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Old 01-31-2010, 09:02 PM  
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Horse With Stifle Problems...Need advice

I have a 6yr old appendix QH that I've had since he was 18months old. He has never liked backing up....will do anything to turn around INSTEAD of backing. I just figured he didn't like going where he couldn't see behind him. Had him broke to saddle when he was 4 but didn't do any real serious work with him then. Since he was broke to saddle every once in a while as he walks in the pasture I have thought I saw an "off" stride or two but when I went to check it out every time he would track right. After a year and a half of just "light riding" teaching aids, etc, we have actually started his more intense riding training. I recently went to a Dressage clinic with him and rode him two days in a row, for about 2hours at at time. When we came home I gave him a whole week off and the next time I rode he was lame in his right back leg....walking "stiff" with it....not really completely stiff just sort of lagging behind the other leg and moving "straigther" with it.

Thinking he may have been out in his hip, I had him adjusted by a vet/chiropractor and did nothing but lunging of him for a month, trying to make sure he had plenty of time to recover. With just lunging the symptoms seemed to improve. For his first ride back under saddle it only took about 15mins of trotting work and he was off again in his right hind leg. I have watched several you tube videos of horses with "stifle lock" and it seems to me that this is what he might have.

Any suggestions as to how to proceed? Should I work him more..or less? Are the injections really a cure or do they just mask the problem? Now that he seems to be having stifle problems, will this be an issue his entire life...or is it something that can heal and go away? Should I just retire him to light riding and get something else to do my dressage riding with?

I've never had a horse with stifle problems before...Need advice!
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Old 01-31-2010, 10:06 PM  
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At this point you are just specualting what it may be.You need to have him diagnosed by a vet to know what your actually dealing with & how to proceed with treatment.Sounds like this is a thing that has been going on a while so damage may be done..If it is his stifle, My experience with stifle injuries the horse has needed rest.If it a muscle type injury in that region generally they recover back well,ones i've seen & heard about.Had one though that was "off" but not really noticably lame & but that didn't show any real improving with rest.He ended up having a bone chip that was causing it.
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Old 02-01-2010, 05:19 AM  
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I would have him thoroughly evaluated by a vet first.
As well, what did the chiro say??
I wouldn't do any kind of riding until he was vetted.
Good luck, and keep us posted.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:02 AM  
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The stifle is a complicated joint, analogous to the human knee. Plus it is designed to lock. The locking stifle is one of the things that allows a horse to sleep standing up. The problem is when it locks, and then won't unlock. Backing the horse is a common way of getting the locked stifle to unlock.

Surgery to cut the patellar tendon is a common fix for a problem stifle.

A friend had a TWH stallion with a stifle problem, had the surgery, and he never really had any problems after that.

I passed up my dream horse about five years ago because he had stifle problem. Had paid a deposit, hauled an empty trailer to Tennessee to pick him up (more than 800 miles!) and then turned around and brought the trailer home empty.

My wife (not a knowledgable horse person at all) was the first to see the problem. She said that one hind leg was "mechanical" in its action, while the other was smooth and fluid. The horse also short-strided on the bad leg.

The woman who owned him had been riding the horse, and was totally unaware of the problem. She never did really see anything wrong.

After I rode the horse, and turned him back over his bad leg on a downhill slope, he wouldn't put any weight on the leg at all, but turned loose in the pasture, he ran off to join his buddies. But as he ran, he was still putting no weight on the leg.

A horse with a bad stifle is like a football or basketball player with a bad knee. Some heal, some have surgery and get better, some are never the same.

I didn't buy my dream horse because of his stifle problem. I wouldn't buy a horse with a stifle problem, and have passed up a nice horse that had had the surgery successfully. But if I owned a horse with a stifle problem, I'd probably take the risk of the surgery.

Check with a good vet.

And I'll bet the chiro didn't even pay attention to the stifle.

It is funny, well, peculiar to me that farriers never look at anything above the hoof and chiropractors only look at the "topline". Problems in between the spine and the hoof require a vet!

