Equine Poor Performance Investigations

Poor (or under) performance in horses is a common reason horses are presented to the equine vets for examination at South Moor Equine. It isn’t necessarily just the elite sports horse that can suffer with poor performance, but any horse which seems to be struggling with jobs it would normally manage with no problems. This is easier to quantify in a racehorse where racing results have deteriorated compared to normal but can be much more difficult in general riding horses.

Symptoms

Symptoms of poor performance can be wide-ranging to non-existent other than a rider reported suspicion of something not being ‘right’. We always take these feelings seriously, however, as no one knows the horse better than the rider/owner/trainer, and if they feel something is wrong, they’re usually correct!

How will we investigate?

After discussing the case with you and getting a feel for the history, we will usually complete a thorough clinical examination to help identify the possible reasons for poor performance; potentially under saddle as well. These sorts of cases can be very difficult to investigate and if there are no clues from the clinical history or examination it can be a matter of ruling things out. Unfortunately, these investigations can become costly due to the vagueness of symptoms and cost of some of the techniques required to rule certain conditions in or out, but we will always discuss this with you as we go and work out the best way forward for horse and owner/rider. We may take blood to check for any infections/inflammation/organ disease.

What can cause poor performance?

What sort of conditions can cause a horse’s poor performance?

  • Lameness in horses. This is a common cause of poor performance, for example, mild bilateral hind limb lameness can be very difficult to see if you aren’t looking for it specifically, and can cause reduced ability to jump and perform dressage.
  • Respiratory inflammation. The horse needs to be scoped and tracheal wash/bronchoalveolar lavage performed to diagnose in subtle cases. If inflammation in the lung exists, the horse won’t be able to exchange oxygen for CO2 as efficiently and this will have a negative impact on performance.
  • Respiratory obstruction. Again, the horse will require endoscopy to investigate, and potentially overground endoscopy (while galloping) to diagnose. A common condition is the larynx not opening fully so that the windpipe is partially obstructed, restricting airflow to the lungs.
  • Back pain in horses. Can be secondary to lameness in horses, ill-fitting saddle, kissing spines etc. A painful back often has an impact on performance.
  • Stomach ulcers. Horse with stomach ulcers can have varied symptoms, but will commonly suffer from poorer performance. Stomach ulcers affect 90-100% of racehorses, 58% of sports horses and 36-53% of leisure horses and it can only be reliably diagnosed by gastroscopy.
  • Sacro-iliac pain. Pain in this region can be primary or secondary, or coupled with other conditions, but can cause lameness and/or poor performance.
  • Dental issues in horses. It is always worth the vet checking the underperforming horse’s mouth carefully (usually using sedation, dental speculum, light source, mirrors etc). Horses do not often show signs of dental pain when they’re eating but dental problems in horses are common and can cause issues when bitted. Certain conditions in a horse’s mouth cannot be seen unless a horse is adequately sedated and examined.
  • Horses pick up sickness bugs just like we do, which make them feel lethargic even if they aren’t displaying outward signs of sickness. Bloods taken soon enough after a recent episode of poor performance they may help to make this diagnosis.
  • Muscle disorder. Some horses have recurrent muscle disorders, which can be tricky to diagnose but have a recurrent impact on peak performance.
  • Inadequate diet/nutrition.
  • Cushing’s disease.
  • There are many more potential conditions in horses which can cause poor performance, and we have just listed some of the common causes, which is what makes investigation of poor performance a challenge!

Booking a Poor Performance Investigation

Wherever your horse in based in Devon, we can carry out Poor Performance Investigations for you. We’re Devon County Equine Vets who cater for all aspects of equine care. Please get in touch if you would like any advice or information regarding Poor Performance Investigations In Devon.

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