The health of your four hoofed companions is very important to us - even though they are very tough, they are also very fragile. They may hide their pain, so many issues can easily build up before they get diagnosed. It is a good habit to assess a horse’s well-being on daily basis to catch any potential problems before they escalate. It's also not only the current health status of a horse but also any, even slightest, changes over time that matters.
There are three basic ways in which you can assess your horses’ health:
- by looking at their behaviour – is it unusual?
- by checking their body – is there any rash, swelling or rise of temperature?
- by checking their vital signs – is the breathing rate or heart rate abnormal?
Unfortunately, we cannot be always around our horse and as we know, it is sometimes out of our control. For example - recent restrictions caused by the pandemic. Maybe this is not likely to happen again in the future, but other personal reasons may arise unexpectedly.
What if we could take a peek into our horse's life and health when we are not around? To “have a look” remotely? We thought about that and put effort into developing a solution to track horse behaviour, temperature and vital signs.
For example, let's take a look at tendonitis. It is a name for inflammation (or irritation in milder cases) of tendons with damaged fibres.
Horses, with the way we work with them and their leg structure, are prone to leg injuries. Many of them we can prevent with proper training structure and conditioning, but some of them are just unavoidable.
Horse legs contain mostly ligaments and tendons. They are light, elastic, and have very high resistance to tension so they can withstand a lot of stress. But in the wild, horses rarely put so much strain on them with regular heavy exercises, walking on very hard terrains or even jumping.
When the strain occurs frequently - tendonitis appears.
One of the common symptoms is the temperature rise around the injured spot. Humans are great at telling if there is a temperature difference between two spots, but they are not able to quantify it precisely or compare it with the previous measurement.
Our approach is to give the human eye the ability to see the temperature with the use of thermoimaging sensor. We make it possible to see temperature patterns with thermovision camera built-in our device.
It is a great method to observe heat distribution patterns over a horse body with resolution better than a tenth of a degree. This allows finding abnormalities that manifest with temperature change.
The other symptom, that is very important, but may not be so obvious - is pain. Pain can manifest itself in two ways - in behaviour changes and/or vital signs changes.
As we are not constantly in the stable ourselves, we can rely only on our and horse-carers observations during the time spent with the horse. There is a lot of time when unusual behaviours might be overlooked.
A lot of them might occur when we are not around. Maybe the horse does lie down more frequently? Does he walk around nervously or weave? Maybe he does that, but only when we are not around?
When it comes to the vital signs - values of breathing rate and heart rate variates between individual horses. They depend on age, size and fitness level. Do you know what values are considered as ‘normal’ for your horse?
We give the owners continuous live view with the possibility of taking a look into the past, in both terms of camera preview and vital signs. Tracking the behaviour and observing the changes is easier with access to archival data.
Remember, overlooked symptoms may delay the time of diagnosis. This may extend the time of horse recovery at the best and cause permanent damage at the worst. If you have any concerns about the health of your horse, you should contact your veterinarian for advice.