A comparison between thermal activity of the thoracic region and saddle pressure distribution beneath the saddle in a group of non‐lame sports horses

Russell Mackechnie-Guire, M Fisher, H. Mathie, Kat Kuczynska, Vanessa Fairfax

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: Thermography has been suggested by equine professionals as a potential method to quantify saddle fit. No studies have reported thermal patterns alongside saddle pressure distribution.

Objectives: To quantify thermal patterns and saddle pressure distribution in a group of non-lame sports horses after a standardised exercise test.

Study design: Quantitative observational.

Methods: Eight non-lame sports horses were recruited and ridden by the same rider. One technician using a thermal camera (Flir) quantified maximum temperature (MaxTemp) at eight locations in the thoracic region. A thermal scan was performed on each horse immediately after a ridden exercise test. A Pliance (Novel) pressure mat (kPa) was used to determine peak saddle pressures (MaxPeak). Immediately following the exercise test, saddle pressure data were collected from 60 repeated strides in rising trot. Differences between the cranial and caudal regions (DiffCC) for MaxTemp and MaxPeak were quantified. Saddle fit was assessed independently by five qualified saddle fitters. Two general linear mixed models were used, with condition defined as fixed factor and horse as random factor (with Bonferroni post hoc comparison, P
Results: Saddle width was N = 3 wide, N = 3 narrow and N = 2 correct. A higher MaxPeak was found in the cranial region of the saddle (mean ± s.d.) (cranial region 44.4 ± 7.7, caudal region 25.0 ± 4.6 kPa, DiffCC, P = 0.007) after exercise. No significant differences between DiffCC in MaxTemp immediately after exercise was found (cranial region 29.8° ± 1.1, caudal region 30.0° ± 0.9, P = 0.12).

Main limitations: Only one type of thermal camera was used.

Conclusion: This study found increased DiffCC in MaxPeak however, no differences in DiffCC for MaxTemp post exercise. It has been speculated that high pressures may lead to hypo/hyper thermic patterns. In this study, thermal activity does not appear to be representative of increased MaxPeak saddle values. The sole use of thermal imaging for saddle fitting should be applied with caution.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes
EventBritish Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2021
- , United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sept 20217 Sept 2021


ConferenceBritish Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2021
Abbreviated titleBEVA2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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