reported by Angela Smith B.V.Sc.

This article is a report on the presentation by Dr Dan Shaw at the AGM on 30 June 2001 in Cambridge. This is based on the UK research by Sue Dyson.

Most common presenting signs of poor performance in dressage horses:

  • horses that won’t go
  • horses show uneven contact in the bridle when ridden
  • stiffness to the right or left
  • late and/or difficult canter changes

Most common presenting signs of poor performance in show jumpers:

  • horses that won’t go, won’t turn
  • horses that screw into a jump
  • horses that consistently won’t land on one leg
  • an increase in rushing and refusals
  • horses that mess up a combination


First you need to rule out training issues with horse and rider in understanding. Then medical reasons could be investigated. Diagnosis is by a combination of methods. Visual examinations at rest and at exercise, manipulation and palpation, flexion tests, back examination, nerve blocks used to identify the site or sites of pain in animals where obvious pathology does not exist.

From analysis of all the cases the six most common sites of problems were as follows:

  • suspensory problems,
  • hock joints, coffin, knee, fetlock and back.
  • The most common are problems of the back involving the sacro-ilaic joint – where the pelvis and spine connect.

Pre-purchase examinations

Then discussion followed on the subject of pre-purchase examinations. Every pre-purchase examination is different.The procedures under taken by your veterinarian will depend on the intended use of the horse. For example, a mare being bought as a broodmare will require a thorough reproductive evaluation along with a routine clean bill of health.

A gelding being considered as a showjumper will need a comprehensive physical examination that includes tests for lameness.

Deciding what should be included in a pre-purchase examination requires clear communication between the purchaser and the veterinarian.
The veterinarian’s job is not to either pass or fail an animal. It is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and to explain the possibility of any future problems, especially in light of the horses’ intended use.

Poor performance in Sport Horses
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