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My SI/stifly horse back into work - what do you see - what would you do?

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    Original Poster

    He's safe hacking around my property and in the immediate area. I'm sure he'll love doing something outside the ring.
    He's very anxious hacking out when taken away from the property, but not planning on that in the near future anyway.

    I hope it's just not fit enough yet for those stifles to function, would be nice.
    So far those two weeks, he seemed keen & willing and I'd like to think he's not hurting, but you never know, usually lame=pain, off=sore. Wished he could talk.


      To me, he seems to not be articulating as much through his right leg.

      But he's not THAT bad, and if he's only just coming back into work, I'd keep on doing what you are doing for a while and see how it develops.

      I have one with iffy stifles. If he's fit and in work, he's good. As soon as I let him down a bit, we have issues.

      We are currently getting back into serious work after a bit of a layoff thanks to both of us having on/off health issues for a couple of months, and I'm finding that judicious use of previcox (3 days on, 4 days off--ish) is helping him to get fitter and move better without us both suffering through the process.

      I can see what PP means from behind about neuro issues, but what we are seeing could just be unfit big horse issues, so I'd be inclined to give that the benefit of the doubt for now.

      He's a beautiful horse. I do hope you can get him back together.

      (And whatever bird that is in the background of you video had my little cat going from sound asleep snoring his head off next to me on the sofa to bolt upright staring into my computer screen in about a nanosecond!)


        Your guy has the added complication of a definite stifle issue, whereas my guy is just SI, but what fixed him was chiropractic work. Monthly with his vet for about eight months, then once every two months, now as needed.

        I can't weigh in on any other issue but I thought I would mention that. Sounds like you had the wrong chiropractor.

        For what it's worth, my vet said that the motion of the canter is easier on the SI than the motion of the trot, and recommends building the horse back up at the canter before the trot for that reason. Tip's first month or two back in work was entirely walk and canter. (He'd been hand-walked and walked in fields prior- he needed to move to keep some kind of muscle development, and vet said I might as well get on him.) It definitely does seem easier on them and also seems to loosen things up.
        "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden


          Having struggled with UFP on my own gelding for years, all I can say is the fitter the better. It wasn't always easy or comfortable for my horse, but I took my trainer's advice and stuck with it: "If you want to fix that stifle you have to make him stronger!"

          Now, four years later, we're schooling 3rd level, my horse is doing flying changes and showing an aptitude for tempis, and I cannot remember the last time his stifle stuck.

          Originally, I started with just a lot of hill work but that really didn't cut it (he also lives out on hills 24/7). Throughout his training, he would go through phases where the stifles would be locking a lot and I was really unsure about his soundness.

          We tried blistering (disaster -- don't do it) ligament splitting surgery, special shoeing, stifle/hock injections, etc. The correct work and the fitness have been the only long-lasting solution, although he does get a loading dose of Adequan every 4-5 months and oral supps.

          As long as you have your vet's approval, I would encourage you to not only ride and work him, but to get with a trainer who understands how to rehabilitate this sort of horse, and set your goals higher than training level.

          You just never know.


            Well, I think he looked pretty good in the 2008 video you posted, although no walk or canter in there to look at. If he were to show looking like that - I don't think any judge would make comment, or feel he is not sound.

            I agree with the other poster about the canter. I don't think it would be too soon for a short bit of cantering.

            In the video you posted in the OP, he is clearly better to the second (left) direction, but it would've been interesting for you to take him again to the right after going both ways. Would he have been better after warmed up both ways, or the same - hard to know. Do you always start him in the trot one way first? My left stifle girl (although still presently sound) always works the trot and canter to the left first, because that seems to warm the joint up better for her. Going to the right would be more taxing/difficult for a left stifle-y horse, so this is why I have her go to the left first.

            Also, regarding riding vs. lunging. You might be able to get more positive "therapy/rehab" work with riding vs. lunging. Riding you should be able to get him in better posture & better through the back vs. lunging - affect his body more. Also, you will be able to have more work on straight lines vs. when lunging.

            I get the impression at times, that you try to be too careful with him, then he gets too slow behind, and then the problems. I suspect if you asked him to be a little more crisp behind - more purposeful in his strides - that he might have less of the stifle-y look. He looks like such a super horse - but the type of tendency with that type of movement is to have suspension, but if not kept crisp and forward, the hind legs get slow, then they get a bit out behind and then problems. He also gives me the impression if ridden more forward, he would travel more through his body. He looks relaxed in the back - can see the tail softly swinging very well - but looks to block himself a little in the wither and upper neck area. More forward with more of a basculed posture. That's just my 2 cents on what I see - he may give you a different feel though.

            If he has a life home with you, I would keep at the riding - think of it as his Physical Therapy work. No reason to not keep at it, persevere with the program and see where he's at in 6 months.

