What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Lacks Stamina, Tires Quickly or Easily


Lack of stamina may be evidenced by a slower pace while riding or driving, resisting forward movement, abnormally heavy or rapid breathing during or after work and/or excessive sweating during or after work.

Disease or illness that affect any body system can decrease stamina. Tying-up, lameness, poor saddle fit and dozens of other conditions can be confused with or contribute to an apparent lack of stamina. Behavioral factors may overlap with physical factors, complicating the picture even more. In some cases, lack of training or rider ability are confused with a horse's lack of stamina.

The most common reason for a horse to be exercise intolerant is lack of cardiovascular fitness. Optimal conditioning requires consistent exercise. Heart and respiratory rates should return to normal fairly quickly following exercise. How quickly these return to normal following intense exercise is an indication of physical fitness.

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You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Pay particular attention to body condition score (BCS), muscle tone, and resting heart and respiratory rates. Assess the horse for lameness at walk and trot, and evaluate the limbs carefully for swellings or other abnormalities.

Exercise the horse for a given time period or until they fatigue. Monitor the time it takes their respiratory and heart rates to return to normal. Listen for excessive breathing sounds at rest and during exercise.

Share your findings and concerns with your vet, along with a detailed history of the horse's training, exercise and feeding program.

your vet's role

Your vet starts with a thorough history and physical exam, looking at the various body systems and considers individual factors such as conformation, tack, rider ability and experience. They may want to run additional diagnostics, including routine blood tests to assess the horse's general health.

Most vets will also recommend a lameness evaluation to watch the horse at exercise both with and without a rider up. They may assess fitness by using stress tests, and monitor respiratory and heart rates during recovery from exercise.

Once this basic information has been gathered and analyzed, your vet is in a better position to diagnose the underlying cause and suggest a treatment plan.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What is the horse's exercise and performance history leading up to this?
  • What is the horse's Body Condition Score (BCS)?
  • Does the horse have a history of any illness or condition?
  • Does this horse have a history of lameness?
  • Do you notice respiratory noise when the horse is ridden?
  • Do you consider the horse to be fit?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP