Hot new technology will spot potential problems in horses

Nicola Bertham, Chef d'Equipe Chair of the International Selection Committee with her horse 'King' at home in Longnewton.
Nicola Bertham, Chef d'Equipe Chair of the International Selection Committee with her horse 'King' at home in Longnewton.

I had started to hear about thermal imaging in Horse and Hound magazine and through pages on Facebook from those who had started using this on their horses.

It interested me as a horse owner, but also as the Chef d’Equipe of the Scottish Endurance Riding Team.

I thought this would be able to help me and my team, and also be able to help lots more people see what is happening under the skin of our four-legged athletes.

I trained in thermography in November and took an instant love to it.

The colours and life through the thermal lens are something I do not tire of.

Using a high grade thermal camera, I take a series of scans of the horse.

It’s non invasive, all I do is take pictures of the horse in a systematic way. I download the images onto my laptop and use the manufacturer’s software to find any anomalies there may be under the skin.

The camera picks up on heat, which is associated with pain and swelling.

All horses will work with an element of pain, but they don’t have to.

This scanning process allows us to help with saddle fitting, tendon and ligament injuries, preventing lower limb injuries and also with the rehabilitation process.

For example, if you had a horse who had a tendon injury and you gave it the desired amount of time off on box rest, thermography would be able to give you the peace of mind that the injury had sufficiently healed before you started working the horse again.

Thermography is widely used in competition horses, especially racing yards, who will scan top runners a couple of times per week to ensure they are not running a horse who may potentially have the start of an injury.

Thermography can pick up an issue with tendons and ligaments two weeks before a horse becomes clinically lame.

So if this is regularly used, it can prevent injuries by owners adjusting the training if a hot spot starts to appear.

I cannot diagnose an issue, I can help pinpoint an area which may need further investigation by a vet or a physio.

The use of thermography can hopefully cut out a lot of invasive treatments a horse may have to go through to find the problem.

When I came back from my training I had to undertake case studies as part of my ongoing development.

Most people are amazed by the pictures and the report that comes back.

I hope I’ve helped them get some answers.

I know once my horses are up and running for the season ahead, I will be scanning them a couple of times per week to make sure everything is ok.

I’m hoping to do some demo days and talks throughout the summer to introduce people to thermography and let them see the benefits the use of it brings.

I am excited about the future of thermography in Scotland and Asymmetry Equine Thermography will be there leading the way.

To find out more, ring me on 07534 910413 or find Asymmetry Equine Thermography on Facebook.