In­frared tech­nique help­ing horse own­ers get a clearer pic­ture on un­ex­plained de­te­ri­o­ra­tion

Irish Independent - Farming - - Horses - Ann Fitzger­ald For­mor­e­in­for­ma­tion­visit www.equinether­mog­ra­phyire­

THER­MOG­RA­PHY or Dig­i­tal In­frared Ther­mal Imag­ing has been used for many years in hu­man medicine. How­ever, the tech­nol­ogy is be­ing in­creas­ingly used as a di­ag­nos­tic tool in the horse world for cases of un­ex­plained lame­ness or de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in per­for­mance and be­hav­iour.

“It in­volves tak­ing a num­ber of ther­mal im­ages of the sur­face of the horse’s body which show up its mus­cu­loskele­tal and neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tems,” ex­plained John Din­neen, who pro­vides a mo­bile equine ther­mog­ra­phy ser­vice.

“Sen­sors within the cam­era then con­vert in­frared ra­di­a­tion emit­ted from the skin sur­face into elec­tri­cal im­pulses that are vi­su­alised in colour on a mon­i­tor.

“As there is a high de­gree of sym­me­try in the body, ab­nor­mal or asym­met­ric dif­fer­ences that are usu­ally in­dica­tive of a prob­lem can be read­ily iden­ti­fied.

“Thus many in­juries and phys­i­cal con­di­tions can be de­tected prior to any phys­i­cal signs or symp­toms be­ing man­i­fested,” John pointed out. “This, in turn, al­lows early in­ter­ven­tion or treat­ment.”

A na­tive of Charleville, Co Cork, John worked on a num­ber of stud farms in the Kil­dare area be­fore trav­el­ling to Bri­tain three years ago to train with Equitherm, a com­pany that spe­cialises in equine Ther­mog­ra­phy, and sub­se­quently in Hol­land.

On re­turn to Ire­land, John es­tab­lished Equine Ther­mog­ra­phy Ire­land and, while based in Dublin, he trav­els through­out the coun­try.

Al­though a num­ber of specialist equine vet­eri­nary clin­ics of­fer ther­mog­ra­phy, John be­lieves that the mo­bile ser­vice has a num­ber of ad­van­tages.

Other than the ob­vi­ous trans­port cost and ef­fort in­volved, it’s less stress­ful on the horse to be in his own yard.

“He will be more re­laxed and we are able to get more ac­cu­rate read­ings,” John ex­plained.

John ad­mit­ted to meet­ing some scep­ti­cism from horse own­ers, but main­tained that busi­ness was pick­ing up. He works across all codes, but mostly with sport horses and thor­ough­breds and is build­ing up a re­la­tion­ship with a num­ber of race­horse train­ers and high pro­file vets.


The process takes about 30 min­utes and, as there is no con­tact in­volved, it is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for young or ner­vous horses.

The re­sults of the in­spec­tion and a full re­port are pro­vided to the owner or trainer so that a full di­ag­no­sis or treat­ment pro­gramme can be worked out with their vet.

One of the con­di­tions that ther­mog­ra­phy is com­monly used to di­ag­nose is the cu­ri­ously named Kiss­ing Spine whereby the bone “spikes” at the top of a horse’s ver­te­brae start to rub to­gether.

This is com­mon in top-level dressage and jump­ing horses where there is con­stant flex­ion of the spine. The con­di­tion can cause con­stant low-grade pain, the symp­toms of which can vary greatly from vir­tu­ally noth­ing to con­stant ag­i­ta­tion.

AN­SWERS: Ther­mog­ra­phy, seen here and above right, is be­com­ing a grow­ing trend in the horse world as medics look for ex­pla­na­tions of lame­ness and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in per­for­mance and be­hav­iour

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