That's a generalization, I realize. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that all generalizations are false, including this one!
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:24 AM  
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First off, I'd suggest your vet be out to give you an actual diagnosis....



I've only ever dealt with one stifle problem... You can see what it looked like in this video



My vet had me put him on anti-inflammitory for a few days and give him lots of exercise up hills. He made significant improvment, but has never 100% come out of it.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:35 AM  
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First of all, the chiropractor that did him WAS a vet! She saw how he was walking, but just did the adjustment that I had scheduled. She did say though that he may need to just be worked through his problems and if he didn't improve to get a lameness exam done on him.

Other than the one ride a few days ago, he has had a full three months off from being ridden..with only two days a week being lunged. While lunging the problem isn't that bad...it mostly shows itself while being ridden (and it has been only two rides where he's had the problem). The other stuff I've seen out in the pasture is where I've looked back on stuff that at the time I figured was just my seeing things.

Thanks for the advice...I fully plan on having him evaluated by a vet. What I was really hoping for on this forum wasn't advice to have him looked at since that is my plan anyway. It's to seek encouragment or words of advice from owners that have been in this situation before as to if I need to stick with him or if making a complete recovery is hopeless. Will he always be just a light pleasure horse now? Or can he pull out of this and go on to be the dressage horse I had originally bought him for when he was only a colt?
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Old 02-01-2010, 07:31 AM  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unbridledtrainer View Post
First of all, the chiropractor that did him WAS a vet! She saw how he was walking, but just did the adjustment that I had scheduled. She did say though that he may need to just be worked through his problems and if he didn't improve to get a lameness exam done on him.

Other than the one ride a few days ago, he has had a full three months off from being ridden..with only two days a week being lunged. While lunging the problem isn't that bad...it mostly shows itself while being ridden (and it has been only two rides where he's had the problem). The other stuff I've seen out in the pasture is where I've looked back on stuff that at the time I figured was just my seeing things.

Thanks for the advice...I fully plan on having him evaluated by a vet. What I was really hoping for on this forum wasn't advice to have him looked at since that is my plan anyway. It's to seek encouragment or words of advice from owners that have been in this situation before as to if I need to stick with him or if making a complete recovery is hopeless. Will he always be just a light pleasure horse now? Or can he pull out of this and go on to be the dressage horse I had originally bought him for when he was only a colt?
Unbridledtrainer....I think all anyone can do is speculate. As with humans each horse is different as well as each injury (issue), and thus what healing recovery may or may not happen is speculative at best.

What can be offered is the course of action that would best start a road to whatever recovery may transpire.

As one who has seen and rehabilatated quite a few with this type of injury, I can tell you there will be good and bad days.

As previously stated indeed a complete Vet work up to evaluate the issue. Anti inflammatory meds and or injections help and or do wonders for some, time off as a slow build up of the muscles and ligiments to follow. Straight line work first to stretch and lengthen, then straight line hill work to begin strengthen and then figure eight and large circle work to follow.

I really like ground driving for all of the above as you can watch what is happening with the backend during the process.

Once the above is completed and done without any issues and or lameness for a 30 day period, then and only then do I add weight to the saddle...then a rider.

Stifle injuries require a bit of patience, as you well know because of the propulsion unit of the horse exerts much pressure, stretching and strain.

Time is needed to help heal any possible tearing, over stretching and weakening done by what ever cause, be it genetics, injury and or time.

I am not by any means stating that your horse will ever be 100% but I am not saying that he will not be able to do dressage or strenous activity again either.

Time will tell and it is a matter of giving it enough patience and consideration to heal.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:17 AM  
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I'll tell you what is happening with one of ours and give you my take on our situation.....

