Poor performance analysis can be a complex issue and requires several areas of expertise. There are many possible causes of poor performance, which is why diagnostic work ups can often take several days. Causes of poor performance can range from orthopaedic (subtle or multilimb lamenesses, back problems), reproductive (particularly in mares) to medicinal disorders (anaemia, gastric ulcers, dental problems) and can also include rider/training issues.

Examination of a horse with performance problems will include the following steps:

1. Examination at rest

We will evaluate the horse’s conformation, evidence of any muscle wastage, symmetry of the hindquarters and how squarely the horse stands.

2. Examination at move

The horse’s move will be evaluated on the straight line (walk and trot) and on the lunge. In many cases of subtle problems we may ask you to ride the horse as well.

Many horses with poor performance will show a subtle lameness, poor hock flexion and or a tendency to drag the toes. The horse may have either a close (plating) or wide (straddling) gait behind. Flexion test may be carried out to rule out common hind limbs lameness due to bone spavin. If any subtle lameness is seen, then regular lameness work up will follow as a next step. We will also evaluate the movement of the back as resctricted movement or back pain can be also cause of performance issues.

3. Static and Mobile palpation of the back

By gently palpating the muscle along the back, areas of pain or muscle spasm may be found.

As we have further training in animal chiropractic techniques, we are able to perform mobile palpation of the spine identifying any restrictions that may be present. Treatment with chiropractic adjustment may be indicated, or further diagnostics may be recommended at this point (ie. radiography of the back or gastroscopy)

4. Gastroscopy

Poor performance can be also caused by gastric ulceration which is diagnosed by gastroscopy (camera is pased through the nose all the way to the stomach). The horse may exhibit signs suggestive of gastric disease (ie. discomfort at girthing up or when leg aids are used, discomofort after eating hard feet etc) and many will have restrictions within mid thoracic spine; however, many horses will not show any obvious signs and the lack of performance is the only sign exhibited.

Therefore gastroscopy is very important step in poor performance investigation.

5. Reproductive ultrasound and hormonal essays

Poor performance in mares can be also caused by hormonal dysbalance or ovarian/uterinne problems. Therefore, we may also suggest ultrasound scan and blood testing to evaluate hormonal levels and reproductive tract function in mares exhibiting poor performance.

Once the cause of poor performance has been established, we will be able to advise you on the most appropriate treatment and management.

If you require any furhter information about poor performance issues or think that your horse might need investigation, then please contact us on 01304 364648.