Research1 conducted by Dr Turner on racehorses in the USA has shown that Equine Thermography can identify areas of injury up to three weeks before your horse exhibits clinical symptoms. Horses are naturally prey animals, and mask injury to prevent predation. You might get the feeling that your horse is a little bit 'off', but not really know why - Equine Thermography can show you.
1Thermographic assessment of racing Thoroughbreds. TA Turner J Pansch J Wilson. Proc Conference on Equine Sports Medicine and Science 2002 p207
If your horse starts to display uncharacteristic tendencies such as dipping, flinching or nipping when groomed or tacked-up, a poor or reduced performance, unevenness or unlevel gaits, is crooked to ride, carries his tail to one side, is disunited or bucking into canter or rearing or bucking when mounted, it may be due to pain under saddle.
Equine Thermography can pinpoint where any issues are, allowing your chosen professional to administer a course of treatment targeted at this spot, and for you to see the results. Follow-up sessions can ensure your horse returns to work at the optimal time, and allow you to easily and graphically monitor the treatment progress.
Most bad backs in horses are actually a secondary problem. Equine Thermography can help to identify the seat of the primary cause, so this can also be rectified.
An incorrectly balanced foot can have extensive knock-on effects on the leg and back. Imaging the sole of the hoof, and the thermal patterns seen on the hoof wall when weight bearing quickly show whether the hoof is unbalanced. Areas where the hoof wall is longer are under more pressure and friction than the corresponding side and therefore show as a warmer area.
Very distinctive thermal patterns are present where joint injuries or degeneration is present, or has been present. In chronic pain syndromes or chronic
degenerative processes e.g arthritis, there is initially an increase in blood flow which presents as an increase in joint temperature. Over time the horse will stop using the joint and the inflammation will decrease, but the pain remains, therefore an increase in sympathetic tone and vasoconstriction occurs and the joint appears cooler than previously. All of these subtle changes can be detected and monitored using Equine Thermography. Courses of treatment for chronic conditions can also be objectively evaluated with equine thermography, and adjusted as appropriate.
Fractures, bone chips, early stage splints, ring bone, side bone and bone cysts are all readily identified through Veterinary Thermal Imaging.
Equine Thermography is invaluable in detecting lesions in ligaments and tendons, and as an aid to optimising recovery time, and getting your horse back to work as soon as possible and practicable.
But, there may be problems brewing even before you can see or feel anything.
Studies in horses have shown that equine thermography can detect tendon and ligament injuries up to three weeks before the horse would demonstrate any clinical symptoms.
When bringing a performance horse back into work, commencing fitness programmes, or resuming jumping after a break in the season, Equine Thermography is an indispensable tool in ensuring early detection of problems.
With the interruption of nerve supply, the sympathetic tone to the capillary beds is lost, and vasodilatation occurs. In the back the normal dorsal nervous stripe is the same width dorsally to proximally. The dorsal cutaneous branch of the spinal segmental nerve sends off a warm ‘nerve root signature’ when interrupted, seen as a widening of the stripe, or an off shooting line within equine thermal images. This can denote inflammation of a bulging disk, pushing on nerves and causing inflammation.
Increased tone in the nerves results in increased sympathetic tone, which produces cooling in the corresponding areas under control of different nerves. Very discrete borders are seen to the different areas of colour within the equine thermograph. These areas of colour are called dermatomes. Dermatome maps have been produced to identify the correlating nerve that is affected.
If your horse is quidding, fussy with his bit when ridden, has lost condition or refuses to take the bit when tacked up, his teeth could be the problem. Equine Thermography can quickly identify whether this is an issue. Dental pain correlates to an increased temperature, seen on the exterior of the mandible area. When this is the case, and hooks on the teeth, especially on the very backmost molars can easily be floated by your Vet or equine dentist solving the problem.
Tooth root death, and associated loss of blood supply will be denoted by a cooler area within the equine thermal image.
Muscular wasting (atrophy), abnormal muscle gain (hypertrophy), areas of muscle spasm, bruising, or muscular tears can all be picked-up using Equine Thermography.
Understanding how your horse is using his muscles and the normal thermal patterns that are seen during locomotion can identify compensatory and secondary problems.
The effect of changes to training regimes or ongoing physiotherapy treatment, amongst others, can be monitored with ongoing thermal imaging sessions to evaluate their effectiveness.
The correct fit of your saddle is paramount to our horse’s back health, and performance. Many 'problem’ horses are working in ill-fitting saddles, or with incorrectly fitted saddle cloths, numnahs and pads. Problems such as bridging, saddles which are too narrow or wide, or unevenly flocked can all be picked up with Equine Thermography.
When coupled with an image of the horse’s back, before and after exercise, you have a true view on whether your tack could be leading to or exacerbating problems.
These images also prove invaluable in rider training, highlighting the rider who is in front or behind the movement, or sitting to one side.