When preparing the equine athlete, the typical trainer anticipates long-term soundness, yet agonizes about injury. Horsemen know that as the horse performs to a higher standard, he will probably experience varying amounts of soreness and pain. Just as no one can predict how the equine athlete will perform, so no person can forecast the effects of stress on each horse’s body. Increased pressure on the athlete’s musculoskeletal system can improve performance, as the horse adjusts his gaits to greater demands of distance, height, or speed.

The technology of diagnostic imaging can help the veterinarian to assess the athlete’s soundness. For horses, techniques include ultrasound (sonography), radiography, and thermography.

Thermography measures body surface temperature and depicts inflammation by detecting and displaying heat.

Because animals can’t verbally communicate the location and extent of pain, detecting a source of discomfort challenges the equine practitioner. Thermography can help identify the source of pain. A researcher in this technology, Ram Purohit PhD, noted, "Thermography may act as a ‘pain substitute’ because of its ability to detect inflammation in the early stages before tissue damage occurs."

Steven Kamerling, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and a registered pharmacist, uses thermography in his work in the Veterinary Physiology, Pharmacology, and Toxicology Department.

"Thermography has been of interest for a while," Kamerling said. "It’s controversial, with the questions of does it p