About the author

My interest in equine thermography started during my Equine Science Masters degree studies at Aberystwyth University, Wales in 2008.

The initial research in equine thermography was for my Masters dissertation on the application of thermography in diagnosing injuries of racehorses (fig. 1). The main objective of the investigations was to assess thermography for predicting, detecting and monitoring lameness, and to determine if thermography could be a suitable tool for trainers in monitoring a horse’s limbs.

Fig 1

Fig. 1. Thermogram of a racehorse.

I continued my interest in thermography by developing practical skills and gaining my qualification as an Equine Body Worker in sport massage and in remedial therapy and working in Europe and Australia.

After completing my PhD on the effect of long term training on racehorse body surface temperature change I set up my own practice, offering equine rehabilitation and thermography services; cooperating with veterinarians, horse breeder and trainers. I now also run numerous professional courses associated with horse rehabilitation and the application of thermography in veterinary and sports medicine.

Fig 2
Fig. 2.Thermographic examination of the horse’s back.

At the beginning of 2016, I was appointed a Research Associate and Lecturer at the Department of Horse Breeding and Equestrian Studies Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences. I now conduct further research on the application of thermography in sport and racing horses.  Most of my publications are on the application of thermography as a prognostic and monitoring device for equine athletes in training programmes. However, my latest research goals are directed towards the application of video thermography in the characterisation of heat loss during horse exercise on a treadmill (fig. 3,4). Other projects are directed towards the application of thermography as an indicator of physiological stress by measuring the maximum eye temperature (fig. 5).


Fig 3

Fig. 3. Thermographic video recording of a horse walking on a treadmill.

Fig 4

Fig. 4. A thermographic camera. The energy distribution of infrared radiation of the horse walking on the treadmill is displayed on the camera screen.

Fig 5

Fig. 5. Thermographic image of the left eye region. The label indicates the area surrounding the eye where the maximum eye temperature of 36.7ºC is indicated.

I am currently a member of the European Association of Thermology, frequently participate in international conferences and work with several practitioners of thermological techniques.Fig. 5. Thermographic image of the left eye region. The label indicates the area surrounding the eye where the maximum eye temperature of 36.7ºC is indicated.

Application of thermography in my everyday practice

Most of my sport horse patients have back pain because of the excessive physical demands on the musculoskeletal system in response to training. It can also be caused by the type of training, skills of the rider or poor saddle fit.

For example, a recent client presented a horse with back pain. The horse showed symptoms of a sensitive back during grooming and tacking up, presented with a poorer than normal jumping performance, including refusals, was stiff on both sides and had difficulty in fully engaging his hindquarters during training.

Thermographic examination indicated an increased circulation at the back (thoracic and lumbar vertebrae). In particular, significantly increased circulation was observed in the thoracic vertebrae and back muscles (Fig. 6).

Fig 6

Fig. 6. Thermogram of the back from the dorsal aspect. Increased body surface temperature of thoracic vertebrae and back muscles.

Muscle tension in the back area, indicated by the thermography examination, was confirmed by manual assessment. After three weeks of regular massage sessions, along with regular lunging and a break from jumping the thermographic examination was repeated, and indicated reduced circulation in the back. The horse was then recommended to return to regular competition.

Other common problems seen in patients are related to injuries of distal parts of the limbs, which are not always easy to diagnose. Thermography can indicate the area of abnormality which can then be further investigated by the veterinarian. This is confirmed again by another recent case. I was presented for thermographic examination, with a 20 year old horse which was lame on the left forelimb. It was clear that the lameness was caused by a hoof abscess, because the horse was not happy to bear weight on the limb and the foot was warm. Hoof trimming did not indicate the exact site of the abscess in the hoof sole. A veterinarian diagnosed lameness caused by heel purchase pain, and the owner was advised to shoe the horse. However, before the decision was made, thermographic examination of the hoof was performed. The thermographic image of the hoof from the solar aspect indicated the exact site of the abscess (fig. 7), helping the farrier to drain the hoof.

Fig 7

Fig. 7. Thermogram of the left front hoof from the solar aspect. Abscess at the medial (right) side of the hoof sole.

You can find many interesting cases of thermography in sport and race horses in the book.

About the book

This Equine Thermography in Practice book is the first publication on the equestrian book market, which extensively discusses thermography-related issues and the use of thermography in diagnosis in horses. It is presented, I hope, in a clear and understandable way aimed at the reader with general knowledge of equine anatomy or that of other domestic animals. Numerous instructional thermal images, photographs and illustrations accompany the text throughout providing the reader with an effective yet simple to understand introduction to advanced concepts.

The first chapter discusses the principles of thermography, including the characteristics of the heat transfer processes that occur in the body of the horse. It also brings the principles of thermographic camera use and the application of thermography for detecting the body surface temperature distribution of the horse. This introduction is essential in order to understand the following chapters that consider the practical application of thermography.

The second chapter describes the thermographic examination. It details the correct process for thermographic examination, taking into account the impact of environmental conditions. In order to enhance the diagnostic value of thermography the examination room and horse should be correctly prepared. It explains the proper way of taking thermographic images of the individual parts of the body, including many practical instructions.

In addition to knowledge of the proper imaging techniques, it is also important to be able to interpret them correctly. The third chapter considers the interpretation of thermographic images and describes in detail the normal superficial temperature distribution of the horse, considering all parts of the body which should be considered when using thermography to diagnose abnormalities in the horse.

The fourth chapter considers the use of thermography in veterinary medicine and reviews the rather sparse scientific publications in the field. This emphasises the still novel use of thermography, with only a few specialists currently working in the field.

Chapter five considers the use of thermography in equine physiotherapy, which in recent years has become much more popular in equestrian sport. The means by which thermography can be used to diagnose the most common injuries caused by improper training, together with the effects of rehabilitation are discussed. This chapter is illustrated by numerous thermographic images demonstrating different cases of injured horses, and should be of particularly interest for equine physiotherapists, since it includes lots of practical advice.

The last chapter gives recommendations for the correct application of thermography in  diagnosis of limb and back injuries, detection of subclinical inflammation, monitoring of treatment and impact of training and also in determination of proper saddle fit.

Maria Soroko

Equine Thermography in Practice is available to buy on the CABI Bookshop

1 Comment

  1. Richie on 25th July 2017 at 7:48 am

    Thank you, I have just been searching for info approximately this subject for ages and yours is the best I have came upon so far. However, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you sure concerning the source?

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