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Stifle Blistering

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  • Stifle Blistering

    Hi everyone! I purchased my horse a couple of years ago, and I noticed early on that she would "fall out" behind. We assumed she was tripping behind due to laziness, and worked on getting her more engaged behind. However, it continued to happen. A few months into the purchase, her behavior started going south. We did a diagnostic and found that she had desmitis in her straight sesamoidean ligament. She is well into her rehab now, and after a setback, we are back up to 25 min of trot. After watching my horse for many months in the mirror, and looking at her conformation, both myself, my vet, and my trainers suspect that she has a locking stifle, which is what causes that harsh tripping feeling in the back end. Now that she is getting fitter, but still locking up occasionally, we are discussing blistering her stifles. However, I understand that after blistering the stifles, it is important to have the horse in an intensive work program. Because my horse's ligament is still healing, I am trying to weigh out when she should get it done. I don't want to do it too early, and over work the ligament. But I also feel that the tripping behind is detrimental to her ligament as well. I would love any insight to the blistering process, cost, and advice on timing. Thanks!

  • #2
    Have you talked to a vet about a rehab process that strengthens the hind end? I'd try hill work before anything else. This is especially true since she's likely lost muscle tone rehabbing from the sesamoidean ligament injury.

    Not a huge fan of blistering any part of the horses body, though.


    • #3
      I can't wait to hear this. Maybe I don't understand the process, but if it is what it sounds like, it seems unbelievable that people would actually damage the surface of the skin in an effort to affect bones, ligaments and cartilage deep within.

      Am I understanding it right? Is blistering the act of putting a caustic substance on the skin to burn/damage it?
      "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


      • #4
        When you blister stifles you actually inject something inside, not put it on the skin like shins. It is called an internal blister. I think the common substance is almond oil but not positive on that. I did an internal blister forever ago and it did help but today I would definitely try 10cc of estrone every other day for three treatments then once a week for a month or so first. I have seen that work absolute miracles at best and do nothing at worst so no harm in trying.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home


        • #5
          Have you tried estrogen yet? If not, that is the next step most people do. Blister is always a last result and so hard to see how painful it makes some horses. And even some horses get worse, exhaust all other options first.


          • #6
            Blistering is often done with Iodine. It works on some horses. Others benefit from having the stifle injected. That is less painful and more expensive and allows for a few days rest before exercise, which seems to suit your situation. Estrone cane make them a little loose behind. I have used it off and on and have had mixed reviews. Ask your vet!!


            • #7
              Blistering is one of those older horseman's "tricks of the trade." A lot older trainers (especially racehorse trainers) swear by both internal and external blistering. For internal they usually use a mix of iodine and almond oil, but I have also seen internal blisters with menthol and/or camphor. External blisters can be done with almost anything that irritates the skin. The goal is not to actually physically cause blisters, but to induce mild to moderate inflammation with the goal of increasing blood flow/circulation to the area, which in theory enhances the healing process with higher availability of oxygen and nutrients to an injured area. This is the same principle used when pin-firing a horse.

              I think there are many options you can try before blistering - injections with depo or triamcinolone plus hyaluronic acid, adequan and/or legend injections, oral NSAID therapy, IRAP etc. I haven't found a lot of real research supporting internal blistering as a better therapy than anything else I just mentioned.


              • Original Poster

                Thank you for all of the helpful comments everyone! Here is some background info of how blistering even came into consideration...

                Last summer, when my horse was starting to canter, I tried injecting her stifles to see if it would help with her toe dragging/locking. Although it did make her more comfortable in her stifles, her problem definitely persisted. This is why we have decided she will need more than simple stifle injections. Also, when she was in full jumping work before her injury, she had the same problem. This is why our assumption is that an increased workload when she is done rehabbing won't be the full solution.

                When my trainer mentioned that she'd heard blistering could help, I did not feel comfortable with the idea. I didn't really know what it was, and it sounded scary. However, when I searched the internet for locking stifle solutions, the one that was consistently recommended was blistering the stifles. I then learned more about what it was, and felt more comfortable with it. (I would be doing an internal blister)

                However, I am very attached to my horse, and would prefer to avoid seeing her in pain. In fact, that is the main reason that I am hoping to solve her locking stifle problems. I could care less if I couldn't show her anymore because it was undesirable or something like that. It is because when her stifle locks she gets so startled and it feels so abrupt and painful for her. Plus, like I said earlier, it can't be good for her healing ligament. So, if anyone knows of any other solutions besides the blistering, stifle injections, or increased conditioning work (I will do this anyway when she is better) I am very open to hearing them.

                I really appreciated the info on the estrone and all of Lauren12's suggestions. Thanks again!


                • #9
                  I personally know two vets that refuse to do it. They feel its inhumane. FWIW


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Duramax View Post
                    I personally know two vets that refuse to do it. They feel its inhumane. FWIW
                    Big yes to that.


                    • #11
                      Squaring the hind toes made a big difference for me. Also we do a lot of backing up in hand exercises. It is supposed to strengthen the stifle.


                      • #12
                        I have a mare who has the locking (upward fixation of the patella) since she was a youngster. We tried all storts of treatments none of them helped her more than the internal blister. She has it done annually each spring and is happily showing in the hunter divisions and winning at 16 years old. She doesn't show any signs of discomfort after the treatment and goes right back to work.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by txhjgirl
                          Suggestions for alternatives would be appreciated
                          Estrone regimen.
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home


                          • #14
                            Before you look at treatments you need to know if you horse is having problems because there is a weakness in the stifle or its too tight - very different issues.

                            I had a horse who had stifles which were too tight/locking after stall rest for a foot injury and had some success with estrone therapy but ended up doing tendon splitting procedure that finally gave him some relief.

                            Second horse though was so loose behind he looked like his wheels were going to come off - blistered his stifles and went to work on a conditioning program and saw a huge improvement from backend trailing out behind to tracking under and using himself.

                            The exercises I have used when conditioning a horse with stifle issues have gone from long, straight trot sessions, to frequent upward/downward transitions, ground poles/pyramids, backing, and hills.


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                              Estrone regimen.
                              So, I had not heard about this until posting on this forum (which is why I love doing it!). So, I have no predetermined opinions on the treatment. However, when I researched it, there was a lot of positive things to be said, but a couple of sites discouraged using this on mares. They said it will cause heat behavior (which makes sense). My mare is pretty intense when she is in heat, and has a wicked buck, so I would like to avoid this. Have you found this to be true when using this on mares?


                              • #16
                                Estrone sulfate made a HUGE difference in my hunter. Won't do changes without it. 100% easy auto changes with it. Also didn't slip behind when he is on it. He gets it every 2 weeks IM in the butt.


                                • #17
                                  I wouldn't use it with a mare - mine was a gelding and it actually improved his disposition a bit.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by txhjgirl View Post
                                    This is why our assumption is that an increased workload when she is done rehabbing won't be the full solution.
                                    Okay, but have you tried hill work? Theres a big difference in being in jumping shape but only doing flat ring work and getting outside and doing hill work. I wouldnt blister until you try real hill work. I know you are rehabbing the ligament so you'd have to start slow, walking hills, etc.

                                    Also, 24/7 turnout. Trot poles and lots of them. Trotting X-rails and small verticles. Lateral work once she is strong enough. Squarring the toes.

                                    I think you have options before you blister. Id do it as last resort.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by txhjgirl
                                      Suggestions for alternatives would be appreciated
                                      I already gave you one


                                      • #20
                                        I didn't have any trouble using estrone on mares. I did not use ECP on mares however.
                                        McDowell Racing Stables

                                        Home Away From Home