            He is very, very beautiful guy - wish you all the best with him!


              Original Poster

              LarkspurCO, you are confirming what I'm worried about. I've seen a horse that was blistered and the horse was so sore, he kept laying down like he was laminitic. So these are things you don't forget and you never know how a particular horse will react to it.

              If it stops raining, I'll get back on and see what he's like then and get him on acupuncture in the coming weeks.
              All of last year I really felt I needed a trainer, but it's such a difficult thing, do you ask a trainer to work a lame horse.
              I'll have to be upfront and say, he's lame, are you willing to work with him.

              He's got a home for life, he can be my big petdog, there's no concern there. Last summer I had actually given up and decided to keep him as my walking trailride horse, but he's clearly not cut out for that mentally. He's a backwards bolter. Funny people often say backing could be helpful, well he certainly has no problems in his backwards gear, he'll back uphill, downhill, banks, ravines, you won't stop him. It's scary. Again from there I had to conclude if I want him as my trailride horse he needs a trainer to kick him forward when spooked on the trail or he needs drugs, as the issue is quite severe. But try to find a trainer do deal with just the backwalking on the trail is hard, you almost need a cowboy. But I will not put just anybody on him, because the anxieties can escalate easily into a nervous breakdown and you frighten him badly, it stays with him for life.

              Last year the issue was left hindleg, seems now it's right hind.

              Some asked about his canter, this was last year's canter (with some crappy riding on my part). NorCalDressage is right, he tends to go up rather then forward, you can see it at 1:08. He does it all the time, not covering enough ground in the trot and I haven't figured out how to deal with it on my own.
              Last edited by Lieslot; Mar. 21, 2011, 09:35 AM.


                The problems with all the suggestions is they are all torture for a horse with any sort of neurological deficits. Cavaletti, backing up, hill work, any work in a frame, cantering. The canter video is the big one for me, he is clearly struggling to do what is asked, and he clearly cannot really use his hind end properly. Chiro work can also make them much worse. For me, the anxiety when he is out in unfamiliar surroundings is a red flag also. Add to all this the fact that vets have already mentioned shivers and EMND and I really don't think there is much doubt that he has some sort of neurological deficits to go along with everything else.
                On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                  Originally posted by Perfect Pony View Post
                  Chiro work can also make them much worse. .


                    Originally posted by Lieslot View Post
                    LarkspurCO, you are confirming what I'm worried about. I've seen a horse that was blistered and the horse was so sore, he kept laying down like he was laminitic. So these are things you don't forget and you never know how a particular horse will react to it.
                    That's what happened to mine. There were times he could not get up on his own and I had to help. It was horrible. And it didn't help the stifles at all.

                    All of last year I really felt I needed a trainer, but it's such a difficult thing, do you ask a trainer to work a lame horse.
                    I'll have to be upfront and say, he's lame, are you willing to work with him.
                    A good trainer will understand the difference between a lame horse and an unconditioned, unbalanced horse. I was really afraid to work him and always looking for a way to fix the problem first. With his stifles, though, the work was the fix.

                    His stifles weren't just sticky. They would completely lock and would do so frequently, so making the commitment to work him was very difficult for me. I was really lucky to find such a great trainer.

                    When I finally stopped obsessing about it and stopped looking for the lameness all the time, I was able to move past it and really learn how to build him up.

                    If it's any help to you, my first trainer told me to get rid of my horse. She said, and I quote: "He is worth dog food." She said I would never be able to show him because the judges would ring him out of the arena. How wrong she was, and what a number she did on me psychologically.

                    When I finally got up the nerve to show him, we received a 70.8% on out TL test with nice comments from the judge, then went on to do very well in 1st that year.

                    I think your horse is really nice and has very pleasant gaits.


                      Larkspur - good advice!

                      Lieslot - when was that canter video taken?


                        Original Poster

                        Sure PP, let's say he's neurological, so what do I do now? I have no reason to change vet clinic, in my immediate area I won't find better then the vets I have, they honestly have a great reputation. Plus I really don't think I should question the capabilities of the U of M on issues like shivers & EMND, they are leading researchers on the subject.

                        Seems it swings both ways, either work him with a caring trainer or retire. It was probably stupid to try again last year after I had already thrown in the towel.

                        The anxieties are not necessarily riding related, they can happen in the stall, in the field, he's ubersensitive.

                        NorCaldressage, May of last year. I kept trying until Aug of last year, then sort of gave up and thought about trails, figured that wasn't working either so did a final effort, with entire work-up & injections.


                          When I bring my SI/stifly mare back into work in the spring I start handwalking her on a flat surface. Usually 15-20 minutes for a week-10 days. Then I add 1 very gradual hill in the middle of the walk, starting and ending with the flat surface. To switch things up I will sometimes ground drive her. I get on and start hacking her after about 3 weeks. 15 minutes on a flat surface. I add more to the routine every 5 days or so. We start trotting about week 5 or 6. It is slow going, but it works for her.


