Soft Tissue Stifle Injury in Young Horse - Is there any hope? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 02-02-2020, 09:51 AM Thread Starter
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Question Soft Tissue Stifle Injury in Young Horse - Is there any hope?

Hi everyone,

This is my first post here on horse forums and I apologize in advance it is quite long.

A QUICK BACKGROUND:

We picked up a young horse late 2018. A lady I have known for some time was a breeder going out of business and she could no longer take care of the horses. She needed to essentially "get rid" of some horses. It was not a good situation.

The horse in question was well-bred but unstarted and only 3 1/2. He was living in a field but we both loved him from the minute we saw him. We knew it was a big risk but figured at the very least he'd have a good home, we'd get him a good start and we could see from there.

A couple of months before we took him from the breeder he was moved to an all-weather paddock with a different horse who after a week of being out together beat him up VERY badly. The biggest hit looked like it was to his hock. After a week or so we did an x-ray to make sure everything was ok and luckily everything looked fine. The vet cleared him to start his training a couple of months later.

THE ISSUE:

He came back to us after being started and we gave him about 4+ months off to grow. He is a big boy! At about the start of his 4-year-old season, he did some light walking and trotting with us but seemed to have this "hitch" in his RH. He'd start off a bit short in the trot but work out of it. But then coming down to a walk would take 3 very short steps and then be fine. We had vets and a trainer look him over. Both thought it was likely some weakness in his stifle and he needed lots of hill work and correct training to strengthen his stifles. We decided to send him to a lovely trainer who would do it right. Getting him hacking out and work on strengthening while not doing too much while he's still growing.

To end it here, after almost a year of many vet visits and bills, x-rays of his hocks and neck, a fluoroscope of his entire hind end, ultrasounds, bute trials, and eventually nerve blocking. Even a treatment earlier on for EMP (which did improve coordination and energy), the vet concluded that he likely has a soft tissue injury to his RH stifle (cruciate ligaments, etc). All other structures (joint capsule, meniscus and collateral ligaments) are showing up fine. It seems if he doesn't move around the lameness worsens (we trialed by keeping him in for a couple days during bad weather vs. when he has turnout for most the day).

Looking back with a critical eye at his starting videos he did look slightly shorter on is RH in the trot. As he's continued to grow it's become more pronounced.

It's been a tiring roller-coaster and this news has come as quite a blow to us. The vet thinks at most he will be a pleasure horse and is not hopeful that injecting will do any help. We don't want to give him away in fear he will get passed around or pushed into an athletic career by masking his lameness.

Has anyone had any issues similar to this? What did you do with your horse? Is there anything else we can do? Do we try to give him a year off and see if anything change or is it time for the retirement barn? We want to do the best by him and give him as best a life as possible moving forward.

Thank-You to anyone who made it through this long post. If you need clarification on anything ask away :) Any advice is greatly welcomed!

TL;DR - Young horse we picked up out of a field is now showing strong signs of RH soft tissue damage. We don't know what to do as far as a way forward. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 6 Old 02-02-2020, 10:47 AM
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Given that you have had extensive diagnostics done and your vet says it's a cruciate ligament injury, I'll comment solely on that.

Ligaments take so long to heal.

I can only recommend using any of the therapies that essentially increase circulation. And ligaments have very little blood flow. As to which therapy, some people claim one is better than the other. But objective research is rare, most is funded by the manufacturer.

I say anything. And done three times a week. For two to three months and reassess then.

I would not confine the horse or you will cause other problems.

Treatments can be as low tech as contrast baths or massage. Or as high tech as one wants. Red light. Magnetic wands. Various electronic stimming.

I'm sorry this happened to your horse, but they usually recover well. It just takes a long time.
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post #3 of 6 Old 02-02-2020, 12:22 PM
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I'm not a vet and won't "armchair diagnose nor treatment decide" nor did you ask for such...
I'm just offering options that worked years ago and may have been forgotten about.
Years ago horses with stifle injuries were often blistered or cut depending upon what the exact ailment was, but the common denominator, there was always a hitch in the gait.
Many have gotten away from some of the "old-time" treatments because new is claimed better and often less invasive/destructive...
I don't know what the criteria is for which treatment but add this to other options others may suggest or you hear of.
Sometimes we forget about old treatments..but they can still work.
Something that needs a honest discussion with your vet about to understand why, what, how and the follow-up care needed to return a horse to their former sound self if maybe this would be a option of possibility for you...
Just wanted to put this out there...
The best solution and recovery for the horse and you I wish for.
...
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The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-02-2020, 12:33 PM
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I am one who grew up with the old fashioned treatments such as bar firing and blistering, I have seen all sorts of treatments for a variety of injuries, with modern machines, laser and ultra sound and they do seem to work.

The reason for this is that by firing, blistering or machines, they bring more blood to the area, blood is the healer.

