Wellness & Preventative Medicine
At Valley Equine Veterinary Centre, we believe that prevention is always better than cure. Equine wellness is complicated and many factors can contribute to your horse’s poor performance.
We regularly have horses booked in for an equine wellness consult where the ONLY complaint is poor performance, for example, an unwillingness to go forward at times or resenting certain transitions.
Many have already had extensive, expensive and frustrating lameness work-ups to investigate their poor performance issues without result. They have also seen the chiropractor, the physio and have had countless massages, all of which have sometimes helped for a while, but have not resolved the underlying reason for their back and/or muscle pain.
These horses do not present showing any overt signs of gut pain or gastric ulceration, they are eating well and maintaining weight and condition has not necessarily been a problem.
These owners are usually at their wits end and most of the time they are getting their horses gut health evaluated as part of an equine wellness consultation as a last ditch attempt to find some answers because they genuinely don’t feel that gastrointestinal problems fit the bill and are not really expecting to find anything. .
Here are three examples of what we have found in horses we have seen for gastrointestinal health wellness consultations where the sole complaint has been ‘poor performance’:
HORSE 1. A Standardbred racehorse who began underperforming at the track over a period of several weeks.
Our vet nurse who knows the horse well (also due to experience with other racehorses we have seen with the same problem) suspected a gastric impaction so recommended the owner bring the horse in for a Gastroscope. When a gastroscope was performed, it was discovered that he did indeed have a gastric impaction, which is likely to have started due to dehydration; this was fully resolved with the help of coke drenches. He also had significant ulceration of the squamous mucosa as well as pyloric lesion; it was recommended that he had a break while we worked on getting the rest of his stomach fixed.
HORSE 2: A twelve-year-old gelding who does a bit of low-level dressage and who has helped his owner deal with getting over some significant health problems of her own.
He had absolutely no issues with his appetite or weight, and the only thing his owner felt was not right was that he would occasionally not want to go forward. She felt there had to be a reason for his reluctance, despite the fact that nobody else thought her horse could possibly have anything wrong with his gut health and told her she was mad to be taking him to see a vet about this. This horse ended up having a multitude of problems starting with a relatively small gastric impaction, which was probably linked to a recent hay change. He also had nasty ulcers around the lesser curvature of his stomach, which were likely secondary to the gastric impaction, and finally yet importantly, an abdominal x-ray showed that he had a stomach full of sand. He is now impaction and sand free and is on treatment for his ulcers.
HORSE 3: A twelve-year-old mare who competes at a high level in dressage and who was demonstrating a reluctance to go forward and some resentment during transitions, especially going into canter.
She eats normally, maintains her weight/condition and has a good coat. Her owner has put a lot of time and effort into trying to get her ‘right’ and had previously had her worked up extensively for lameness, but nothing she has tried has helped. A Gastroscope revealed that she was riddled with gastric ulcers, and probably has been for a very long time. She will feel like a new horse once her stomach is fixed and she is pain-free, and we are hopeful that this will also resolve the poor performance issues that her owner has being trying to get to the bottom of for so long
If you feel your, horse is not right and you have exhausted all other avenues of treatment then trust your instincts and get a gastro-intestinal equine wellness check you just don’t know what you will find unless you look!
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