What Can Possibly Go Wrong. Part 1 – Looking for troubles, hidden problems and screening for underlying issues. Thermoimaging for horses.

By Wiola Grabowska

SyncEquine - Leo's scan with Lou

In this series we will explore some common and less common issues that tend to happen with horses. We will try to draw from experiences as much as possible as well as link to interesting research and resources out there. All suggestions of what you’d like to read about on here welcomed so feel free to comment below with ideas.

I personally have a keen interest in performance issues in horses and several of my clients’ lessons focus on what might be classed as rehabilitative schooling. This can range from bringing back after period of inactivity, post-injury schooling or working with chronic issues. There are many horses out there in need of such approach so we will shine some light on this subject within this series too.

Today, I’d like to share my experience with one of the newer diagnostic/screening tools out there:  Thermography  for horses. 

Earlier this year I received a very generous offer from Louise Crow, a technician for SyncEquine.

She wanted to donate of a full body scan plus veterinary report to Leo. Whenever I look at a horse with some movement issues I always think how useful it would be to see inside them to plan their management as best as possible without forking out thousands of pounds for usually suggested diagnostic tools like MRI or scintigraphy.

What happens during the scan: 

  • you will ideally need an empty stable or an area where windows and doors can be shut to block out direct sunlight.
  • the camera with which the images are taken with is moved about on a wheeled trolley so there can’t be any bedding around the horse
  • it’s best to remain calm and quiet when standing the horse for the screening, the character of the whole activity is not unlike a traditional photo-shoot, the difference is that the lenses reach a bit deeper under the skin!
  • the full body scan lasts about 45min to an hour, the horse is then exercised lightly (lunged) for 10min and the whole scanning process is repeated in the same order as the first one
  • I assisted Lou with several scans to date and all horses settle well into it as long as handlers stay calm and don’t over-react around the horse. The post-exercise scan is usually much quicker as the horses know what’s expected and placing their bodies in required positions is much easier.

The whole process is very non-invasive and low stress, doesn’t require sedation or any other medications which can be very beneficial to some owners/horses.

As an owner, you provide the horse’s history and explain the reasons for the scan. I did Leo’s as a baseline screening scan as well as to monitor the effects of schooling I do with him. I wanted a veterinary report with the scan as in my opinion the images alone don’t really provide any valuable answers.
The report from the Vets from Leo’s scan came a few days later and gave me plenty to think about, pointing at areas of concern and suggesting ways of addressing them.

Lou will re-scan in a few months so I can see if whether what I am doing is helping with some of the issues and re-evaluate the plan of action.

I think thermo scan can be a very useful tool for pinpointing areas of discomfort, areas where potential injury is likely due to some strain present but not yet manifesting itself via lameness.

Have you used it with your horse? Was it useful? What other diagnostic/screening tools do you or your vet use?

Louise Crow covers Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and London. If you would like to know more about the scans and how they can help, contact her on: lou@syncequine.com , 07807882034

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