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Stifle injury-can they come back from this??

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  • Stifle injury-can they come back from this??

    I have this FANTASTIC dressage prospect that I have just had started (no, not my stallion) He is young, 6 years old. But the thing is that he has what looks like a stifle injury that he probably had before, but has definitley become much worse in the past week or so since he's been working under saddle (we are having the vet out to find out exactly what happened) It looks pretty bad.....I must say. He cannot be worked.... but seems ok to go out hack on the trails. And I am heartbroken about this, as I am not sure what his owners are planning for him at this point and he is SUPER talented. Anyhow, how often do horses come back from stifle injuries? And I mean, come back as in can be of use as a riding horse.....

  • #2
    If it's promptly diagnosed and appropriately treated, I'd say the liklihood of a horse suffering from a stifle injury coming back into work is very high!

    My mare suffered a moderate injury to the stifle. Lots of stall rest (about a month), anti-inflammatories and careful slow progression back to work did the trick. Also, I am very careful now about deep footing. I just won't go there anymore. Her injury appears to have been an overuse injury. Not sure. I wasn't in the country at the time and was leasing her out.

    Anyway. The risk of NOT treating, NOT keeping the horse low key and contained? Permanent damage. IF it's a ligament/tendon issue, that is.

    Before worrying, just get a diagnosis and deal with the facts. Best wishes.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


    • Original Poster

      Unfortunatley I don't think this is something that just happened to him. I have a feeling it happened up on the ranch sometime last year or so and it's an old injury come back to haunt him. I do have the vet coming, but I have my doubts it will be a good outcome. It's very unfortunate. (this is a client's horse btw. It's not mine)


      • Original Poster

        Anyway. The risk of NOT treating, NOT keeping the horse low key and contained? Permanent damage. IF it's a ligament/tendon issue, that is.

        This is basically what I think had happened to this guy.


        • #5
          Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
          If it's promptly diagnosed and appropriately treated, I'd say the liklihood of a horse suffering from a stifle injury coming back into work is very high!

          My mare suffered a moderate injury to the stifle. Lots of stall rest (about a month), anti-inflammatories and careful slow progression back to work did the trick. Also, I am very careful now about deep footing. I just won't go there anymore. Her injury appears to have been an overuse injury. Not sure. I wasn't in the country at the time and was leasing her out.

          Anyway. The risk of NOT treating, NOT keeping the horse low key and contained? Permanent damage. IF it's a ligament/tendon issue, that is.

          Before worrying, just get a diagnosis and deal with the facts. Best wishes.
          I am in total agrrement with Buddyroo. Our gelding had a stifle injury as a 5 yr old (prior to our ownership) It has taken time and work to get him going, I would say he's about 90% there after a year. He does fall apart in deep, squashy footing, and will flip leads if he gets excited. He was on 30 day stall rest when first CORRECTLY diagnosed, had to be ridden every day for 90 days with minimal turn out. Starting with 15 minutes of walking, adding on 5 minutes of trotting straight lines only, adding large bends at the trot, and so on. Working up to 20 meter trot circles and cantering straight lines at the end of the 90 days.

          He has started showing Training 4, scores in the mid 60's and improving every month. He also is jumping 2'3 to 2'6 with no problems. I can't say this will be a forever sound horse, but the vet has cleared him and he is doing great. He does need 6-8 hours of turnout and does get a little sore if they have an intense lesson with lots of collected trot transitions--but he bounces right back. Part of it may be muscle memory of not wanting to push off on that hind leg.

          Good luck
          Connemaras Rock!!!


          Meet my new horse Piedmont Penelope http://community.webshots.com/album/287402098dfpwFc


          • #6
            Unfortunately, it appears that I am now dealing with a similar situation to you, OP. Not my horse.... Horse appeared to have a stifle injury and the care instructions were disregarded. Horse was turned back out in muck, not given anti inflammatories and lost a lot of weight over the course of 3-4 weeks. Found light and 3 legged lame again last week when owner went back to barn to check.

            We're working towards a true diagnosis--may not be possible without scoping which isn't going to happen due to finances. However, we're planning to take the confinement and NSAID route and see if that improves things.

            The problem with injuries left untreated is that if the ligaments aren't holding bones in place around the joint correctly, wear and tear in the joint can occur, cause a major inflammatory response and arthritic changes. Still, when properly managed, it often IS possible to keep things to a dull roar and work the horse.

