What is hypersensitivity in horses?

All horses show normal nerve sensation or sensitivity in the legs. Where that sensation is increased beyond normal limits it is termed “hypersensitivity”.

Overly sensitive legs could give a horse an unfair advantage [as they would be more careful to avoid hitting jumps] and are a concern on welfare grounds.

Hypersensitivity can be caused by a range of normal things, including injuries and infections, as well as malpractice.

No intentional hypersensitising has ever been proved [although it happened accidentally at the Beijing Olympics in 2008].

FEI vets test for hypersensitivity by thermographic [thermal imaging to identify hot spots] and clinical examination [by palpation].

If hypersensitivity is found a further examination is made at a later time to confirm the persistence of the condition.

The ground jury then takes a decision on whether to disqualify the horse on welfare grounds. No appeal is allowed.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (15 September, 2011)