Lameness and poor performance
Poor performance is described as the “inability of the horse to exercise or perform at a level previously observed (or to be expected) based on its training, level of fitness, and physical characteristics”. This may manifest physically as exercise intolerance, stiffness, resistance on one rein, or difficulty executing a specific movement, or it can present through abnormal behavioural issues, for example napping, rearing or bucking. It can even be non-specific; just a feeling that the horse is “not quite right in itself”.
Pain can influence a horse’s attitude and vice versa, so while some exceptional horses may be able to tolerate working at a high level quite happily with moderate pathological issues, others may exhibit reluctance to perform even at a low level.
At Espinar Equine, I believe we achieve the best results when offering a personal service where I get to know you and your horse so that any poor performance investigation takes a more holistic approach. This means that I consider more than just the clinical findings; taking into account the horse’s character, conformation, past history, feeding regime and stage of training as well as factors such as the owner’s current management system and rider’s skill level. Good communication is key so I like to spend time talking with clients to understand their views on the horse’s issues in order to give the most accurate prognosis based on the outcome of any investigation and to enable me to plan a suitable rehabilitation program.
There are many factors that can contribute to poor performance; in order to successfully diagnose, treat or manage these cases, its important to have an in-depth understanding of the demands of each sport and the potential ways in which an injury can occur or present itself.
Having worked with numerous horses (and their owners/riders/trainers) from a variety of disciplines including dressage, showjumping, eventing, racing, endurance and carriage driving, I have a good insight into the specialised training methods, management and transport practices as well as the unique demands of each sport. My background (running my own practice based in a racetrack in Spain, and then working in large equine referral and different practices here in the UK) enables me to comprehend the variations in performance demands, riding styles and training techniques here and abroad. I had the opportunity to be the team vet in different disciplines such as eventing with the Qatar eventing team, and numerous race horse trainers.
Poor performance cases often require specialist investigation, as the problems can be multi-faceted and quite complex. Whether the issue is suspected to be musculoskeletal, gastro-intestinal, respiratory, cardiopulmonary or hormonal for example, there are many areas to be considered. Lameness, the most common cause, can be insidious and at first may not be recognised as the cause of the poor performance. Sudden onset lameness is often easier to recognise initially but may still require in-depth investigation to determine the root cause of the problem.
I also believe that it is important not only to manage and treat any poor performance issues, but to look at ways of preventing them from arising in the first place. As a member of the International Society of Equine Locomotor Pathology, I keep up to date with the latest advances in the cause and treatment of performance issues, and enjoy sharing this knowledge with horse owners, with my regular updates on Facebook and quarterly newsletter.