            But again....you first have to figure out what you're dealing with. And even after the acute issue is dealt with, there are often long term adaptations and considerations that you have to take to prevent further injury.
            A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

            Might be a reason, never an excuse...


            • #7
              My 9 yo Dutch mare fell on concrete - hit first her left stifle then flipped over and hit her right stifle before getting up. Since I saw it happened I took a hose immediately to both areas - barely any scraping. Knew it was bruised but scared it could get bad. Gave her butte that evening to keep swelling down but not when she was turned out *(my philosophy is if it hurts she'll be less likely to re-injure the area).

              After a few weeks she was still "off" while trying to run (on her own - she'd not been ridden following the injury). So had vet out who said soft tissue injury - rest. Decided to have chiro out (vet was scared chiro would over-do but had him out anyway).

              Chiro was told of damage and adjusted horse stating he'd have to continue treatment as he didn't want to over-do treatment. He lowered good side (her hips were uneven at the point - 1 side got hit worse than the other). After just 1 treatment by chiro she was no longer "3 legged lame" - i.e. not so badly that it was obvious.

              Took her to vets for further diagnosis by Sr vet who stated he could barely tell she'd been injured (I didn't see ANY problems and we trotted her on concrete).

              I think the problem was averted since she received immediate treatment by cold hosing and (mostly) from chiro treatment.

              Find the best chiro you can and see if they can help the horse. If's it's been left alone for a long period of time it will take a long period of time to resolve the issue(s).

              Best of luck. So sorry to hear of his problems.
              Now in Kentucky


              • #8
                Stifle injuries are much more common than lots of us realize and sometimes they don't get caught. Can take a year or more for healing. Definitely get a vet evaluation and then get a chiro & massage therapist evaluation. Farrier work done correctly can make a difference. Then when given the green ride to right find someone well versed in biomechanics to help you plan this horse's training regime. I have one in my barn that is similar (she's weak, not injuried) and I will be seeking professional input as I train her so she develops correctly. Best wishes and let us know what the vet says.
                Susan B.


                • #9
                  More often then not, stilfe injuries are career ending or at the very least limiting. I wish I could be more positive but you seem like you had high hopes for high dressage with this horse. I can only speak from experience.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks everyone for the input. I very much doubt that his owner will go the route of huge vet bills/chiro/yada yada, he's rather 'old school'. If it is what I fear, the horse will probably be euthanized or given away as a pet. It's really unfortunate when the ones with this much talent have a serious mishap, it makes me sad.

                    Just to be clear.....as someone asked, and I don't want stories told.... This is NOT my horse, nor is it my stallion Pacific or my sales horse Tuareg.... (It is related to them both though.)


                    • #11
                      I rehabbed my TB this past winter for a stifle injury. Stall rest, anti-inflammatories and Adequan. After the acute injury subsides, a 2 month program of gradual strengthening (hill work, avoiding circles). Farrier did some adjusting to his back shoes to lend more lateral support. He's now completely sound and moves better than ever.


                      • #12
                        I tend to think that if my little mare can come back from a nasty injury - one that nearly gutted her, causing her to have 200-300 stitches from her belly up into her stifle and down her back leg - then there is certainly a chance that the horse you're referring to can come back from it.

                        This is what I've been dealing with off and on for the past 9 years with my mare (caution - it's kind of a gross picture):


                        Basically her old injury has continued to "pop" open every so often, but nobody can tell me why this might be happening. In spite of this, for the most part, she's maintained her soundness after the initial injury. I keep her on Majesty's Flex Wafters, too, just because it makes me feel better doing so. I'd say that she's recuperated pretty well from her injury, as perhaps evidenced by these photos :

                        I like to think of the first one as her version of an "inverted capriole"
                        In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JRG View Post
                          More often then not, stilfe injuries are career ending or at the very least limiting. I wish I could be more positive but you seem like you had high hopes for high dressage with this horse. I can only speak from experience.
                          If it's tendons in the stifle, all I have to say is that I wish you good luck. It's awful and usually the prognosis is poor for most horses (even if they aren't dead lame after the injury). Stall rest can help--sometimes. Most of these injuries just don't heal short of stem cell support (from what I've heard its about 5,000). Even the typically suggested shockwave therapy doesn't do much for most horses.


                          • #14
                            I would also suggest getting it diagnosed from the vet...
                            I've had a few dressage horses in work that have deteriorated (stifle problems) when out of work due to loss of muscle mass...


                            • Original Poster

                              update!! good news!!!

