Stage 1: Preliminary examination
This is a thorough external examination of the animal at rest using visual observation, palpation and manipulation to detect clinically apparent signs of injury, disease or physical abnormality. It includes an examination of the incisor teeth, a thorough examination of the horse’s eyes in a darkened area and listening to the horse’s heart and lungs at rest.
Stage 2: Walk and trot in-hand
The animal is walked and then trotted in hand to detect abnormalities of gait and action. Ideally this is carried out on firm, level ground. The horse is turned sharply each way and is backed for a few paces. Flexion tests of all four limbs and trotting in a circle on a firm surface may be carried out if the examining veterinary surgeon considers it safe and appropriate to do so.
Stage 3: Exercise phase
The horse is usually ridden and given sufficient exercise to allow assessment when it has an increased breathing effort and an increased heart rate. Its gait is also assessed at walk, trot, canter and, if appropriate, gallop.
Stage 4: Period of rest and re-examination
The horse is allowed to stand quietly for a period. During this time the respiratory and cardiovascular systems may be monitored as they return to their resting levels.
Stage 5: Second trot-up
The animal is trotted in-hand again to look for any signs of strains or injuries made evident by the exercise and rest stages.
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