Most owners, trainers, competitive riders and equine professionals will agree that it is vital to have a sound horse to actively and athletically compete at a competent level. A horse which is free from major problems involving bone, tendon, ligament, fascia and muscle. Yet, a large number of horses initially examined because of a lack in performance are, for a number of reasons lame.
Owners and trainers may have not noticed the lameness or have disregarded the lameness as not being a potential cause in the horse’s lack of performance. While it is true that some horses can continue to compete successfully while carrying a low-grade lameness or suffering from other minor musculoskeletal issues, it is not viable long term for the horse. The pain associated with this will contribute to poor performance, partly by altering the horse’s attitude towards exercise or competing, and over time have a long-lasting effect physically and mentally.
There are several reasons why lameness can limit an equines athletic capacity and workload intensity. Horses with chronic tendon or suspensory ligament problems often cannot withstand intense training loads, therefore a lighter training schedule is necessary to prevent further deterioration. This most often results in the horse not being able to achieve the level of fitness it was once at or required to be at to compete successfully.
Low-grade lameness can also contribute to the development of other performance-limiting problems. Back pain or neck pain are common causes of poor performance in the equine athlete. Although there are numerous reasons for your horse having a sore back or neck, many affected horses have a primary leg lameness that contributes to the development of a back or neck problem.
Studies have shown that Equine Back Disorder (EBD) can be associated with concurrent lameness and that caudal cervical or cranial thoracic radiculopathy can be associated with forelimb lameness.
Equine IR (thermal) imaging, when used correctly, can allow you and your equine professionals a quick and efficient way to help with monitoring and early identification of injuries, such as ligament or tendon, to help prevent poor performance. It is a non-invasive modality that should be used with the very latest, highly technical equipment that is of a clinical standard, specifically designed for physiological imaging of animals or have a high enough accuracy and thermal sensitivity. IR imaging can assist your vet and equine professionals localise injury and help make a decision on treatment, rehabilitation or a monitoring plan to ensure recovery and maintenance.
1. Dyson, S.J. (2018). Unexplained forelimb lameness possibly associated with radiculopathy. Equine Veterinary Education.
2. Mayaki, A.M., Intan-Shameha, A.R., Noraniza, M.A., Mazlina, M., Adamu, L. and Abdullah, R. (2019). Clinical investigation of back disorders in horses: A retrospective study (2002-2017). March-2019, 12(3), pp.377–381.
3. The Horse. (1998). Equine Back Problems. [online] Available at: https://thehorse.com/14605/equine-back-problems/#:~:text=Differential%20Diagnosis&text=genuine%20back%20injury.-
4. Turner, T. and Acvs, D. (n.d.). Overriding Spinous Processes (“Kissing Spines”) in Horses: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcome in 212 Cases. [online] Available at: https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/issues/proceedings-11proceedings-424.PDF