Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

What is Equine Thermography?


Since ancient times the detection and monitoring of heat emitted from the body has been used as a diagnostic and management tool. The ancient Egyptians used to monitor skin temperature change by moving their fingers across the body surface.  Hippocrates, one of the best known Ancient Greeks was recorded applying wet mud to a cloth and draping it over the patient’s thorax. He determined that the area to dry first was the problematic point and in so doing took the first ‘thermogram’ over 2400 years ago.

The science of Digital Infrared Thermal was initially developed for military applications, but since the end of the Cold War it has been made available commercially. InfraRed (IR) technology is now one of the fastest growing diagnostic and management tools available in the medical and veterinary fields.

Equine Thermography is a non contact technique using InfraRed technology that provides a pictorial image of the surface temperature of the horse’s body. Sensors within the camera convert infrared radiation (heat) emitted from the surface of the skin into electrical impulses that are shown on the image as areas of colour. White represents the hottest temperature and is found on areas where there is major blood flow, down through red, yellow, green to blue and finally black which represents the coldest areas. A blue streak indicating a lack of temperature can indicate pinching or pressure for example on a nerve root, while a pink or white area can indicate soft tissue, muscular or tendon damage.  As there is a high degree of thermal symmetry in the body, abnormal or asymmetrical changes which are usually indicative of a problem can be easily identified.

The Equine Thermography procedure only takes a few minutes, during which time the Thermographer examines the horse thoroughly through the camera lens. The horse is not touched during the inspection, making it ideal for young, nervous or sensitive horses. The results of the inspection are instant.

Thermography has been used extensively in the equine world since the 1996 Olympic Games.  Thermal imaging as a science has many applications, but for horses there are three main benefits for using this technique.


  • Pre Purchase Inspection or Sale to confirm there are no “hidden” problems with the horse
  • Check saddle fitting and rider balance
  • Monitoring Competition horses during training to ensure that no undue stress is placed on the horse which may result in a potential injury
  • Thermal imaging is not only static but a video of movement can also be made.


  • Identify damaged tendons, ligaments, Navicular, laminitis and the source of non specific lameness
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Easily examine the horse for tooth and jaw problems
  • Locate the source of miscellaneous strains, sprains and injuries

Treatment Monitoring

  • Monitor ongoing conditions to assess the level of improvement or deterioration during treatment
  • Monitor Hoof Maintenance and balance.

The horse’s body is designed to be in balance and both sides should be symmetrical, i.e. temperature levels in muscles, tendons and ligaments on both sides should be relatively equal.  A thermal inspection will quickly identify areas of abnormal heat or cool.  Hot areas can indicate injury or inflammation or areas that are cool which can indicate lack of blood flow or circulation.  These may be caused by “physical” damage to the horse or may simply be as a result of working the horse in an unbalanced manner leading to additional strain on one side or even damage caused by badly fitting tack such as saddles.

While not a complementary therapy, Equine Thermography aids in the detection of problem areas which can then be evaluated by conventional or complementary practitioners.



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