Thermal Imaging: Changing the Way We See Horses

July 10, 2013
Michael DeLeonardo
Michael DeLeonardo

Thermal Imaging: Changing the Way We See Horses
By: Michael DeLeonardo Jr., CJF, APF, RJF
DeLeonardo Farrier Service
Integrated Equine Infrared, Salinas, CA

The equine world is changing with the use of thermal imaging. This modality is shaping and enhancing treatments from soreness throughout the equine body that may be the source of contributing hoof pain. You can see infection, imbalance, inflammation and symmetry problems missed by other modalities. Likewise, thermal imaging also detects nerve damage and muscle atrophy.
As a Certified Journeyman Farrier, I work closely with owners, trainers and veterinarians to assure that each horse gets the best care possible. What make this modality so terrific, as a farrier, is that it confirms what you see and feel in the lower limb and hooves. I have found, in my practice, that thermal imaging is an excellent treatment as a first line confirmation used to support other modalities, as needed, to further contribute to the whole wellness of the horse.
In thermal images, we are able to see soft tissue damage in both the shod and barefoot horse. We can see imbalance in the feet, from stress in the tissue and from improperly fitted shoes. Thermal imaging will help to detect a horse landing too hard medial latterly, or any abnormal landing which can causes soreness and stress in the tissue. Below are two examples.

Soft Tissue Damage Heel Soreness

Thermal imaging is also a great benefit for saddle-fitting, showing areas of impinged movement in the shoulder, withers, back and loin areas, which can lead to problems throughout the body and lower limbs, preventing the horse’s optimum performance. This knowledge will aid in a proper saddle-fit for every kind of riding discipline. There are far too many performance horses being ridden with saddles that fit at one time, but now do not. This is due to the horse’s development. We see this in the shoulder movement. What was once a fluid movement with the horse is now too tight at the shoulders, creating too much pressure, and affects the way he moves. This will show in the wear of a horse’s hooves and shoes.

The use of other modalities has the potential to be expensive and invasive. However, with thermal imaging, the cost is economical and it is completely non-invasive. The scan will take 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the scan which is ordered. The thermal imaging session is done by a Certified Level 1 thermography technician specializing in equine. The interpretation is completed by veterinarians and a farrier certified in thermal imaging, is contained in a professional report, and is normally returned to the client in three business days.
For further information on how thermal imaging can help you and your farrier, contact United Infrared's office at 888-722-6447, or

To learn more about the business side of equine thermography, you should watch this recorded webinar, simply by clicking here: Equine Infrared--recorded webinar.