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Stifle Injury?

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  • Stifle Injury?

    Long story but I've got a horse with a totally shot stifle... I am 100% sure it is an old injury that has been re-injured and/or aggravated. She has always been NQR since I got her in March, but through a series of unfortunate events is now very, very lame.

    What are the chances of a complete recovery and/or coming sound for light work with a light rider?

    My vet and farrier are working together on this and we have a plan of attack to attempt to get her back to "serviceably sound," but guess I just wanted some anecdotal stories. I'm not feeling particularly hopeful at the moment, as I know it is an old injury, and I suspect it is a chronic problem that we will always be dealing with in varying degrees. Right now she's not even pasture sound. Sigh. I'd be happy just to get her to that point eventually.
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

  • #2
    Depends on the injury. Vague and of no help, I know.

    My old TB popped of a trailer lame at a show. Few days went by, no better. Took him for an exam, ended up he had a chip, albeit an old one. Figured he raced with it too. Ended up injecting him - vet said he aggrivated the stifle and because of the chip, it kept being irritated, instead of quieting down like in a normal joint.

    That was 7 years ago - horse was 13 - is now 20 and still going strong. He returned to doing the 3' hunters with me and his next owner, and is now teaching a younger girl the ropes at 2'6".


    • Original Poster

      Whew that makes me feel better.

      I knew she had an injury to the LH prior to me getting her, but did not know specifics because they were not disclosed to me.

      She is better when stalled 90% of the time and then worked lightly. Regular turnout seems to leave her completely crippled.

      Stifles are one thing I don't have a ton of experience with, except for stife-ly EPSM types. Good to know your horse came back and lived a relatively useful life. She is a young horse at 7 and it'd be a shame for her to not even be sound enough for turnout!!
      We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


      • #4
        When I started riding my now pony mare, she was dead lame. So lame that I felt like a total a$$ for doing anything with her but I decided to give it a shot. Lots of walking up hill and long lining around the farm helped tighten everything up around the stifle. Gradual progression to light trotting work up hills and straight lines only then being able to trot around for 20 mins at a time and pole work leading to introducing the canter, low fences, and then we were up to 2'6. I have switched to dressage and thats helped even more to keep her in shape and sound. 3.5 years later and is about 90% sound. She gets sore in deep footing, steep downhills, slips out behind if its wet footing, etc. The vet thinks she did a split over a jump and caused her stifle injury. I couldnt get any info out of her previous owner. I have her on MSM and corta-flex.

        I think you just have to do lots and lots of rehab type of stuff once she is comfortable walking. Then, its a constant battle to keep up moving and the exercise. For example, I gave my mare 2 weeks off for my wedding and honeymoon. She was lame-ish and sore for me for at least two weeks after even though she is on 24/7 turnout.


        • #5
          Originally posted by FlashGordon View Post

          She is better when stalled 90% of the time and then worked lightly. Regular turnout seems to leave her completely crippled.
          She may not be ready for this yet, but 24/7 turnout is the way to go for stifles.


          • #6
            Have you ultrasounded? What exactly is wrong?

            My vet LOVES IRAP for stifle stuff and has had excellent results with it, even in "really ugly" stifles.


            • #7
              My 32 yr old was originally retired due to what turned up to be an arthritic stifle, possibly torn meniscus. But at the time when it happened I didn't have a vet that diagnosed stifle. Basically everything else was diagnosed except for stifle, and all of the treatments came with stall rest.

              I fell into a similar pattern as you, stall rest 90% of the time, and then he'd come out of the stall rested and sound/soundish, only to go gimpy again with turnout and/or light work.

              This went on for ages until I really felt it was stifle, read up on it and how stall rest is the worst possible thing, and so decided to try to work him through it. The first two months were really ugly, I would hand walk him my gimping horse every where, over hill and dale for hours, every day. He slowly became more reliably sound, so I would hop up bareback and just let him choose the direction (hill or flat) and speed. If he started to gimp, I'd slip off but keep walking him.

              I kept a diary and made sure I was out 6x a week to keep him moving. If life got in the way, he would be sore again. This went on for about 2 years.

