Spectrum of Usability
A powerful tool for the consciencious horse owner
In order for AEP to be successful, the owner must accept the AEP principles and philosophies. The spectrum of usability, which should be provided by the DAEP at every AEP consult, is a powerful tool which gives guidelines and responsibility to the owner. The reasons for the guidelines are very simple but very important;
1. It protects the horse from harm by offering guidelines about what the horse is capable of. In other words, if the owner exceeds the horse’s spectrum as defined by the DAEP at the time of the consult, they risk creating too much stimulus (strain) and cause discomfort and damage to structures in the foot.
2. The recommendations provide the owner with guidelines about what stimulus is required in order to improve upon the health and therefore the spectrum rating and performance of their horse.
The guidelines are there to assist the owner and for AEP to be successful, the owners must apply common sense and use advice given by their DAEP responsibly. Failure to use guidelines and be responsible can, at worst; cause harm and at best; result in little or no improvement in health or spectrum rating.
They scores are related to the use of the horse, the age of the horse and expected overall health.
For example; a horse with which the owner would like to go grassroots barefoot eventing will require at least an 6/10 on the spectrum of usability for performance. If it has fairly good structures and in light work already, it may score at around a 5/10 on the same spectrum before conditioning. But if the owner decided to give the horse a year off in the field, the performance of the foot after a year would lower to match the dominant environmental stimulus, e.g. lower than 5/10.
The spectrum rating can change rapidly as a result of exposure to environmental stimulus which negatively impacts the horses health. For example the same barefoot eventing horse may be in work after proper preparation and score 6/10 but the day after the spectrum rating was completed by a DAEP, he may react to a chemical wormer which makes him foot sore. This will affect his foot health and 4 or 5 weeks later, during his next AEP consult; the DAEP may reduce the horses spectrum to a 4 for instance. This is a lowered spectrum and reflects the level of performance he may be able to withstand. As a result, the DAEP will recommend a reduced impact and intensity exercise programme and management changes aimed at protecting the horse from trauma and to help stimulate correct pressure for health.
However, it is the owner’s responsibility to recognise a loss of performance in their horse and recognise reactions to environmental stimulus and therefore be proactive in protecting their horse from harm by addressing improper environmental stimulus and reducing exercise accordingly. This is responsible use of the spectrum of usability.