Monday, August 16, 2010

Stifling Stifles

I just love the internet and blogging. Yes, it can be tedious, and you have to wade through an overload of information, and there is a lot of mis-information out there. But, there is also a wealth of good information, ideas and viewpoints out there just waiting to be tapped. Case in point: Sunday I was scratching my head, trying to figure out my my horse was suddenly dragging his hind legs and tripping behind. So I posted about it, and within a few hours I had a really good answer.

I think sometimes when you're too close to the problem you just get overwhelmed. You can't quite wrap your head around it because you're too busy imagining horrific scenarios in which you have a lame horse, giant vet bills and pastures full of evil dandelions. This is when the outside observer steps in and says "Hey, sounds like weak stifles." Stifles. Now, why didn't I think of that?

Much thanks to Kate and Jean for picking up on that..... I think they're right on the money!

The stifle joint of a horse is analogous to our knee joint. Just like with people, if the muscles supporting the knee are weak the joint tends to act up. I have not been working Spider consistently and he is definitely flabby and out of shape. Spider is getting older, too, which doesn't help. I know he has arthritis from his career as a sporthorse. Add all that together and you have a recipe for Sticky, Ouchy Stifles.

So, with that in mind, Spider and I are embarking on a Fitness Blitz. The best treatment for weak stifles is consistent exercise, which he has not been getting. Specifically, lots and lots of trotting. Of course, the very best treatment is trotting up and down hills. Unfortunately, we don't have hills in Southern NJ. But, I do have a sort of gentle incline in my largest pasture. And it just so happens that the pasture is empty, due to an infestation of dandelions, so it's free for me to ride in. See, everything happens for a reason.

For the next few weeks I'm going to work him consistently at least 5-6 days a week. If he shows improvement, then I know it was a fitness issue. If he doesn't show improvement or seems to be getting worse, then I call the vet.


  1. Sounds like an awesome idea to me. Sam has to locking stifles and I notice a difference in him when he is on work so I think you are definatley on the right track!

  2. Sounds like a plan - Maisie and I find that's very beneficial (when I'm able to keep her in work and she's not off due to some other soundness issue!).

  3. It's going to take dedication, but I know you have it....My vet recommends 25-30 minutes of trotting and yes, up and down hills. That incline should do just fine.

    Also, trimming with a slightly higher heel (55 degrees or so) along with a well rolled toe will also help.

  4. I know what you mean about getting good advice and feedback from blogging. I love it - reading feedback to me and to others is so useful and encouraging. You give lots of good advice yourself!
    A gentle incline sounds just right. Good luck.

  5. My horse Teddy had a problem with sticky stifles when he was about 10 years old. My vet recommended trotting upping and walking downhill. It worked wonders. Once we got through the acute phase, for about two years he could never have 2 days off if a row or he would start to catch again. So I rode him religiously every other day. He is now 27 and going strong, after a recent bout with anhydrosis. I made a video about it that I posted on YouTube. Please check it out and forward it to anyone you think may be interested:


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