Locked Stifle and Arthritis, what would you do? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 06-15-2013, 03:08 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: US
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Locked Stifle and Arthritis, what would you do?

My 24 year old OTTB, Junior, locked up his stifle yesterday while lunging. He was playing around one second and trotting on three legs the next. It seemed to happen in an instant and it didn't even look like he didn't anything to hurt himself, but man is he hurt.

I had a vet out today and the vet diagnosed him with the locked stifle. He also has arthritis in his hocks, stifles, knees, and ankles. His back can't support the weight of a rider unless they are a young child. I haven't been able to keep him in consistent work due to the lameness problems that I have been struggling to solve over the last 2 years. In 2 years he has been lame for 1 1/2 of them.

His stifle is two times the size it should be from the arthritis. The vet gave me bute and said to try that and see if it helps. He said the only other option with how bad Junior is, would be to put him down. His stifle is so locked that he can't flex that rear leg hardly at all. Instead he just drags his toe behind him when he walks and he can only walk very slow. He seems as if he is concentrating really hard to walk. He just stands in his run with zero weight on that rear leg. He ate his dinner last night, but didn't eat much of his hay this morning and you can tell he isn't happy.

I am going to try the bute, I know some people don't agree with it but I will do what the vet suggested. Right now it is looking like the option is to bute him through the summer and love on him. Give him lots of attention and then put him down before winter hits. He doesn't winter well and I just don't know if it would be fair to put him through another winter now that he is hurt.

People have told me that I should just get injections done or have the stifle cut. But I am just not sure that it is even fair to put a 24 year old horse through that kind of surgery and rehab. His life was extremely hard on him before I got him and his body just seems to be giving out on him. He hasn't been near as active in the last month as he was previously. He is still excited to see me and his horsey friends, but I know he is in pain right now.

Honestly, what would you do? I won't put him down right away unless he shows that he can't handle it. I want to try the bute first. Winter is what I worry about. I love him with all my heart and this is a really hard time for him and I. I feel that people think I am putting him down to take the easy way out, but really I don't think it is fair to keep a horse alive on bute just to fulfill my own selfish desires.
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post #2 of 4 Old 06-15-2013, 04:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Southern California
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My 4 yr old OTTB has issues with his stifles locking, but his treatment is work (forward trotting, trot poles, etc.). Sometimes, working consistently (being ridden for days in a row) will help, but other times he still sticks and locks, or is a little off on the leg until he can work it out.

For the past few days, he has been taking it easy (just turn-outs) due to pulling up lame during one of our rides.-- We think it is a stone bruise, and treated it as such. When he can't be ridden, his stifles usually act up more and you can tell he is uncomfortable. I do bute him when it gets bad and he is overly uncomfortable, but thankfully have not had to do that for a while.

Anyways, to my point, I can empathize how hard it is to watch them when they are in pain and know you can't do much to fix the problem. My guy's situation is much less severe compared to yours, but I can understand how hard this must be for you. I feel so bad when my boy's issue flares up, especially since he is still so young.

I do not know your horse or the exact extent of his condition(s) so can not say if you should put him to sleep or not, but I honestly feel a horse owner (animal owner in general) just has to listen to their horse and needs to recognize when it is time to let them go.

Given what you have said, I would try the bute and see how that goes. If it proves not to help, then I would take a second to reconsider his condition and evaluate if he is living a happy life. Is he eat and drinking? Does his attitude seem positive, or does he seem depressed and is acting like he spends the majority of his life in pain and is suffering?

It is a very hard medium to find. You want to give him the dignity to leave this world before his condition declines severely to the point of no return (though still being able to exhaust all options/treatments), but you also do not want to wait too long to where he is suffering in pain for months and months.

There was a horse at our barn that foundered. He would lay down 99% of the time, he was getting sores from laying down so much, but he was still eating when it was made easy for him to get to (though still loosing weight). In my very honest opinion, his owners waited far too long to end his life. Had he been my horse, I would have put him down months prior, but they waited until he could no longer get up (he no longer had the will to get up, honestly), and was in such severe pain. It was very sad to watch.

Last edited by LostDragonflyWings; 06-15-2013 at 04:10 AM.
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post #3 of 4 Old 06-15-2013, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Southern Indiana
Posts: 5,515
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My mini used to lock up his stifles bad. Before he finally had surgery, firmly massaging his stifle while having him move would help him get it unlocked. Easy to do on a mini because I could pull him forward and massage at the same time. Might not be so easy on a full size so you might need someone to help.

Maybe that could get him moving a little more normally while you decide what to do.
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post #4 of 4 Old 06-15-2013, 12:28 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
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I am very sorry to hear this. I think you will know what to do when the time is right. Sounds like you have a good plan in mind.

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