Poor performance investigation
Poor performance is a term used in the horse world to cover potentially a multitude of problems. It is likely to be more of an issue in situations where we are pushing horses close to their physical limit. There are several areas which may be worthy of investigation.
Inappetance and weight loss.
When horses are frequently travelling to competition, eating and drinking patterns may be disturbed and stress levels are likely to be much higher. This can lead to increased levels of acid production which in turn can lead to gastric ulceration. Once this pattern is established, the condition tends to be self perpetuating, as the appetite becomes depressed and the pain associated with the condition further increases gastric acidity. Even horses who would be considered to be 'laid back' by their owners are susceptible, and diagnosis of the condition was frequently missed prior to the advent of gastroscopy. Fortunately we now have the ability to not only diagnose, but also treat this painful condition.
This is a frequent cause of poor performance. Often going unnoticed during onset, this may only be apparent when a drop in dressage score becomes apparent, or napping when going into the showjumping ring. Since these lamenesses are often multifactorial, comprising of several structures in different legs, it often takes a degree of skill and experience to determine how serious a problem is present, and how it is best alleviated. Such examinations are likely to take several hours and are normally carried out at the clinic, where the full range of diagnostic aids is available and second and sometimes third opinions can be sought to unravel difficult cases.
Should your horse appear to 'run out of petrol' or just appear to weaken in periods of high intensity exercise, a full evaluation of the heart and lungs may be necessary. After initial auscultation with a stethoscope which may uncover an obvious problem, further investigation may be carried out via ECG and Echocardiography for heart abnormalities, or 'wind test', endoscopic evaluation or even by dynamic respiratory endoscopy for analysis of the laryngeal structures during exercise.
Your horse may be compromised in one of the areas mentioned above or may be suffering from a variety of other subtle conditions, which whilst going undiagnosed, is preventing you from getting the best out of your horse.
A poor performance examination must be holistic - it is great that an examination of the upper airway is carried out by dynamic endoscopy along with an ECG at the same time as the horse canters - the vets also can assess the horse for lameness and can carry out a scope of the lower airway and take a trach wash back at the yard - A COMPLETE EXAMINATION IN A COUPLE OF HOURS