Personally I would see if a course of laser or ultra sound helps then chuck him out in a field and walk away. Start him in 6+ months but before you do give more machine treatment
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post #5 of 6 Old 02-02-2020, 02:01 PM
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Firstly, I'll disclose that I have very limited experience dealing with stifle issues, so please take that into account from what I am to say. I've only dealt with about two-three horses with stifle issues, so my experiences may give you some insight or may be entirely different to what you will deal with.



I do think that your vet will be able to give your the most accurate advice, based on what they have seen in your horse. They have both the knowledge and expertise to evaluate which treatments may have the best chance to benefit your horse.



The first horse I've known for about 4-5 years and I was told the horse was born with a weak stifle, which was then injured later. I've worked solely with this horse for about 1.5 years and have ridden him for about 3-4 days per week. The vet encouraged riding, as she said It was helpful for the condition. It took much longer to be able to build up the muscle in the stifle area. I found that lots of pole work, backing up, hills and long and low worked best for conditioning this horse. Additionally, I've noticed a big difference after chiropractic work and massage. I also maintained certain stretches before and after a workout. However, the owner eventually wished to have their granddaughter compete with this horse and to that, I was hesitant. The horse was healthy, happy and fit enough, but still short stepped every now and then. A judge would not otherwise know why the horse short steps, and would naturally assume the horse should not be ridden. It also took a very regiment conditioning schedule in order to maintain the horse's condition. Unfortunately, this horse's capabilities were limited because of this. The horse is still a pleasure horse and pretty happy to be so. He is lots of fun to ride, but anytime he has had a break bigger than a few weeks, you start to see a stiffer stride. The injury is quite old and healed, but it still interferes with higher capabilities.



An other horse I know has an old stifle injury (among other things) and is also more of a pleasure horse, although comes out for a competition, clinic or two. She is maintained on Previcox and other natural anti-inflammatories (can't remember which). She also gets consistent (every few weeks, around the year) chiro appointments and saddle fittings. She is being ridden more so than horse 1, but does seem to have a limit to how much she can work (starts getting sore after a certain extent).



The third horse actually competed quite frequently at 2nd level dressage and was schooling third. This horse's stifle was weak ( not injured, as far as we know (OTTB)). The horse had bucking issues when first being worked with, which was a way to avoid working the stifle. The bucking went away when the stifle gained more muscle. Like the others, this horse also had frequent chiro visits, which seemed to help a lot.



Now, as far as ligaments go, I completely agree with what boots has said. Unfortunately, one of my horses has been diagnosed with DSLD last spring, so I've had some experience with methods for maintaining/treating ligament injury.


One of those treatments, aimed at enhancing circulation as boots said, is Shockwave. Basically, shockwave introduces microtrauma to the ligament, which induces the healing response, causing vasodilation (increased circulation) and delivery of nutrients to the site of injury. It also has an analgestic effect on the body, by helping relieve pain. Currently, the therapy is approved by the FDA for use with plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow in humans. The cons of the therapy are that (1) it is expensive. The treatment is recommended for at least 3 closely followed treatments (2 weeks apart). I went to two vets for the procedure. One quoted $300CAD per leg and the other $175CAD per leg. The bill was at least $1000 per treatment cycle. While DSLD is incurable, this treatment did help counteract some of the damage and my horse did feel better afterwards. A friend had also used the treatment on a suspensory ligament tear and the healing became much quicker.



An other action that you could take to help reduce re-injury is turnout and footing. Good footing (not deep) would help reduce some strain on the ligament. As much turnout as possible is recommended in part of ligament treatment (debated and depends on healing progress, etc) to help facilitate circulation to the ligament.
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post #6 of 6 Old 02-04-2020, 08:28 PM Thread Starter
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Hey Everyone,

Thank-You so much for all of your responses!

As of the moment, we have decided to send him to a farm where he will get loads of turnout and be hacked out regularly at the walk. We figured because he is so young, the best course of action is to give him time and see what happens. We don't expect he'll be a Grand Prix jumper but if he could make someone a happy lower level dressage or pleasure horse that would be wonderful.

@boots - Thank-You for your suggestions. You have given me some hope that maybe in time we will see him improve.

@Foxhunter and @horselovinguy - I will ask the vet what she things about blistering. I have heard of this and will see what she says. I know she did mention trying to inject his stifle (not sure with what exactly - possibly something similar to a joint injection?) and seeing if that helps. Thank-You both!

@Jolly101 - Thank You for sharing your past experiences with stifle injuries. You definitely know more about them than I do. :) We have had experience with Shockwave and you are right it is costly. We had it done on our mare who had an extensor tendon injury and it worked very well.


The vet and some other people I have spoken to about this don't seem hopeful that he will make a full recovery. I think we will look into some of what was suggested here, see what the vet says and hope for the best.

Thanks again!
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Last edited by Myster; 02-04-2020 at 08:28 PM. Reason: edited a mention
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stifle injury , stifle issues , stifle lameness , young horse stifle injury

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