as cats and dogs simply walk across the tiles and the sensors measure the weight and distribution of the contact. This data is then transmitted to Strideway’s software, where it is translated into a heatmap or an array of graphs. Specialists can use the highly sensitive data to diagnose lameness and analyse gait patterns to develop a treatment plan. This is the largest system suitable for the size of the animals to be measured but still allows for optimal collection of data.
You can see the Animal Strideway system in use below, with footage kindly provided by Dr de Godoy.
The CONFORMat is traditionally used for analysing seating pressure and weight distribution.
However, the product has a secondary usage for equine cases. In Writtle University’s area of study, this relates to the fitting of saddles. A CONFORMat allows specialists to see how pressure is distributed along a horse’s back while a rider is atop the saddle.
This type of data is vital for equine care, helping to assist in initial saddle fittings and providing detail and context for potential problems. Using Tekscan’s software, users are given a live view of how pressure is dispersed along areas where the saddle makes contact. This is represented by a colour gauge and allows for adjustments in real time. Furthermore, and most useful for the laboratory’s studies, data can be isolated and graphed all without leaving the program.
Target3D travelled to the campus in Chelmsford to observe staff using the CONFORMat in action. Dr Roberta Ferro de Godoy and Jane Hart, a lecturer at the university, exhibited “Brown” with a rider and the CONFORMat.
As a lecturer in Equine Performance, Jane has a wealth of experience in saddle fitting.
“It tells us if the saddle is a good enough fit. It tells the truth of what's going on underneath the saddle with the pressure. While a saddle fitter could be looking at it through all the obvious parameters that we see from the outside, Tekscan tells us the truth on the inside.”
Dr de Godoy says that Tekscan is crucial to their research at the Animals in Motion Laboratory.
“This gives me much more information when I need it. This is the equipment we use the most for dissertations, for students doing research. So this is the problem I have - twenty students all using the equipment for dissertations! But overall I think the possibilities are really infinite.”
On Target3D, Dr de Godoy said,
“Our experience with Target3D was really smooth and Ben was very efficient in providing all support needed during acquisition and delivery of the product.”