hock/stifle or just developmental problem???

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hock/stifle or just developmental problem???

This is a discussion on hock/stifle or just developmental problem??? within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category
  • Foal with loose hock joint
  • Popping hocks in horses

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    10-19-2007, 01:37 PM
hock/stifle or just developmental problem???

We just purchased a 4 1/2 yo gaited Morgan mare who is just lovely. The previous owner was very honest before my purchasing her that she was worried about how one hock slipped out (like popping out of alignment) when she was on uneven ground doing smaller circles. The mare seems oblivious to it. We had two vets check her who didn't really see it but she passed all rear leg flexion tests with flying colors. She is quite athletic and extremely light on her feet, like a dancer, perhaps due to the more flexible genes for gaiting. My husband does barefoot trimming and she had the typical long toe, long heel when she arrived (she was much worse a month before we bought her so she's had two serious hoof trims lately).

I noticed right away she appeared quite cowhocked when she arrived (especially on the popping-out left hock) and was dismayed that nobody, including myself, had noticed/mentioned it. When I did some research it seems that true cowhockness is not just splayed out feet but a misalignment between the hock and the cannon bones where the bottom half of the leg is not in alignment with the top. In her case, all the bones seem in alignment from the stifle from the ground -- they have all the same angled-out alignment. She is a bit fat, yet underdeveloped for her age given she had a baby at three years old (poor thing!) and was previously malnourished. We own her dam who is a very stocky Morgan and I wonder if perhaps our young mare's body just hasn't expanded width-wise enough yet for proper alignment of the rear leg joints, especially given she hasn't had any lateral work (only galloping straight on flatlands by her previous owner). Anyways, that popping out of the hock in circles on uneven ground doesn't seem to bother her in the least -- it's me who is disconcerted. I made a point to the vet at the pre-purchase exam that we are buying her for our rather rigorous mountain riding so am disappointed that she didn't mention this defect (or temporary developmental issue?).

We plan on doing lots of lateral work with her given she seems quite stiff in the poll, shoulders and hips. I know that might not make sense to some when I said she was flexible before, but her flexibility seems to be more like that of a loose-jointed jackrabbit going forward, not the powerful, controlled bending type in a barrel racing or dressage horse. .Any thoughts/suggestions??? Thanks, Sue
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    10-19-2007, 07:09 PM
I have a kentucky mountain horse that sort of sounds like your girl. I don't know if its just the gaited breed or what, but she has that loose jointed jack rabbit sort of movement too when she is at liberty and trotting across the pasture. I was told by my vet that a lot of gaited horses are cowhocked a bit. One of my fillys from last year is a little cowy and she has the prettiest little gait, even for her age. My husbands mare has a rolling front foot. One foot swims out like a peruvian when she is in gait. It doesn't cause her pain and she is a very smooth ride. I guess the moral is if she has passed all her vet checks and it isn't bothering her than just enjoy your new horse. :)
    10-19-2007, 08:16 PM
I've seen that jackrabbitness in lean TWHs who can be quite loose moving. We had Peruvians for twenty years but none of them had that "talent" but we tended to get the stockier old style who might have been too muscle-bound to jackrabbit. When we got her video (before buying), she exclusively trotted under saddle, even in a smallish circle. But we thought we would take a chance on her developing gait since her sire was weakly gaited and her dam is strongly so. My husband got her to do about twenty feet of gait when she first arrived even though she was not collected at all, so she does have a latent ability. I love her lightness on her feet and ability to do an almost extreme extended trot (if she had wings she would fly like Pegasus!), but that sudden thunk of the hock joint not engaging properly is very disconcerting. Also saw her do it on her right leg tonight while lunging her in a small circle. You want gaited horses to be smooth and thunking around in a circle is not my idea of such a ride even if in perfect gait! It makes me feel so guilty thinking that it's some kind of lameness that I'm aggravating, even though she really doesn't seem to feel anything (no head bob or weak step afterwards). Other than that she is pretty darn close to my dream horse (gorgeous dark palomino to boot)! I think I will continue focusing on lateral flexibility and strength, especially with crossing her legs in back so that she develops more lateral hock support in the muscles and tendons. Other than that I am clueless (well, could get yet another vet opinion but so far that's been of limited value). Thanks, Sue
    10-19-2007, 09:57 PM
Short of an x-ray of the foot it would be tough to tell whats up. It would be very alarming when the hock "thumps" ! Does she stumble at all or loose her balance? Maybe getting her a support boot till it gets stronger would help.
    10-20-2007, 12:13 PM
Don't see how an x-ray of her foot would be of much use -- perhaps a hock series would be more appropriate. I think I will have to resort to another vet in a month or so if she continues to thunk during her conditioning regimen.

Just did a search for hock wraps and boots and was disappointed. All seem to be designed to prevent abrasion when in a stall or provide heat/cold/magnetic therapy in a protected environment. Couldn't find a sports medicine boot for the hock that would provide lateral support during exercise. The closest I could find was a Toklat hock boot but no description about its use. Maybe a Toklat dealer could tell me. I don't want to get into wrapping/bandaging with vet wrap -- what a hassle and it would be of questionable use in preventing injury while she develops her muscles/tendons. Sue
    10-20-2007, 03:34 PM
Sorry, ment hock

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