Locking stifles - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 05:28 AM Thread Starter
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Locking stifles

My two and a half year old arabian gelding has been diagnosed by a vet to have locking stifles. First it appeared on only one side, then didn't recur until I sent him to the trainer to start him under saddle, and the trainer noticed he had it on both sides the day he got him. The trainer is concerned about my horses soundness and is reluctant to go ahead with breaking him to saddle. This goes against what the vet said, which was that this can happen in young horses, and that slow steady work will build strength in the stifles, especially trotting uphill. I'm really concerned about this, and I would like to know from others who have encountered this problem, and whether it would be wise to go ahead and have him broken so I can excersise him, or whether breaking him in at this point would just put more strain on his stifles, or whether I should just spell him for 12 months so he can mature, then get him broken in then. Please help!!!
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post #2 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 10:52 AM
Green Broke
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i am unfamiliar with how to treat one whose stifles lock, but found this article, scanned it, and it seems that your vet is right:


it applies to gaited horses, but has great general information :)

good luck and keep us posted!

Justin (qh/tb)
Boo (asb)
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post #3 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 11:20 AM
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Personally, I would wait to start him under saddle for another year. Hopefully his body will have more time to mature. It's not just his stifles that I would be concerned about. Arabians tend to be smaller (I guess depends on the type, but I digress) and mature a little slower. You won't lose anything by waiting until he's in the 3yr old year.

You can still do lots of handling and groundwork to keep his mind focused "on school", but just not tax his body with weight.The stifles might always be his own little problem, but putting him in training right now isn't going to help, IMO. However, lots of turnout would be good for him.
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post #4 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 01:48 PM
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I rode a 4 y/o QH that had locking stifles. Apparently it's just something that can happen to young horses that they eventually grow out of. My vet also said exercise was the best thing for it because the developing muscle helps keep the patella in place. And like he said it gradually stopped over time as she got stronger and older. Not sure what to tell you though about whether or not to start the horse as starting can be difficult physically (depending on the horse/trainer) and I don't know if it would cause extra strain.
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 01:57 PM
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I had a mare for fourteen years that had a locking stifle when she was young. It would sometimes lock when I went to pick that leg up. I just had to stand back and let her kick her leg out to unlock it. It also sometimes locked under saddle, but it wasn't dangerous to her or me.
I did put her on a joint supplement, and the problem went away after a few months. It came back again when she was about about twelve years old. I put her back on the joint supplement (for a year), and the problem went away again and never came back. I'm not sure if this would work for everyone, but it sure helped us.
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post #6 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 06:28 PM
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There is no reason you can't break and use this horse unless the stifle locking is severe. Exercise--hill work and work over ground poles is good for strengthening that area--however the repetitive circling that generally gets done when a horse is being broke to ride can make the problem more pronounced. If the problem isn't severe and your vet thinks you can go ahead with training, I would go ahead. Once the initial saddle breaking is done then you can stop the circling and work more on hills and poles. You can even work hills and poles in-hand before sending him to a trainers to help the problem before sending him off to a palce where lunging is bound to occur.

I've had more than 1 horse with locking stifles and they were very active, athletic, etc.

Cindy D.
Licensed Veterinary Technician
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-28-2008, 07:39 PM
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I would say just avoid circles. Which like others said is bound to happen in a "breaking" situation. Most round pens and longe lines would be to small in my opinoin for a horse that has locking stifles. I am not sure of the exact similarities...but my vet has told me that with a horse with osteoarthritis in the stifles...not to do any circle work smaller than 20 or 30 meters.
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post #8 of 8 Old 06-30-2008, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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Locking stifles

Originally Posted by kickshaw
i am unfamiliar with how to treat one whose stifles lock, but found this article, scanned it, and it seems that your vet is right:


it applies to gaited horses, but has great general information :)

good luck and keep us posted!
Thanks so much for that! The article was very helpful with good tips on strengthening the stifles. I have decided to send Tommy to be started under saddle, with the idea that if he's broken to saddle I can commence the strengthening excersises. Lots of slow steady work will hopefully help, but at the same time it's important not to overdo it. It's a very fine line. Others have suggested to avoid circle work, which can put more stress on the stifles, which I will certainly avoid. It was a hard decision for me to send him to the trainer, but the concensus seems to be that work will improve it, and hopefully as he matures he will grow out of it.
Painted Pegasus
PS Thankyou to everyone who answered my query, it's much appreciated, and has put my mind at ease.
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