Sunday, April 7, 2013

Locking Stifle.... Again...

Okay... let me recap what has been happening....  I've been thinking about this a lot and I think Chrome has had stifle problems longer than I thought.  When he was younger... I don't remember the exact time frame, but you can probably find it here on the blog... I thought he was lame in the rear end.  He walked with a short stride on one side.  At the time I thought it was hock soreness or growing pains,  but now I'm wondering if the odd gait was from very mild UFP (upward fixation of the patella a.k.a. locking stifle).  So the very first day I noticed a pronounced locking stifle was the day we moved to our new home on February 3rd, then again the next weekend on the 9th/10th.  I started handwalking him consistently in late February and didn't see a problem again until March 16th, but it wasn't locking on that day, he was just stomping it every couple of minutes which he's never done before that I noticed.  This is all on his left hind by the way.  The stomping happened after his first round penning session where I only trotted him for two minutes (literally I timed it).

So I started his Couch to 5k training on March 16th.  It started out with five minutes of walking, two minutes of trotting and five more minutes of walking.  So from March 17th to April 5th I didn't see a single sign of any stifle problems at all.  No stiffness, no short stride, no lameness, no locking, nothing.  And then BAM on April 6th (yesterday) it starts locking again.  I walked him a little and let him graze in the yard, but I brushed it off thinking it would go away like it has each time before.  Then today it was even worse!!  There were times he was dragging his leg and/or hopping forward to get it unlocked.  He was jerking it almost to his belly at times when it would pop loose and I got terrified it was stringhalt again, but I did tons of research and talked to a bunch of people today and it's not stringhalt.  I just have no idea why it came back.  Why does it show up and then disappear for weeks at a time?  We were up to five minutes walking, seven minutes trotting and five minutes walking and he was fine!  Was it because I rode him on Friday?  Was trotting with my added weight too much too soon?  Was it because I was asking him to yield his hindquarters?  That's the only "new" exercises I had added in.... I rode because it was a beautiful day and I wanted to ride my horse and I was doing the hindquarter yields because several people suggested it for strengthening the stifles... after doing some reading I'm wondering if I added in too much too soon.  What I'm reading now is saying just ask them to yield once or twice in each direction and that's it.  I was doing it four or five times on each side.

I did a lot of thinking today trying to figure out where this is coming from and I think it's because he went from 30 acres to 5 acres and from hilly to flat.  So I'm thinking I need to go out and walk him around the pasture for five to ten minutes several times a day, even on his days off from his actual workouts.  When his stifle starts locking he stops moving around and just stands by the gate.  When I walk him around for a bit the next time I glance out my window he's off in the back pasture grazing.  I think getting him moving is very important, but I'm wondering now if I need to start over with the Couch to 5k (5 min walk, 2 min trot, 5 min walk) or keep going where we left off (five min walk, seven min trot, five min walk)....

Anyway here is a video from today....

And here is one from two months ago....

I'm talking to my trainer about taking him to her lameness specialist, but it's a looooooooooong drive, so I don't know when we will be able to do it.....  any suggestions?  What should I ask them about?  What should I have done with the vet?  Should I just see my regular vet?  What should I ask him?  Thanks for listening guys.  I appreciate your input.  :)

P.S.  Something else I realized today is that the locking stifle is on his club foot and the problem usually shows up when he's due for a trim..... I'm having my farrier out asap to trim him to see if that's the problem.  I'm probably going to shorten his trim cycle too, so any input from the barefoot trimmers/specialist/enthusiasts is greatly appreciated as well.  :D


  1. Gahhh!!! So sorry!

    Talk to your farrier about it and your vet. Work up from there.

    It can be fixed but I dont know how expensive it is. :O(

  2. This is generally more prevalent in youngsters, especially when they are in a butt-high growth spurt. Keeping a short trimming cycle and keeping the toes pulled back/short can help, but the best thing is fitness. Lots of hills, lots of cavaletti, etc. I bet the fact that he went from 30 hilly acres to 5 flat made a huge difference for the negative. I know there have been a few threads on COTH on this subject, I would go over there and do a search--there are SO many knowledgeable, experienced, intelligent people on that board and it is a wealth of info. Best of luck!

