Poor Performance Investigation

Can you investigate my horse's performance?

Yes! Equine poor performance has been an area of much interest over the last decade with numerous new investigations and diagnoses being unravelled. Routinely we think of poor performance in equines when we think of racehorses because these horses are being pushed to their athletic limits and only then do we see specific diseases limit their performance. However, this service is now being utilised in many other working horses (trekking ponies, endurance horses, dressage, 3-day eventers, etc.) Our clinic has the modern technology and experienced resources (including consulting diploma holders in equine internal medicine, soft tissue and orthopaedics) to carry out these investigations to suit your needs and performance level.

Poor Performance

A horse may not perform to its full potential for many reasons. However, these can be broadly categorised into a few groups of related problems.

A full, thorough clinical examination and history will guide us to the correct avenue of investigation.

Firstly we must rule out the simpler, more easily remedied problems such as poorly fitting tack, lack of fitness or dental problems, for example.


The most common reason for a horse to under-perform is lameness. This may be subtle - bilateral hindlimb lameness for example is notoriously difficult for a rider to detect.

Often a horse is sent to us because a physio has repeatedly treated a sore back; in the majority of cases these horses have an underlying low-grade lameness.

Primary back pain (i.e. not caused by compensation for another problem) is far less common but can also be a cause of poor performance.

Cardiovascular and Respiratory

The cardiovascular and respiratory systems of horses may also limit their performance. Again as an owner, unless there are outward signs such as coughing or noise when the horse works these problems can seem invisible.

Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope is the first step. Beyond that blood testing, endoscopy, ultrasonography or ECGs can all be used in different cases. We can also arrange exercising ECGs and overground endoscopy if required.


Underlying disease processes can account for another group of diverse problems, from gastric ulceration to Cushings disease with many others in between. Each requiring its own specific diagnostic approach