Guest Post: How I Use Thermal Imaging in Equine Massage
Hi all, I am so excited to be a guest writer for Bridle & Bone! My name is Jamie and I am a certified equine sports massage therapist living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Helping horse owners with their equine athletes’ is the best part of my job. In addition to massage therapy, I utilize technology into my practice. I take thermal images of a horse before and after an equine massage.
A Little About Me
I obtained an Associates degree in Equestrian Studies- Western Riding Emphasis from the University of Findlay located in Findlay, OH. While I loved my time there and learned from a few of the best instructors/trainers in the industry, I realized that training horses professional wasn’t the best fit for me. I knew I wanted to still be involved in the equine business; horses are one of my life passions. After toying around with the idea of becoming certified in equine massage therapy, I finally took the leap of faith in the spring of 2016. I now hold certifications in: Equine Sports Massage Therapy, Equine Rehabilitation Therapy, saddle fitting, and thermal imaging.
What is Thermal Imaging?
I post thermal images all the time on our Instagram of client’s horses, but what really is thermal imaging?
Thermal imaging is a non-invasive imaging technique used to measure the differences in the surface temperature of an object. These images at a horse’s, physiology and can show areas of heat, infection, inflammation, and reduced blood flow in the muscular, vascular, skeletal, and nervous systems. My thermal imaging camera can detect a temperature difference of less than 0.05 degrees centigrade, and forty more times sensitive than the touch of a human hand. Ok that might sound extreme, but really it’s true. I use a Seek thermal compact camera that connects into the lightening connector of my iPhone. It’s light, portable, and super convenient.
Why I prefer to Thermal Image
Thermal imaging a horse before I conduct a full body massage helps not only me as a therapist, but the owner as well. I can pinpoint certain areas of a horse’s body that needs extra attention during a massage. This is beneficial for the horse owner as well. It can be difficult for them sometimes to put into words of why or how their horses are moving, once they see a thermal image, all their scrambled words are put into a beautiful image.
When I thermal image, I look for differences in heat. I look for white areas throughout the body. The white color on the images typically means that the muscle is inflamed or sore. If horse has dark to an icy blue color in their legs, which can mean poor circulation and reduced blood flow. Massage therapy is an excellent way to reduce inflammation while improving circulation.
- Muscle pain and/or injury; muscle tears
- Back problems/ poor saddle fit
- Identifying inflammation in certain areas
- Poor circulation or reduced blood flow in certain areas
- Hoof abscesses and thrush
- Join and skeletal issues
- Identify lameness
I recently massaged a twenty-year-old TWH, named Mary, who is having a hard time standing up after lying down for long periods of time. Overall, she is very stiff and lame on her right front. Mary is sort of a mystery as to what is causing her pain besides chronic arthritis; it seems deeper than that (according to her owner). I took a few thermal images of her front legs before and after a massage. The before pictures her front legs are very blue in color, which suggests poor blood circulation. I was able to increase blood flow back into lower front legs after one massage! I suggested that maybe Mary is losing ‘feeling’ in her lower legs and that’s why it takes her a minute to fully stand up and get situated after laying down. Her owner was so happy to have another opinion on her sweet Mary girl!
**Disclaimer: I am not a licensed veterinarian.
I hope this helped explain why I love thermal imaging in addition to equine massage. In general, equine massage therapy is an excellent way to keep your horses happy, healthy, and injury free.
About the writer: Jamie Yant holds certifications in equine sports massage therapy, equine rehabilitation therapy, saddle fitting, thermal imaging, and an Associate’s degree in Equestrian Studies. She was certified through NE Indiana Equine Sports Massage and Rehab LLC. located in Decatur, Indiana. Her business High Society Equine Massage has been helping equine athletes since the fall of 2016. She lives with her husband and their rescue dog, Scout, in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Hmm…I don’t own a horse however this is neat. Technology is a wonder thing especially when helping to decipher what areas to pinpoint in massage. I bet Mary felt so much better after having that thermal massage. Thanks for sharing.
I thought this was pretty neat too! I’m glad Jamie wrote about it and taught us a little about what she does. Thermal imaging is a great way to show owners how massage improves circulation and tension- hard to refute when you see it with your own eyes!
you are doing incredible job. keep it up .i never thought one can get to massage animal.
Wow, how far things have come since having my horses! I wish this type of technology existed then, maybe it did, but it wasn’t as well known? Anything that can help the horse (and the owner) to make them better. or know what’s really going on is a plus as far as I’m concerned.
