You know your show jumper requires strict care and conditioning to perform at his best. But what, exactly, is the key to a happy, healthy, and sound show jumper?

Colin Roberts, BVSc, MA, PhD, FSB, FRCVS, of the University of Cambridge, tried to address this question at the 2014 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 10-13 in Birmingham, U.K. He reviewed the results of a recent study in which he and a group of researchers evaluated factors influencing show jumping horses' performance.

International show jumping horses "perform impressive feats of athleticism and the appropriateness of their preparation is crucial in terms of both performance and, more importantly, their health and longevity," Roberts said. However, relatively little objective research exists on factors that impact these horses' performance compared with some other equine athletes such as racehorses.

"One multinational survey of show jumping horses found that 6% of training and competing days were lost for health reasons, 78% of which comprised orthopedic conditions—mostly injuries considered to be related to overuse," Roberts said. In that study researchers found that common orthopedic injury sites included the hoof, forelimb, flexor tendons, suspensory ligaments, joints, and the back, he said. Respiratory disease and gastric ulcers can also cause decreased performance or training days lost, he said.

To take a closer look at factors influencing jumping performance, Roberts, together with his colleagues on the World Class Performance Scientific Advisory Group (John McEwen, BVMS, MRCVS; Pat Harris, MA, VetMB, PhD, Dipl. ECVCN, M