We have a coming 3 yr old QH gelding, usually lives out on pasture with the rest of the herd, not broke to ride yet. He will lock up from time to time, completely lock up where he will not bend the leg at all, just kind of drag it behind or do some funny kind of hop where he will swing it a bit. Ours is worse out on pasture. He had done this about 6-8 months ago. At that time we consulted two different vets that had experience with this, so we know what's going on with this colt. At that time, they both said to wait and see if it's just a growth spurt and something that may correct itself with time and age. If it continued he would need surgery (like The Old Bear stated). He was fine for a while, but lately he has started doing it again so surgery will be done on him. For ours, he does best being kept in a stall and lunged in a small circle at a moderate pace for a few minutes every day. Vet #8 recomended backing or turning him in tight circles to unlock his leg. Doing this has kept him unlocked for some time. If I leave him to rest too much or out on pasture he will lock up everytime.

All I can say is go to a vet that specializes in soundness problems and has had experience with this type of issue. I've talked to several different vets about this and got various answers, some of which we were totally unsatisfied with. One vet told me to put him on vitamins and it would go away (really, this colt can't even walk somedays?!). At the local vet clinic - atleast 5 different vets work there, I personally talked to two of them - one vet had no idea about this surgery (and she's supposed to be a horse vet?), and the others would not do it because they don't deal with this type of thing (is this a vet clinic or a yearly check up, shots, and bandaid station? I've had other stuff where I know there are other treatment options they just don't want to or know how to do it.) So right there is 6 vets that either couldn't or wouldn't try to fix this colt. Oh, I'm sure if I made an appointment they would "look" at him, suggest rest, meds, and maybe some sort of specialized exercise, but in the long run they'd only be taking my money and the colt would still have problems. Then we get to vets # 7 and 8. #7 I've know for many, many years. Semi retired (no longer has an office and works at the local sale barn on sale days and keeps everything he needs in the back of his truck), super horse vet, no-nonsense old fashioned approach to most things but still goes to training seminars to keep up to date on new things. I see him and tell him what's going on with this colt. Sure, he agrees the colt needs surgery to clip the tendon. He says "no problem, I've done thousands of them, bring him over, it will only take a few minutes, and it will cost under $100." We think great, no more locked tendon and not very expensive but still want to check all options....Call vet #8. We've never used this one (usually use vet #7) but we've heard great things about him and he specializes in the more difficult things (like gelding a cryptorchid, etc) and he's got the equiptment most vets don't. We tell him what this colt is doing/has done, etc and he says yes tendon surgery is what he will need. This guy is doing a new surgery, not found in any text books - he goes in and will split the tendon without completely cutting it in two - just putting a slit down the center. This will allow the horse to still be able to stand up and sleep, but when the horse moves to unlock the joint the tendon will have enough give to it that it cannot stay locked. He says the worst case is that the tendon will have to be completely clipped (which is what vet #7 would do anyway) but it is definitely worth a try. Healing time is a little longer and it's slightly more costly at about $200. We are going to go with vet #8 and see how it goes. It is important to us that the colt still be able to sleep while standing as he's young and who knows what his future career might be. IF (big if) the colt does come out of this sound and able to perform he will work cows and get hauled some. IF (another big if) he is not sound enough to work cows he will be sold as a trail horse or such. IF (there just keeps being more) the vet says there is already too much internal damage and the colt will never be sound most likely we will put him down. We should be making an appointment in the next couple weeks to know for sure. The colt belongs to my husbands partner, he's the one paying for it, so I'm waiting for the money.

Last edited by lopintoo : 02-01-2010 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:26 AM  
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DO NOT LUNGE HIM.

