Use of a poll-mounted accelerometer for quantification and characterisation of equine trigeminal-mediated headshaking

K. J. Pickles, David Marlin, J. M. Williams, Veronica L. H. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Equine trigeminal-mediated (TGM) headshaking (HS) is a neuropathic facial pain syndrome characterised by varying intensity and frequencies of head movements and signs of nasal irritation. An accurate method for quantification and/or characterisation of HS severity is lacking.

To develop and validate an objective measure of TGMHS.

Study design
Prospective case control study.

Horses presenting for investigation of HS were recruited alongside those presenting for forelimb lameness (LAME) and pre-purchase examination as well as healthy controls (CONTROL). Head movement data were collected for 5 min whilst trotting on the lunge using a tri-axial accelerometer, with a range of ±16 g and sampling rate of 800 Hz, attached to the bridle headpiece. Recordings were exported for processing. Peak detection was performed using minimum and maximum thresholds of −1 g and +1 g (corrected for gravity) and a minimum peak width of 10 samples.

Fifty-six horses were included in the study; 18 TGMHS, 10 non-TGMHS, 12 LAME and 16 CONTROL. Characteristics and frequency of vertical (Z axis) head movements of TGMHS horses differed significantly from other horses. TGMHS horses had peaks with greater mean and maximum positive g-force (P < 0.005) and lower mean and minimum negative g-force (P < 0.001), greater frequency of peaks/min (P < 0.001) and over 12 times greater percentage of peaks >+2 g compared with other horses (P < 0.001). Receiver operator curve characteristics of percentage of peaks >+2 g (CI 0.72–0.95), percentage of peaks <−2 g (CI 0.66–0.92) and percentage of peaks <−2 g and >+2 g (CI 0.72–0.96) showed excellent discrimination of TGMHS horses from LAME, CONTROL and non-TGMHS horses.

Main limitations
Referral population of horses, small sample size and control horses were not evaluated for orthopaedic disease.

Accelerometer data from trotting exercise on the lunge provides an objective measure of HS and can differentiate between TGMHS, non-TGMHS, normal head movements and those associated with forelimb lameness. Accelerometer use may aid HS diagnosis and monitoring of management strategies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Early online date17 Jul 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jul 2024


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