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Upward fixation of the patella/ "sticky stifle"

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  • Upward fixation of the patella/ "sticky stifle"

    Has anyone ever dealt with this before? My 5yo mare has had issues with this off and on for the past 1 1/2 years. Last year, it showed up during a growth spurt then went away. We worked on her overall conditioning and buiding up her hind end strength, and she did well. She went during that time period as well from boarding in a barn with all stall time to being turned out about 6hrs a day which I am sure helped.

    This summer it came up again after I moved states and she is back in a place where she is in a stall unless I can claim the arena to turn her out in for a while (no other boarding options in my very small isolated town, so can't move). Took her to the equine vet in the big city, and as the fixation is only noticable in the stall and crossties before she is worked, and as soon as she is warmed up it stops, he recommended leaving it alone. If it got to the point where it was causing an issue under saddle or jumping, then he recommeded blistering the joint or splitting the ligament. When researching this, that appears to be a last ditch thing to do, especially for a high performance horse. She is completely sound right now, can jump a 3' course with no difficulty, and when it does catch before she is warmed up it doesn't bother her at all - doesn't act like it hurts, scared, etc.

    My mare is headed off to the trainers at the end of this month (had to switch because mine moved, so this guy is new to both of us even though I have known him for years). She should be doing the pregreens with him, and she shows all the talent with her mind, movement, and form over fences to be a once in a lifetime horse, the kind that complete strangers are coming up to me at shows asking about, trainers come up and question me about, offer to take us into their barn. Right now I am looking for conservative options for us if this becomes more of an issue. I am hoping as she continues to mature and strengthen, that it will improve, but she is already pretty fit. I have seen suggestions of corrective shoeing including rolling the toe on the hind end, egg bar shoes, and wedges, and estrogen IM injections (although she is on regumate). Has anybody had any success or lack of success with these methods, or have any other techniques that have worked for them? Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    If at all remotely possible, get her more turnout. Standing around is evil for UFP.

    You can and should work on increasing her fitness - that helps a lot. Lots of hills and raised cavaletti, tons of transitions.

    Splitting the ligament is not at all the "omg last ditch effort" that the old severing of the ligament was, though for sure it still should be the last effort, not an intermediate one. Severing the ligament reliably resulted in arthritis down the road. Splitting the ligament doesn't do that. BUT, splitting the ligament effectively lengthens it, which helps if the ligament is too short/tight and results on the sticking/locking. If the issue is a loose/long ligament, this won't help, so you do need to know which is the situation.

    If the issue is really only when she's standing around and she quickly works out of it, I'd work hard for 6+ months on really increasing her fitness and re-evaluate before doing anything else
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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    • #3
      Turnout, turnout, turnout...conditioning, conditioning, conditioning.

      A friend has a gelding with UFP. She hardly rides him, and he's in a tiny paddock. When she does ride him, she almost always has issues.

      A few summers ago, I took him on as a "boarder" for the summer to be a pasture buddy to my mare. They were on 24/7 turnout in a huge pasture. Not once did he have an issue when she rode him, and that was even with him out of shape, but just on turnout.
      That fall she brought him home to the small paddock. A week later, she tried to ride him, and she had issues.

      At minimum, I would try everything possible to have your horse turned out as much as you can.
      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

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      • #4
        Squaring my horse's hind toes has completely fixed this on my horse. Even though he still has to be in half the day, his stifles are no longer locking up. This probably won't be the cure for everyone, but it sure helped me!

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        • #5
          IME, squaring the toes helping means the toes were too long to begin with. If you have room to square the toes, you have room to round off the corners and put the toe where it belongs in the first place.
          ______________________________
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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          • #6
            A horse with a sticky stifle is never going to do well in a barn without any turnout. I dont understand how a barn can exist that doesnt have turnout. Your best option is field board and at the very least, 6-12 or more hours of turnout.

            If there really are not any other places to board, consider renting your own field or trying to find someone private who would take you in, even if that means riding in fields or whatever instead of a ring. I would drive further away to a barn if it meant my horse would get more turnout even if it meant less time in the saddle.

            Will she be turned out once she goes with the new trainer?

            In the meantime, hills, trot poles, and trot sets, 20 minutes at least, no tight turns or circles, 5-7 days a week. Leg yielding and shoulder fore, correctly done, can help strenghten up the hind end. Also, trotting x-rails and 2 ft jumps can help.

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            • #7
              My 6yo OTTB has a pretty decent case of this. She is a toe dragger and will sqaure her toes naturally by the end of her shoeing cycle. She has done well in a hind shoe with a rolled toe. She was on pasture board and was sticky when out 24/7 so turnout alone is not going to solve the problem. To get her fit it was 30 mins of trotting on a hills in the AM, then 30 mins of walking over poles on the ground and 30 minutes of transitions in the PM. This was our routine for 2 soid months. I have since moved her to a stall where she is in for 12, out for 12 and she's been fine. Poles and hills are still in our daily workout, but not as vigourously.

              I may get flamed, but 1x a week in the Pessoa lunging rig for 20 mins made a HUGE difference in her hind end as well. I dont think it would solve sticky, but it did add strength. This was added AFTER she was well conditioned, and done in the middle of the summer when I couldn't ride because it was so hot.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you for the suggestions. She really does work out of it. The canter is her best gait under saddle and ironically the side she sticks the most on is also her best lead. Unfortunately I have no other boarding options in my town. I am already in a private barn and there really are few options at all. With my old trainer we were working at building up her hind end with extensions/collections and transitions between the two, shoulder ins, leg yielding. I have let that go on some misguided advice and feel that while she is cardiovascularly in shape her strength has gone down hill some.

                I will have to pay attention to whether or not she gets worse with it towards the end of her shoeing cycle or not and explore options there. She is on a 6 week cycle but looks a bit long by 5 weeks. I don't know how I can get the farrier out sooner because of the barn schedule , but maybe I can suggest it when she goes to the trainer.

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                • #9
                  Is there anyone at the barn who could hand walk her for 30-45 minutes in the morning? (Assuming you go ride at night, you'd want her walked in the AM; reverse it if you ride in the AM) Is there enough room on the farm to put a roundpen? Really, anything to get out and moving is good - it doesn't have to have grass. Even just getting out and doing the handwalking will help so she isn't standing in the stall all the time.

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