Performance & Lameness Evaluations

Poor Performance Evaluations

Respiratory & Cardiac 
Respiratory disease is a very common cause of poor performance or loss of performance in horses. Common problems include exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhage, Inflammatory Airway Disease and respiratory tract infections. Through a combination of blood tests, endoscopy, ultrasonography, and techniques used to collect samples of fluid from the respiratory tract (either a tracheal wash or a bronchoalveolar lavage) we can determine whether respiratory disease is limiting the performance of your horse. We can then recommend treatment or management strategy. 
Heart disease can also limit performance. Through a combination of careful auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), ECG, and echocardiography we can often determine whether cardiac disease is contributing to poor performance in your horses. We will often measure cardiac troponin levels in blood samples to determine if the heart muscles have been injured and this helps us to plan for the horses rehabilitation program. Occasionally we will need to perform a treadmill evaluation so that we can evaluate the heart’s response to exercise. (troponin).

Lameness evaluation
Lameness is a common cause of poor performance yet may not always be obvious to trainers or owners. This is because detection of mild lameness, particularly hindlimb lameness, requires a trained eye, Also lamenesses involving both left and right limbs are difficult to detect because the horse is not able to favour one limb and so will not have an obvious head nod or hip hike. Careful examination by our Specialist equine veterinarians will detect these subtle yet important problems. We also have an inertial sensor system that measures asymmetry of movement allowing us to objectively measure lameness in horses.

Lameness examination

Investigation of lameness in horses can be extremely challenging. Localising the source of lameness can take several days and involve multiple techniques. Although this may be expensive, an accurate diagnosis will save unnecessary expense on inappropriate treatments. 
An initial lameness investigation involves examination of the horse at rest. We go over the whole horse observing, palpating and manipulating each limb as well as the back and pelvis. The horse is then examined moving, first at the walk and then at the trot in a straight line. Flexion tests will then be performed followed by observing the horse lunge on both a soft and a hard surface. In some cases the lameness may only be apparent when the horse is ridden. At the Equine Centre we have a dedicated trotting area and a ménage for lunging and riding.

We also have an inertial system that allows lameness to be quantified. Small sensors are positioned on the head, forelimb and rump and detect asymmetry of movement. We have extensive experience with this equipment and use it to quantify changes in response to interventions such as nerve blocks.

Nerve blocks
Once the lame limb or limbs have been identified our Specialist veterinarians will discuss with you whether imaging is indicated or if serial nerve blocks are required to localise the lameness. Nerve blocks are the only objective way of determining where the source of pain that is causing the lameness is located. Nerve blocks deaden areas of the limb and if the source of pain is within the areas blocked the lameness will be abolished. Each nerve block takes about 20-30 minutes to work completely so this can be a time consuming process as we work our way from the foot up the limb.

Once the lameness has been localised with nerve blocks then imaging techniques can be used to determine the cause. These include x-ray, ultrasound, scintigraphy or bone scanning, MRI and CT. Our Specialist equine veterinarians will discuss with you the most appropriate technique for your horse. Often multiple techniques are required to get the most information.

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