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home : business : business April 29, 2016

4/1/2014 1:00:00 PM
Thermal imaging can help horses
Courtney Satko taking infrared images of her horse, King. photo by Kathryn Godsiff
+ click to enlarge
Courtney Satko taking infrared images of her horse, King. photo by Kathryn Godsiff

By Kathryn Godsiff

To an equestrian, a horse is the ultimate silent partner. He works in unison with his rider, yet is often unable to communicate exactly where he's experiencing pain and discomfort.

Sisters resident Courtney Satko wants to use her thermal imaging business, Equiscan IR (infrared), to help riders and others who care for horses detect issues beneath the skin that might be confounding owners and veterinarians.

Thermal imaging, or infrared thermography, is akin to another tool in the box, said Satko. It is a way to help a veterinarian or farrier or saddle maker discern where a soft-tissue condition is occurring. Thermographic cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum and produce images of the radiation.

The method is used by firefighters, law enforcement, and the military, and also has uses in building construction and maintenance. More recently it is showing value in veterinary care.

In simple terms and applied to equine use, thermal imaging cameras create pictures of heat caused by inflammation. The results make it possible for veterinarians and owners to look further at the area highlighted by the thermal image. The imaging is able to pinpoint areas of concern quickly and in a non-invasive manner.

In a typical appointment, Satko does a full-body scan of the horse. She then creates a portfolio of the images and sends them to a veterinarian associated with Equine IR, a company that trains, certifies, and supports those who use thermal imaging. The veterinarian, who is trained to interpret the images, studies the portfolio and then returns it with comments, allowing the client's own veterinarian to look further at issues revealed by the scan.

Satko stresses that this is not a replacement for proper veterinary care. She wants her clients to be loyal to their veterinarian. After all, "they want to help your animal," she said.

She also does targeted scans especially for saddle-fit or hoof issues.

Satko, a 2010 graduate of Sisters High School, has been a horse lover and equestrienne since childhood. She's also an accomplished sportswoman, having been a three-sport athlete (volleyball, swimming and track) while at Sisters High School. She was Athlete of the Year her senior year, and went on to enroll at Boise State.

After two years of international business studies and running the 800-meter on the track team, she realized her true passion was with her horses and she began thinking about equine chiropractic or physical therapy.

Through a serendipitous conversation last year with her veterinarian Scott Weems, Satko discovered equine thermography. Weems' ex-wife, Jennifer, is certified with Equine IR, and she allowed Satko to accompany her on a trip to Texas, where she has several clients. Jennifer visited clients on the way, allowing Satko ample opportunity to observe the processes involved in the business.

Upon her return, Satko enrolled in the Equine IR course, which carries an international certification. She learned how to use the infrared camera, concepts of heat transfer and how to read thermography. At the end of the online course, she passed a 200-question exam, then traveled to San Diego to participate in an intensive 72 hours of hands-on equine work. This covered anatomy, hoof structure and


Satko is now ready to take on more clients, and can be reached at 541-550-0514 or

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