                            Original Poster

                            Thx TheBandit, so does your horse look sound when working through it all or lame?

                            I just wished I could have a better idea of what stifly, SI horses look like. I read about it a lot, but not much video examples to be found, so it's hard to compare to have a feel for how lame my guy really is.


                              The only time my mare looked lame was directly after she tore her SI ligament.

                              The best description of her movement when she is out of shape is that her movement is very flat, there isn't any power behind and she trails her hind legs out behind her.


                                Originally posted by Lieslot View Post
                                Sure PP, let's say he's neurological, so what do I do now?
                                I never said not to ride him, and even mentioned as much in my PM. But I would ride him on a flat surface and try to leg him up slowly. If he does have neuro deficits it's not fair to ask him to do things that are physically hard or impossible for him, like cavaletti or hills. I would do lots of walking and hack him like a hunter, nice and forward.

                                If you really want to see if it's fitness related I would send him to a rehab facility with an aquatred before dealing with a trainer. My experience with trainers is most of them cant see lameness unless the horses head is bobbing, even the good ones. And lots of them simply ignore lamenesses. The only trainer in this area that I trust to see lameness has a terrible reputation as having a black cloud over her because she dares to tell owners that their horses are lame. Most people simply don't want to hear it and will go to the vet/trainer that will tell them what they want to hear.
                                On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                                  I think at this point you either just give up completely and let him be a pasture puff, or work through it and see where it takes you. Either he is going to get better or get worse or stay the same. As long as the horse is not getting worse and seems happy I usually have no problem riding them for fun. I think I would think about forward and ignore collection or strong on the bit type work. Just work on fitness, and then see how he is doing. Many horses enjoy a life where they are not 100% but still do some work and are sound enough to do what they do. Get some fitness and see if it helps.


                                    Leiselot, quick question--I think it was asked before and go lost in the shuffle. Does he go better if he's on bute or the like?


                                      Original Poster

                                      I know whbar158 there's no 2 ways about it, not sure what to do anymore, it's raining most of this week anyway, so some time to think.

                                      Atr, after the SI inj & meso he got 2 weeks off, also due to biopsy stitches and started back under saddle whilst given Previcox for 1 week only. He actually went quite well instantly I thought and I figured the injections were a success, but he deteriorated again 2 days off Previcox. I called my vets and asked for more Previcox, but they suggested to give him the winter off and try again thereafter. So that's where I am at today.
                                      I do wonder had I kept him on Previcox, perhaps I could have worked him over winter.


                                        I am not a vet (nor do I play one on TV but I do work with lots! ), but I have seen my fair share of horses go (including my own who has had stifle and SI issues), and I just don't see a neurologic horse.

                                        What I see is one that is weak behind (sounds right for having the winter off), is possibly a bit stifly or sore in the SI (sometimes it's hard to tell which one from just a quick see). My guess is that the primary is actually SI, and with less work or a slip in the field, etc, the stifle becomes a problem (ask me how I know ).

                                        IMHO, he does look like he gets a bit better over time in the video. That also would make me think cantering may help a bit. How he deals with cantering may also help you figure out if it's more the SI or the stifle. With SI issues, often early helps. When my guy's stifle is really bothering him (or he just caught it good!) he is very unhappy about cantering. JME

                                        In one of the videos, it looked like he was guarding the RH- to me it looked like he would angle his hind end in a little going to the right. I can't remember which one you said was the worse one to start, but I would guess the other limb became sore from compensating.

                                        I say just bring him back into work, with as much hacking as you can. If not, try adding poles in the ring or something to help. I was once told that with SI issues, try to avoid lots of down hill work (up hill not so bad) as that seems to be the hardest on it and the last activities to do as they are fully healed and strenghtened.

                                        I suggest possibly doing estrone with him if he's still prone to catching those stifles. If you can keep from that happening (even the small ones) that will help a lot.

                                        If you can get your hands on more previcox, I would do that just to at least keep some on hand (if not on for awhile if it still helps him at this point). My vet told me that if my guy ever really caught his stifle while I was riding/lunging, to give him an anti-inflammatory right away to help stop the inflammatory cascade in that stifle. I have done that in the past (along with the estrone) and I thought it really helped keep it in check while we worked through it.

                                        There's also the prolotherapy route if the SI seems to be the main culprit. My vet has started doing this for certain issues, and has seen good results.

                                        Oh, and FWIW chiro and acu do help my guy. Once he's fit and had some regular chiro, his maintenance isn't very often.

                                        Good luck! He looks like a very nice horse!


                                          I brought back an SI horse after he had been declared a "dud". I will PM you my program tomorrow, right now I have to dash.