              Finally even the overnight stalling was too much for him. I ended up moving him to the other end of my state where rough boarding is common, there are less mountains and more hills, and the footing is less rocky. Within 6 months of him living out 24/7 he was sound enough for light competitive riding for almost 2 years. Another accident banged up his other leg and that is was ultimately retired him. He's been pasture sound for over ten years now as long as I keep him moving. I purposely have him set up in a paddock paradise type arrangement as even extended periods of loafing in a shed is detrimental to him.

              I wouldn't jump to any conclusions until you get a diagnosis of course, but agree one zillion %, 24/7 out is usually best for stifles.
              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


              • Original Poster

                Well, I feel better reading these stories. She's so freaking lame right now it is just like YIKES.

                Simkie, I am not even sure what happened. I know her LH has always been wonky but not to this degree.

                In July there was some crazy incident at the barn where a bunch of horses got loose, supposedly some were galloping on the road, we never got a real story (or, the story kept changing.) She was lame on the RF, which was hot and swollen. She had a grab injury to the RF heel. She looked just mildly off behind. The swelling went down in the RF, the vet said not to worry too much, rest, cold horse, blah blah.

                I moved her to a new barn. She looked sound. I let her be turned out, and started working her lightly. She promptly went lame. I couldn't tell *where* though. I took her off work again. Then back on work. Lame again, this time worse.

                She has not been ultrasounded yet-- it has only just become apparent that the stifle is the issue, I thought it was a sore SI due to compensating from the RF. Over the last week she's gone from wonky to Really Lame. She's on stall rest and bute for a week, then the farrier wants to try some corrective shoeing, and then we will go further with more diagnostics.

                Good thing she is the sweetest mare ever.... I adore her.
                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                • #9
                  FG, definitely ultrasound the stifle. It's cheap, as these horse vet things go, and it will provide a wealth of information about the meniscus, the joint capsule and the ligaments that hold the joint together. You'll also get a look at bony changes, too. If your lovely mare has blown the joint capsule or torn the mensicus, you'll want to know that now, rather than later, so you can rehab her correctly.

                  My vet showed me an ultrasound of a totally blown stifle--torn meniscus, ruptured joint capsule, torn ligaments....seriously, it looked like a bomb had gone off in the knee--and that horse came sound enough to event at training with very careful rehab and IRAP.

                  I also have a very interesting article about stifle injury that I would be happy to forward, if you would PM me your email


                  • #10
                    Best of luck to you and your mare. I hope you get things sorted out.
                    I'm hi-jacking your post a bit, but if you could tell me more about your experiences with "stife-ly EPSM types" I would appreciate it. No rush, concentrate on your mare. Jingles.


                    • #11
                      I have a dressage mare that had a "wonky" stifle - ie she was lame on it. Ultrasound showed inflammation in the joint and no apparent soft tissue damage - with the qualification that vet can't see all the soft tissue on the ultrasound. Our agreed upon process was: Inject the stifle (HA/cortisone), stall rest, hand walking for a month, then checked for soundness; On to a month of riding every other day mostly walking then adding some trot, straight lines, then finally a bit of canter. She stayed sound. Drew blood for the IRAP treatments. Those done at 4 months, we are back to work and all is well. The plan is to do IRAP a year or so out, as maintenance.

                      Here's the catch - if the horse had not come sound, vet was recommending arthroscopic surgery to see what was really going on in there...and hopefully fix.

                      As I know nothing about your situation, but it sounds like more than just a inflammation, could well be that something is torn or otherwise going on. Ultrasound is not too pricey. BUT the follow up might be. IRAP is not a cheap process, neither is surgery obviously. So I would for sure get the ultrasound sooner rather than later and then you can decide how much you want to put into the mare. Soft tissue situation is also a long rehab to do it right.

                      Good luck...
                      We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                      • #12
                        I have not had success with a stifle issue, but Shane's was a little different as he always had stifle issues-- it wasn't a single injury. I second, third, and fourth those who say you need to block and ultrasound to locate and diagnose the issue. Stifles are really, really problematic. I think stifles and neck/back are the two hardest areas to resolve. Jingles!
                        "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks for the information guys. Will definitely have it ultrasounded. Seems like we should do that NOW even though they wanted to try shoeing her first. I don't think shoeing's gonna make a huge difference, frankly, given how incredibly lame she is at the moment and just the lengthy history of this. I think there's more going on in there...

