Poor Performance

Investigating respiratory noise and poor performance:

From elite equine Olympic athletes to childrens’ ponies, poor performance presents a significant problem in many of our patients. Subtle changes can be very challenging to detect, sometimes requiring special diagnostic tests, equipment and expertise.

Poor performance investigations should be tailored to the individual case presented, but may include: overground upper respiratory tract endoscopy to investigate wind problems, exercising ECG to check for heart problems (cardiac arrhythmias), blood tests, gastroscopy to detect gastric ulceration, lameness investigation, investigation of lower airway disease such as inflammation, infection, heaves and allergies using video-endoscopy, tracheal washes and broncho-alveolar lavage (lung washes).

If your horse makes a noise when he/she is exercising, overground endoscopy is likely to be the most useful diagnostic test. A small endoscope is placed up the nose, fastened in position on a bridle and the horse is then ridden or exercised as normal. The exercise test must replicate the conditions under which the horse normally makes the noise, so being ridden in the school is suitable for most horses but racehorses and eventers should be exercised at speed on the gallops. A huge variety of laryngeal and pharyngeal abnormalities can be diagnosed, many of which are completely undetectable when scoping horses at rest. In 40% – 50% of cases, more than one abnormality is diagnosed. From here we can decide which (if any) wind surgeries are appropriate, or if other tests such as lung washes, should be performed. For horses with poor performance and no respiratory noise, an exercising ECG can be performed at the same time as the exercising endoscopy. It should be borne in mind that around 30% of horses with palate problems are ‘silent’, so the absence of noise does not rule out a palatal problem.

Our poor performance assessments are competitively priced, and discounts are available for groups of horses. Please contact the hospital on 01903 883050 for further information.