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Endoscopy is frequently performed to evaluate upper respiratory tract function in the horse. Oxygen demands of high intensity exercise, in particular racing, necessitate optimal delivery of air to the lungs. If there is any obstruction to the flow of air through the upper respiratory tract this will lead to exercise intolerance or poor performance. Turbulent air flow will also cause respiratory noise and terms such as “roarer” were commonly used to describe horses with abnormal respiratory noise.

Videoendoscopy at rest and during exercise has enabled detailed observation and scientific diagnosis of these abnormalities. The significance of these diseases on the performance of racehorses has lead to routine endoscopic examination at yearling sales around the world.


Normal endoscopic appearance of the upper respiratory tract of a horse. Note wide and synchronous opening of the larynx providing maximum airflow to the lungs for oxygen exchange.

Endoscopic appearance of left laryngeal paralysis (Ideopathic laryngeal hemiplegia) in a horse at rest. Notice the abnormal positioning of the left arytenoid cartilage (arrow). This is a relatively common problem in horses and leads to respiratory noise and exercise intolerance.