                          Simkie, will shoot you a PM.
                          We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                          • #14
                            My mare has some pretty bad arthritis in 1 stifle (I'm sure by now it's both, but I haven't had her re-checked). First vet told me I could inject but it probably wouldn't do anything. Since I had two others in training I just put her out to pasture and let her sit. After about 6 months, I noticed she completely stopped running with the herd and she looked miserable at anything more than a walk.

                            A second vet told me to put her on 1 gram of bute a day. I started and in about 3 days she was back to running with her pasture buddies. She's still only 90% sound, but i would say at her worst she was 75%, so it's an imprvement that I can't sneeze at. Realistically, I only give about 3/4 gram a day, but she's a large pony and it's enough for her. I've also not had a single digestive upset since she's been on it, but she's a very hardy type to begin with...

                            Good luck OP. Sticky stifles suck.


                            • #15

                              How old is your mare? I think a lot of the recovery has to do with the age of the horse at onset as well as the nature of the injury.

                              My 23 presented with right stifle hiked up to his belly - three legged horse. We did the ultrasound and originally diagnosed as a torn lateral pattelar. Did the stall rest - whole route....nothing. Did another & found a calcified bone chip - and that pretty much did it.

                              They said I would probably never ride him again. And I have to say, the thought of never looking down the neck; or seeing life through the ears of my partner for 16yrs, made me break down & cry. This was the horse that made my dream of Devon come true.....

                              Today, we go for great walks through the woods, some crow hops now & then...and the occasional canter on a good day. He wears trail boots & takes Adequan. I'll never sail over anything on him again, but he will always be my wings.
                              "A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good, just because it's accepted by a majority." Rick Warren


                              • Original Poster

                                Oh MoonWitch, sounds like your boy is a really special one.

                                This mare is only 7. She has not been 100% sound in the time I've had her. I knew when I took her on she had some issues, but thought they would be manageable, and/or she'd be serviceably sound to hack a few days a week.

                                She was doing well until the incident in July, and she has not been anywhere near right since then.
                                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                                • #17
                                  Take an xray along with the ultra sound. Ok here's a long story....

                                  In the late 90's, maybe 2000, my grey guy had a series of unrelated events. He got cast twice during this period, and he took out a fence line with his hind end doing a gallop/spin/buck/kickout move. In 2001 or 2002 his left stifle began to give out while cantering, like the leg would just fall out from under him.

                                  He was in work seven days a week, in great shape. As arthritis had already begun to set in and he had been getting multiple joints injected already, I decided to not pursue the stifle and retired him.

                                  This spring, 11 years after being retired, we had to xray that stifle and his gaskin to rule out a fracture (bad lymphangitis- he made it ) Low and behold, there was a huge divet/ plateau on the condylar of the stifle. What it looked like (according to my vet) was an OCD lesion that had dissolved. What we think happened is that he caused himself a cyst there due to trauma ( cast, the fence) and when it dissolved, lame horse.

                                  Now not saying we could have done anything about it at the time, this was pre IRAP era, but I would want to know my options now

                                  Good luck, sorry for the novel.
                                  Unrepentant carb eater


                                  • #18
                                    Yes, I would also do rads as well, maybe even before the ultrasound. We had one that blocked out in the stifle , turns out she had a huge cyst!
                                    "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


                                    • #19
                                      Mine was diagnosed with OCD in the stifle at 6. From the x rays, it was obvious they had been there for a long time so who knows what suddenly caused the lameness...he had been sound for a year and a half that I had him prior to finding them.

                                      Good luck with your horse!


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by FlashGordon View Post
                                        Thanks for the information guys. Will definitely have it ultrasounded. Seems like we should do that NOW even though they wanted to try shoeing her first. I don't think shoeing's gonna make a huge difference, frankly, given how incredibly lame she is at the moment and just the lengthy history of this. I think there's more going on in there...
                                        I wish ultrasound was common back when my guy injured his, I would have done it. Good for you that you can.

                                        Shoeing made a tremendous difference in my stifle horse, and now that he is barefoot his trim does too. Dramatically rolling his toes on the hinds works best for him.

                                        My guy was bad enough at one point he was practically non weight bearing. Dramatic lameness, and equally dramatic swings to apparent soundness, isn't completely out of the norm imhe.
                                        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.