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Stifle Issue in a Young Horse

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  • Stifle Issue in a Young Horse

    I recently did some imaging on a young horse I own who came up lame in her left hind. She had an accident where she pawed at the fence, caught her shoe, and pulled it off. After the incident, she was not quite right for several weeks. It took two vets to figure it out but it turned out that she tore three muscles around her left stifle and the theory is that she must have slipped during her struggle to free herself from the fence. We now have a recovery plan and all is good with this issue.

    While imaging to find the source of her pain, we also discovered a problem with the stifle joint itself and this is what I would like some feedback on. This horse is only 5 years-old and I have been using her for dressage. She is trained through first level and has been working well and consistently. I have noticed that she will intermittently drag her left hind toe and seem stiff in the beginning of the ride but she works out of it and getting it checked out has been on my list of things to do but I just hadn't gotten there until now...

    The x-rays showed that the inside stifle joint has "collapsed" (the vet's words, not mine) and that the joint spaces are significantly narrower than the outside joint. She said that the stifle x-rays are what she would expect to see in a 16 or 18 year-old horse, not a 5 year-old. Additionally, the ultrasound shows significant signs of inflammation and indications that arthritis is developing. She said that this is a conformational defect and has nothing to do with overuse and will have to be managed to keep this horse sound - she's recommending MSM, adequan, and PRP at this time and doesn't want to inject with steroids because the horse is so young.

    I've had a lot of horses over the years and have been so fortunate to have very few stifle problems. I'm curious to get feedback from those who have dealt with issues like this. What has worked and what hasn't? I have included the x-ray for anyone interested.
    Attached Files
  • Original Poster

    I'm kind of surprised no one has any thoughts on this...

    What about stifle arthritis in younger horses in general? What have you found that has helped? Have you been able to keep them in work or has it been a recurrent problem that has forced retirement or a career change?


    • #3
      Having had a couple youngsters with sticky stifles due to being a little straight behind, I've always heard and read that the worst thing you can do is to keep them in a stall, even overnight. And the best thing to improve stifle problems is keep
      them out where they are moving around and strengthening the ligaments and muscles around the stifle.
      I found this to be true w/ a young, long legged one I kept in a stall overnight. When coming out in the morning, he would
      often be very sticky and have to work out of it.
      "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


      • #4
        Squared hind toes to improve(quicken) breakover
        backing up slight inclines in hand
        Hill work-doesn't have to be a monster hill- better that it's a long easy one.


        • #5
          Caveat. I come from the hunter world. Stifle issues are typically very manageable and not terribly unusual for horses of any age. Typically keeping them fit helps a ton. Lots of hills, ground poles and try to minimize stall time. Your biggest challenge may be the recovery from the muscular injury impairs fitness and makes the stifle seem worse until the fitness returns. Good luck with the youngster. They are a roll coaster sometimes.

          And, in the not so old days, folks used to sclerose stifles (essentially create arthritis) to stabilize “weak stifles”
          In my limited experience these horses were often very solid types whose careers were ultimately compromised by other issues unrelated to their stifles, often many years later.
          Last edited by fourfillies; Apr. 20, 2019, 03:12 PM.