Warmblood horses left surprisingly consistent hoofprints on a rubber surface for thermographic imaging, with researchers suggesting their results could serve as reference values.
The hoof imaging of 60 horses, all assessed as sound, was conducted with an indoor ambient air temperature of 21 degrees, with the animals required to stand for 100 seconds on an 18-degree 12mm thick rubber surface for the heat to transfer from their feet.
Thermographic images of each hoofprint were then captured by an operator with nine years of thermographic experience. The imaging captured the intensity of infrared spectrum radiation in the prints.
Six sections of the hoofprint were considered: The toe, hoof wall edge, sole, frog apex, frog, and heels.
The researchers found that the hoofprints were well defined on both the left and right limbs. There was an area of increased temperature in the region of the frog, the apex of the frog and the corresponding region of the hoof wall. The thermal shape of the frog was identifiable on each hoofprint.
The temperature of the sole’s thermal hoofprint was consistent across its entire surface. The temperature in the heel area was less representative than in the other areas.
Scientists in the pilot study proposed that the average temperature of each selected area of the hoof could be a reference temperature value.
“The thermal patterns of the hoofprint show no difference among the four limbs and the mean temperature of the selected areas presents no significant statistical differences,” Cristian Zaha and his fellow researchers reported in the journal Veterinary Sciences.
Also, there were no statistical differences between the mean temperature of the selected areas from the forelimbs and hindlimbs of the horses in the study used for leisure and those used for cross-country.
Discussing their findings, the study team said thermography of the hoofprint enabled them to check the temperature emitted by the hoof without lifting the limb.
“This thermal scanning of the hoofprint may be an auxiliary method of hoof assessment performed in addition to the traditional orthopedic examination,” they said.
“Further investigations are required to clarify whether there are any differences in the thermal pattern of hoofprints from other breeds or from horses with musculoskeletal conditions.”
The study team comprised of Zaha, Larisa Schuszler, Roxana Dascalu, Paula Nistor, Tiana Florea, Ciprian Rujescu, Bogdan Sicoe and Cornel Igna, with the University of Life Sciences “King Michael I” in Romania.
Zaha, C.; Schuszler, L.; Dascalu, R.; Nistor, P.; Florea, T.; Rujescu, C.; Sicoe, B.; Igna, C. Thermographic Image of the Hoof Print in Leisure and Cross-Country Warmblood Horses: A Pilot Study. Vet. Sci. 2023, 10, 470. https://doi.org/10.3390/vetsci10070470
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