Veterinary student competence in equine lameness recognition and assessment: a mixed methods study
The development of perceptual skills is an important aspect of veterinary education. The authors investigated veterinary student competency in lameness evaluation at two stages, before (third year) and during (fourth/fifth year) clinical rotations. Students evaluated horses in videos, where horses were presented during trot on a straight line and in circles. Eye-tracking data were recorded during assessment on the straight line to follow student gaze. On completing the task, students filled in a structured questionnaire. Results showed that the experienced students outperformed inexperienced students, although even experienced students may classify one in four horses incorrectly. Mistakes largely arose from classifying an incorrect limb as lame. The correct detection of sound horses was at chance level. While the experienced student cohort primarily looked at upper body movement (head and sacrum) during lameness assessment, the inexperienced cohort focused on limb movement. Student self-assessment of performance was realistic, and task difficulty was most commonly rated between 3 and 4 out of 5. The inexperienced students named a considerably greater number of visual lameness features than the experienced students. Future dedicated training based on the findings presented here may help students to develop more reliable lameness assessment skills.