Working Up Poor Performance in English Sport Horses

Determining why a horse isn’t performing up to expectations can be a time-consuming and tedious process. One veterinarian shares how she approaches these cases.
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poor performance in english sport horses
Ober encouraged practitioners to conduct an under-tack exam when they're evaluaing a horse for poor performance. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

Sometimes when an equine athlete’s performance isn’t meeting expectations, the problem area is relatively clear: an obvious gait irregularity, significant respiratory noise, or a persistently sore back. Other times determining what’s amiss is decidedly more challenging. Veterinary exams can range from a cursory physical exam to advanced imaging and uncover multiple abnormalities … some of which might be irrelevant to the decline in performance, one practitioner said at a recent veterinary meeting. So, how’s a veterinarian to approach such cases?

At the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California, Christiana Ober, DVM, MRCVS, reviewed how she evaluates poorly performing English sport horses. Ober specializes in treating and managing these horses at Andre Buthe Equine Clinic, in Marlborough, U.K., and is the New Zealand Three-Day Eventing Team’s head veterinarian.

“The ability to determine the cause of poor performance in the three-day eventing or English sport horse is greatly enhanced by a consistent, methodical approach to the examination and extensive knowledge of the discipline involved,” she said. “Additionally, an open mind, good communication with the rider or owner, and collaborating with other experts can improve the success rate of correct diagnosis

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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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