  3. That's funny you should mention it. I did a lot of reading on COTH yesterday. :D They have very good advise. I think I'm going to go back to handwalking him until my farrier can get down here and then I will start again on his exercise program, but I'll try to find a way to do it without circles. I can make some cavaletti, but finding hills is so difficult. There are two within about a mile of my house, but they are both on the road and it's a little scary because one is a blind turn and one is at a T so I'm afraid of getting hit by drivers. There may be another place I can take him, but it's a looooooong walk to get to it and it's really steep. I'll keep looking into some options for that though because I know hills are the best thing for him. Thank you for your comments. I was feeling very discouraged yesterday and I'm still a little sad for him today, but I'm feeling a bit better. :)

  4. Sorry you're having to deal with this. I don't know much on the subject, but good vibes your way.

  5. Yeah, I would take him soooooooooooooo far away to have him looked at. There won't be much they can do anyway. If you do want a vet? Then use your local one. But more than likely they will say keep him moving the best you can. Locking stifles will have worst days and better days. Let hope he can grow out of this. Some do, some don't. You will just have to wait:( Yes, having his feet done might help as well:) Keep up the great work!!

  6. I can tell you a little bit 'bout our experience with it. Since Chrome is young, it could still be issues with his growing frame/skeleton. Check with your vet and farrier first, of course. We had a pony with the issue, and it was so severe (he was older, mind you) that he managed to pop our farrier in the face and break his nose and give him a black eye. When we trimmed him, we found pulling his leg back and then forward helped "release" the lock. Our vet recommended either the surgery, which for the pony was not a good option, or exercise. Backing helps strengthen the muscles, and backing on a slight incline can really help. My niece rode the pony everywhere and learned to back him a step when she started forward, helped to release the lock. He was pretty bad. He had it in both hind legs. Good luck!


  7. Janine, you're right. I got to thinking about it and a visit to the vet is probably a waste of time and money because they can't do anything for it except surgery and that's not a route I want to even think about right now since it usually doesn't work anyway. I'll continue to work with my farrier on it since she is aware of the problem. We're going to go to shorter trim cycles and I'm hoping that helps. :)

    Christine, thank you for sharing your experience with it. I have to keep reminding myself it's not a death sentence, because I worry about him so much. My farrier did warn me about keeping my face out of the way when cleaning the hoof because he can't help it when it pops up like that. I like the idea of stretching it backwards first. I'll have to try that. I have been reading about good exercises to try and backing was one that was mentioned a lot. I haven't noticed that it helps him to unlock like it does for most horses, but I'm going to try slow, gentle backing to help strengthen those muscles.

    Thank you so much for all of your support and comments guys. I really appreciate it. :)

  8. when I dealt with this with my young horse (years ago) it would come and go as he grew. But I don't remember him being quite like that. :(

    I'd get a vet out and evaluate so you can make decisions on treatment

  9. No experience, but I wonder if this isn't genetic. It really doesn't seem like you have been overworking him and I can't imagine a change from 30 -5 acres would do this. Most horses don't have 5 acres. Hopefully it is related to growth. How often do you get his feet done? I wouldn't go longer than 5 weeks.

    Do you not trust your local vet? What would a vet do about this? If something can be done, then I would haul him... but I just don't know what the treatment is...


  10. I don't think the hoof has anything to do with this... just a hunch. Also, you are assuming it is stifle... perhaps he fell. Either way, so sorry! Keep us informed.

  11. Margaret, locking stifle isn't from overworking him, it is from not working him enough. Lack of muscling makes it difficult for them to pull the kneecap back up where it belongs. It's also his conformation (which yes means genetics play a part). The straight hind legs cause loose ligaments which also makes it difficult to pull the kneecap back up. All a vet is going to do is suggest an exercise program or surgery. Surgery rarely works and if it does it rarely works for long. The reason moving him from 30 acres to 5 acres is causing a problem is because he went from moving around grazing a LOT, to basically standing around all the time. When I go out and walk him a couple of times a day it doesn't lock anymore.

    Also it's not that I don't trust my local vet, I just don't know him. The vet I used for my horses when I lived here before has retired, so I have to find a new one. I think I found someone I like.... I went down, talked to them, toured the facility and I really like them. I'm going to take him there to have his teeth floated and I'll ask them about his stifle while I'm there. I know they will suggest exercise or surgery.

    Also I did get a diagnoses so I know it is his stifle. However just to leave no pebble unturned I'm looking for a chiropractor to check for any other problems such as a stiff back that would prevent him from using his body in a way that will strengthen his stifles. If he's trailing his hindlegs behind him due to a sore back his stifles will just get weaker, even with exercise.

    Sorry I haven't updated with all of this information (about the vet and chiro). I forget what I have posted and have not posted. I will try to keep everyone better updated. :) Thank you for your comments!

  12. I would start by having the local vet out. maybe you will like him maybe you won't. Odd are you will need a vet at some point so you might as well have him out just to establish care. Another option is to see if the lameness vet will give some advise based on videos. If it were me I would want to base my training regimen on a sound diagnosis rather than what ifs. You won't want to look back later and wonder if you should have taken him in sooner.


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