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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am beginning to suspect Tillie may have a stifle problem - namely locking stifle. I have owned her almost 4 years now and since I brought her home and started riding her one of her back legs would feel like it "gives out" when we ride. She inhales quickly and just keeps going. I never thought anything of it as she is not the most sure footed animal on the planet. This year it seems to be happening more frequently and I have asked hubby and daughter to watch her hind end when we ride. Last weekend we did a rather lively ride of about 8 miles mostly gaiting. And it happened quite often. She was not lame or sore after the ride.

We rode yesterday and did a lot of hill crawling - up and down steep ravines with large rocks to walk through and across - and it happened quite a few times - my daughter was watching and said it looks like her leg sticks a little and she drags her toe and then it "pops" back in and she is fine. To me it feels like that leg gives out.

As I think about it more I suspect a locking stifle - which Tennessee Walkers are predisposed to have. I have never seen it happen in the field or anytime here at home. When reading up on locking stifle it says get your horse fit. Tillie is 17yrs old and very fit!

I live in no mans land for lameness vets or equine vets in general. I am willing to travel for injections etc.

Has anyone dealt with this?

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14,747 Posts
I dealt with aftercare of my bosses horses who were treated for locking stifles...
Now, this was in the 80's, treatments have changed, come a long way but...what worked then still works today.
It's not pretty, it takes time to heal and recup...but it worked on several horses that were in my care.
Today, much better diagnostics are available as are new successful treatments with things like stem cells, but old fashioned blistering is something to investigate and know it can still be done for the right candidate and situation.

Blistering of the stifle..the horse needs to be fit for this to be considered.
So, to blister a counter-irritant mixture of products is injected on some, others it is applied topically to the area. Usually one part of that mixture is iodine, the other ingredient{s} can vary depending upon location and where on the body it is.
Swelling happens but not horrendous either in my experience. Sometimes not the first day but second day and for several days.
The swelling is what makes the ligament tighten and then scar so it holds tighter stopping the popping that you are feeling astride.

Other horses had the stifle surgically cut.
Again, fit horse and again would need to be put back to work in a dedicated program specialized for that animal.
Horse was sedated in their stall and the vet did the work quickly.
Horse was hand-walked for a few days before returning to a fitness regiment and pain-relief drugs were given. I don't remember if it was bute given as bute is a anti-inflammatory and you want inflammation but not pain..can't remember what I administered {sorry}, was a long time ago.

What is happening equates to our human knee and the kneecap moving...
When it moves out of align, a ouch and quick catch-ya happens...
Tear your meniscus and you probably get a similar reaction to the horse popping their stifle...the beginning of a nasty tear and big problems in the foreseeable future.
Eventually it will worsen to the point you will be forced to do something to fix the affliction...that is the "what do we do now".

Medical technology has progressed a lot since I dealt with bad stifles on show horses who competed at the highest levels with junior riders, qualifying for the Medal Maclay National Title, A/O awards, Hunter Over Fences 3' and higher...these were competition horses and needed to be sound movers and no pain in their bodies...
I can only say that the options briefly described above worked and helped the horse to accomplish their job.

It is a treatment of old, but old is not always the wrong way of doing either...
Stifle issues are not new, so treatments are around that were used at different periods of time and known technology of that time.
Today as diagnostics have improved, so have some of the treatment options.

Today some say blistering is can be in the wrong hands.
But, there are more horses competing sound because someone who knew what they were doing did apply blister agents at the right time to stop a issue that would of been painful and possibly career-ending...yes, blistering is still commonly done to racehorses. For many it is a business, if "it" doesn't earn its keep, dump "it" where ever it goes is fine has given us horse-lovers some incredible animals.
If you knew what to look for and where, you would be amazed at how many animals have had this medical treatment to keep them sound..
Suspensories are a big one that are blistered yet today...
Bowed tendon or hock joints...
Those should easily ring a bell of recognition.
Talk to anyone who works with race horses of any type...

I would not ignore what you are feeling and would take the horse to the best qualified you can find.
Stifles are a very complex area of the body with several bones coming to meet and all need to work together or that horse is not going to be happy.
If you are riding and the mare gets "stuck", calm her and then have her back-up a step or two, then try to go forward and see how she moves. Often reversing the action releases the caught ligament, but it is a band-aid telling you no more waiting, something needs done now.

I found you it applies to your horse is going to depend upon ability of the vet, a successful diagnosis and treatment plan and of course, cost must be thought about.

9,598 Posts
I had them surgically cut on one of my minis. His were really bad in both stifles. He is 20 years old now and shows no ill-effects from the procedure. My vet was very experienced in it though.
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