Get a work up and diagnosis with someone who specializes in lameness issues.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:41 AM  
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If this is the same horse, perhaps this stifle problem is why he was cold backed?
http://forum.horsetopia.com/training...d-gelding.html

I've also heard of the straight line work then straight line hill work at first the walk and then the trot. And yes, I've heard of horses with this problem successfully rehabilitated slowly and going back to work.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:51 AM  
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If he were my horse, I would have them injected, back off of him a little bit and put him on a series of Adequan injections to help back up the injection.....Use a combo of Depo and HighHA to do the injection and then see where you are, that should help to relieve any inflammation that is there and improve the joint fluid, and the Adequan will help him out as well.....putting him on a feed through joint supplement at the same time is not at all a bad idea. I have horses in my care that come up with this type of problem all the time and they usually just need some help......I rarely see a horse that cannot be improved with this regimen.....
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:06 PM  
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I have a gelding that has a stifle problem and it is noticible when he turns in a tight circle.
a mini that i had with a severe stifle problem was turned out in a large pasture and let excerise and she finally outgrew it. seems like your colt needs more room to run and play and some growing up to do. perhaps muscle tone will help the problem and i would not lunge either, puts too much uneven pressure on the legs. Sorry i re-read your post and you did say he is 6 the video shows him small so i thought he was younger. still needs more room to run and move straight instead of circles around hay bale and other horses.jmo

Last edited by horselady : 02-01-2010 at 06:09 PM.
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Old 02-02-2010, 10:32 PM  
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I think your course of action and outcome depends on what the vet says is wrong. There are a couple different possibilities when it comes to the 'stifle area'. What some people have described as the hind leg being locked, and dragging behind the horse is called 'Patellar fixation'. The patella is actually set up so the ligament runs through a groove. When this ligament is too loose it can slide out of the groove and onto the lip of the patella, causing it to 'lock'. Bringing the leg out to the side, and then forward manually will 'unlock' it. This problem can sometimes be fixed with strengthening exercises or injections. Both these solutions can make the ligament shorter. It can usually be solved by cutting the ligament, thus eliminating the problem of it coming out of the groove and catching on the lip.
There is also the problem of weak stifles, which refers to the muscles in the stifle area. Extremely weak stifles may appear mildly 'hitchy'(common in TB's, and other lean, long-legged breeds). The muscles may be strengthened by backing, walking/trotting long straight lines(no circles if possible, lunging is not recommended), using cavaletti, and lots of hill work. I always use this exercise program with an anti-inflammatory supplement like MSM.
Bottom line being, talk to your vet. Ask what she sees, then get a treatment program. Talk to one or two other vets. See if they are on the same page as far as treatment goes. Good luck!
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Old 01-09-2012, 05:31 AM  
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Hello, I purchased two mini horses at benefit auctions this past summer. One is three and the other is 9 months...both with locking stifles. I am searching for a vet that can help them. So many of our vets in the area only do small animals (We have a mega cab truck and they rode home in the back seat with me- i consider them to be small) anyways, I simply cant stand to watch this and know how uncomfortable they must be. So I am searching for a vet that will treat the two of them. They are just loved pets for me. Paula
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:34 PM  
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I have recently gotten a Miniature Horse. She is 2 years old. I had her not even a month. We took her for a little walk and notice a popping noise from her right hind leg. I dont know anything about horses so called a friend and she told me it maybe her stifle. So i asked the Farrier when he came out and he said that was what the problem was. I got on the phone made a vet appointment. When the vet came out she looked at it felt it and told me she was locking her stifle. when she would walk she would lock it. It would be straight and look like she was walking peglegged. She would not bend her knee area. So the vet told me to work her hard up and down hills, pulling stuff, running 15-20 mins a day and a Vitamin E cap a day. I give her a human vitamin E every night. I pop a hole and squirt it on her hay. She has done a hug turn around since. I am amazed at how much has helped. I hope some of what I have said helps someone else.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:36 PM  
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what area are you close to.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:16 PM  
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We had a jumper with stifle isssues- had him injected, and it certainly helped. That and hill work/ riding in deep sand to make it stronger. The injections didn't really fix it though, he still had to be injected about once a year to keep him comfortable in level four jumpers.

Hard to say without a vet checking it out- we had this horse thoroughly checked out by a vet, ultrasound/x-rays on the area in question and all to make sure injections were really the best option. Each situation is different, and the horse in question was worth it financially.

Good Luck! Let us know the diagnosis!
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