Filipe Braganca, DVM, PhD and assistant professor at the Utrecht University and DVM, joins the tech team at Sleip, where he will focus on further development of the biomechanical aspects in the platform.
“Filipe has been a driving force, as a researcher and practitioner, in furthering knowledge of equine biomechanics and the use of technology and data to better care for horses, says Axel Nyström, CEO at Sleip AI. “Sleip is breaking new scientific and technological ground to make precise motion analysis accessible, and Filipe will be a tremendous asset on our continued journey.”
“Sleip’s technology and approach is game-changing, for veterinarians, for horses and for the people who care for them. I am thrilled to be a part of the continuing development of the Sleip platform, says Filipe Braganca.
Combining a passion for horses and technology
Filipe is a biomechanical researcher and an equine veterinarian, but his career started with studies in engineering.
“I started my studies in electronics and computer engineering, before I began my veterinary training”, says Filipe. “While I was studying electronics I started to miss the interaction with horses. At that point, I decided to move to veterinary medicine. But now I combine my passion for horses with developing methods that use technology and data to improve horse welfare.”
Before taking up a PhD candidate position at the Utrecht University, Filipe worked at an equine clinic in the UK. His interest in gait analysis also stems from those early days of assessing lameness, and not always seeing what his colleagues were seeing. This triggered him to look further for technological solutions to help veterinarians assessing lameness.
The difficulty humans have in perceiving lameness in horses has also been a focus of his research. “In one of my later research studies several FEI judges were asked to look at the same horses and deem them fit to compete or not fit to compete. There was not much agreement among them, and we see the same thing with lameness assessments”, says Filipe.
Objective gait analysis gaining ground
Filipe notes a shift in the global equine community. With more and more research in place and advances in technology making objective gait analysis more accessible, attitudes have changed.
“When I started out my research, we were still having “man versus machine” discussions. Most vets would say they could see better than what the technology could measure and that overreliance on technology could be damaging to our profession as veterinarians. I sometimes compare it to when the use of imaging methods, such as radiographs and ultrasound scans was first introduced in veterinary medicine. It took a few decades to build the necessary knowledge to incorporate imaging methods in veterinary practice, but few would question the use of these methods such as X-rays or MRI today. I believe we are going down a similar path with gait analysis.”
In Filipe’s opinion, access to precise measurements and documentation of the way a horse moves makes the work of veterinarians easier and gives the team around each individual horse valuable insights. Furthermore, the widespread access breaks some of the current barriers for further implementation of gait analysis in veterinary practice.
“Gait analysis is becoming so accessible and practical that there is no longer an excuse not to do it” says Filipe.
Objective gait analysis is now part of the curriculum for veterinarians training at the University of Utrecht and there are a growing number of postgraduate training and courses held by various organizations and clinics each year.
Horse welfare and social license to operate
The past few years have seen an increased focus on the issue of animal welfare, and the social license to operate connected to horses. Filipe is passionate about this development and believes objective gait measurements can play an important role in this respect.
“The current discussion questioning the welfare of horses in the equine sport industry is mainly based on emotions and feelings of riders, trainers and spectators. Technology such as Sleip can give a voice to the horses, with objective data that can feed into our welfare decisions in a more objective and unbiased manner. Using technology and data to get under the skin of horses as it were, is like giving them a voice. Of course, it won’t tell us everything, but it adds a piece to the puzzle so we can move further in the right direction.”
Objective measurements provide a basis for more standardized and objective assessments of whether a horse is fit to compete and what impact certain training and activity has on the horse.
“For example, by monitoring horses at home, during training and then just before the competition we will be able to say more clearly and objectively that a particular horse entering a competition or race is fit to compete, " says Filipe.