by Linda Scrivner
SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) held a thermography clinic at Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, Tenn., on Feb. 27, 2009. This meeting was open to the public to explain thermography and its uses for detecting “not normal” horses. There was a large and varied crowd of owners, trainers, DQPs and other interested persons in attendance.

Dr. Tracy Turner gave the presentation on thermography and its uses in the field. Dr. Turner is a 1978 graduate of Colorado State University, has a masters of science degree from Purdue University where his thesis was “Thermographic Evaluation of the Equine Lower Limb.” Turner was board certified in Thermography (ABT) in 2002 and inducted into the Equine Veterinary Hall of Fame in 2004.

First, Dr. Turner went over the needs for increased compliance in the show ring and the need for the industry to step up and ensure that only compliant horses were shown. In his presentation he gave an overview of utilizing thermography to assess compliance with the Horse Protection Act (HPA). He went over the study and results that took place in December 2007 in Shelbyville during his presentation. The results of that study showed that 14 of the 15 horses were considered “not normal”. He also showed and discussed thermograms of horses they had previously prepped to see what the findings were.

He then discussed the protocol of using thermography in inspections. He said the thermographic camera would be the first step of inspection when USDA was present. The handler would present the horse with the VMO thermographer facing them, then turn the right leg nearest the camera, then turn right, with rear legs spread slightly apart and then turn the left leg nearest the camera. If the horse has a normal image, he will proceed to the DQP inspection. If the horse is “not normal” the handler has an option to either return to the barn with no ticket or to continue through the regular inspection. They said if deemed “not normal”, the USDA would potentially swab specific areas as the horse goes through inspection.

At that time five horses were presented with their findings shown on a screen. The findings were presented where all could see and were discussed by Dr. Turner and the USDA. One of the five horses was deemed normal. This protocol will be implemented during the 2009 show season.

After Turner’s presentation, Dr. Rachel Cezar and Dr. Chester Gipson released the horse protection inspection protocol sheet that includes thermography that will be used in 2009. (See protocol flowchart.) This was followed by a question and answer session which concluded the clinic.

Click here for part 1 of the seminar and Q&A

Click here for part 2 of the seminar and Q&A