                              So good news, owners of said horse had him thoroughly checked out, he'll be fine! Nothing significant, figures it a muscle pull higher up. Needs to have one month confinement and then slowly bring him back/rehab. He must have had a weird fall......anyhow, I'm very happy about this. Nothing showed on x-rays or ultrasound. YAY!!


                              • #16
                                I am going through a stifle injury, my horse tore his femoralpatellar ligament and his meniscus. He had surgery 2 weeks ago to repair the meniscus tear . His joint was clean thank goodness but it ws a Grade 3 tear of the meniscus. We are starting to treat him with IRAP and it is hopeful that he will be able to return to soundness and be a good dressage horse. He was 3rd working 4th. It is still going to be a good 6 -8 months before he will be ok . Most of that will be rehab work. He is still in stall rest only right now for another 2 weeks.

                                This whole thing has driven me crazy and I am praying he can return to be ok for dressage. he is a horse of a lifetime.


                                • #17
                                  dodged that bullet.


                                  • #18
                                    I have an 5 yo OTTB mare with a low-level chronic stifle issue that has done well with careful management. Most important is corrective shoeing - a good farrier can take care of some chronic stifle issues completely. Second is conditioning, my mare gets a good twenty minute warm-up, with liniment on the stifle area, then gets hill work 3 times a week. Third, she is maintained at a good weight - studies show that horses with stifle issues that are in "good" weight have a better prognosis. Fourth, glucosamine/chodroitin suppllement.

                                    Hope this helps.


                                    • #19
                                      Keeping a horse healthy after stifle

                                      So once the horse comes back after such an injury is there anything preventative- ie glucosamine etc etc- that should be given to the horse- to help the horse ongoing and prevent future issues?

                                      A friends Mare hurt her stifle a year or so ago- and should she now give supplement et?
                                      Own a legend...ride a Friesian


                                      • #20
                                        Course of Treatment disparity...

                                        So, these situations all seem very dire... I have a 10-year old OTTB (H/J) who had two healing bowed tendons when I got him as a 3 year old and has jumped 3'3" without an issue. We call him "Bubble Boy" because he's always getting banged up in ridiculous ways and should really be covered in bubble wrap.

                                        Recently, he acquired a stifle injury overnight while turned out. This was almost two weeks ago now. This is the longest anything but a missing hunk of hoof has laid him up. Kick was suspected- the stifle was enormous and hot the next morning and he experienced some stifle locking with that leg. Cold hosed it, bute, and poultice and he stayed in for almost a week. He was a little better each day and it's better for the entire horse in general if he can move around (windpuffs behind, generally poor circulation, etc). He's self-limiting when he goes out, for the most part- he knows he's hurt and he doesn't want to do much.

                                        The swelling became less generalized, more localized and now appears as a firm, baseball-sized knot above the anterior part of the stifle joint, and some swelling to the inside. This swelling is tight, firm, and not that warm. He's 'sound' in that he walks sound, he almost trots sound (we were on a walk/trot program at first, but I think I want to back off and rest him) but he's very good at compensating, and you can feel that he's not quite right.

                                        The vet came out to see him last week but had to leave for an emergency, so she finally saw him yesterday and recommended continuing on bute (we had taken him off- we are fairly conservative with medications, especially bute) and bringing him back very slowly- making sure he gets to 100% before asking anything more than walk/trot of him. She'll be back to check in a few weeks. She didn't say to keep him in, though. He currently goes out with one other mellow gelding, so the risk of play-related aggravation of the injury is very low.

                                        Does anyone have follow up from their stifle injuries? I mean, to hear some of the stories, these horses' careers are over, but I think that's a bit of a broad brush to paint with. His stifles started getting a little sticky this past year anyway, so we were going to inject (glad I didn't do it before he got walloped- by another horse who is no longer in that field). He is already on monthly Adequan and has always gotten an oral joint supplement.

                                        I just have a hard time believing that a horse who has bounced back from so much damage already will be sidelined by a sprain or strain. Of course we are concerned about ligament damage, but the course of action as far as I can tell is the same, except some folks would do stall rest. Is that about right?

                                        I mean, outside of scoping, which is the next step if he's not better, what can I do? Would an ultrasound make a significant different in course of treatment? My vet is kind of conservative, so this is more the "take it easy and see" approach. He does have insurance, and I just repaired both of my dog's ACLs so I'm a little sensitive about stifle injuries in general. I just think he would not be walking sound, and trotting pretty sound if he had torn a meniscus or something more severe- since from what my dog has 'told' me, that is excruciatingly painful. Any thoughts?