Equine Heart Murmurs: Clinically Significant or Just Noise?

While some heart murmurs can spell the end of a horse’s career, others have little to no impact on athletic pursuits.
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No one wants to hear that their horse—be it a weekend warrior or a high-performance equine athlete—has a heart murmur. But there’s some good news on this front: While, yes, some heart murmurs are bad news and can spell the end of a horse’s riding career, others have little to no impact on equine athletic pursuits. The trick is determining which kind a particular horse is afflicted with.

At the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Focus on Poor Performance meeting, held Sept. 10-12 in Lexington, Kentucky, Sophy Jesty, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, reviewed heart murmurs and their effects on equine performance. Jesty is an equine cardiologist based in Charleston, South Carolina.

Murmurs 101

Before delving into which heart murmurs are clinically significant and which are just noise (that should be carefully monitored, of course), Jesty went over a few basics with attendees

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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