I completely agree, Kelly. I had no idea this existed and I’m in the field currently! This is something I definitely want to learn more about. It can only help.
Now THIS is absolutely fantastic. Thermal imaging is beyond useful and I am so glad to see it being used to HELP animals! Wonderful job and keep it up!
Isn’t it cool? I really need to look into this for my own clients.
Amy Shojai, CABC
I didn’t know about the thermal imaging cameras, but this makes sense. What a terrific tool! Would it work as well on a “wooly” dog or cat, or is it best suited to tight-furred animals? I find that dogs often “point” to the spot they want massaged (backing their butt into you), but that would be a bit off-putting with a horse! LOL!
Amy, I agree I work currently on instinct and the animal’s behavior to direct me. That being said, the thermal imaging tool should not be affected by length or volume of hair; however, this is something I need to look more into.
This is so cool! Can you use thermal imaging with all animals or is it specific to horses? What about humans? I imagine this would be especially helpful for older animals in general. I found this really interesting – and learned a lot!
I’m so glad you learned a lot! I did too 🙂 Thermal imaging can be used cross-species, including humans as well. I would recommend training to use and read the scans.
Thanks so much!! I have used thermal imaging on my dog when she hurt her leg earlier this year, and it helped! I am assuming there is something very similar to this in the human wellness world.
I think thermal imaging is one of the best diagnostic tools out there. For a long time I’ve been trying to convince at least one of our vets/therapists to get one. I’m pretty close – Cookie’s present PT would love to have one of these just doesn’t have the budget. So I am sticking hubby on finding one for affordable price.
Affordable is the question. I definitely have my eye on this now for my massage practice, with training, and wish I had it this week when Gonzo was hurt to determine where he had swelling prior to bringing him to the veterinarian.
If you have any questions regarding a thermal imaging camera/equipment, I can point you in the right direction!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I didn’t know about massaging a horse, but it definitely makes sense. The technology that is available to help our animals is amazing.
Equine massage is increasingly popular and I’m so glad since my business depends on it. 😉 So glad you enjoyed it!
This is SO INTERESTING!!! Thank you for a fascinating post and I have learned a lot about the what’s and how’s. Is this used on other pets do you know? I know its not your usual remit but I’d love to know more!
It’s nice to meet you! I’ve been hearing a lot about thermal imaging for people and pets. It sounds amazing. Findlay is only 45 minutes away from me! If you are back in the area, shoot me a message!
Nice to meet you as well! If I am, I will let you know! Although I do know of another equine massage therapist in that area. I can give you her contact information if you’d like!
Lola The Rescued Cat
This is so interesting! It’s great that you’re able to see the immediate results of your massages and share that info with your clients. Great guest post.
Thank you!! I greatly appreciate it!
Beth Stultz, Pet Sitters International
Very informative. I was not familiar with the thermal imaging technology (for use in animal massage). Do you find that most equine massage therapists incorporate this technology, or is it still fairly new in the industry?
I find it that it is still fairly new in the equine massage industry. It has definitely been an asset in my practice, clients love seeing the before and after pictures of their horses!
Welcome to Bridle and Bones side of the world! 🙂 Great work. Also – thermal imaging seems like pure magical genius. Love that they have this!
I have become quite the Bridle and Bone fan!! The combination of equine massage and thermal imaging is wonderful, it has became an amazing tool for my practice!
Such a fascinating tool for your trade. I am envious of your work – horses are beautiful creatures. I’m sure they appreciate the difference you make for them. The images are quite artistic.
I’ve read about people using thermal imaging in dogs. It’s cool seeing the actual scans in horses and seeing what the colors mean. I wonder what Mr. N’s would look like.
I have used thermal imaging as well for my dog! Love using it for both!!
Wow, I love this! Will talk to our equine massage lady to see if this is something she would be interested in doing! Thanks for sharing.
Great idea, Roosa. It’s always interesting learning new technologies.
Wow! I’m always amazed at the technology available to help for animals. I had not heard of thermal imaging before but glad to know it’s out there. I wonder if my vet has this in her practice. I’m certainly going to ask now.
Yes, ask your vet! Thermal imaging is amazing tool to help our equine athletes!
Fantastic post! I used to be an equestrian years ago…and I do laser therapy with my Huskies, so this was very interesting to me! I’m following you over on IG, too, now!