I have a mare with stifle problems as well. My vet said…NO CIRCLES, no tight turns. Instead, long straight trail rides on ground that is firm…. not too sandy or too muddy (in other words, firm ground with little chance of having a foot slip). Lots of walking and trotting in straight lines on firm ground will help build muscle that will help support her stifle. (Note there is a difference between firm and hard ground…you don’t want hard ground either as it can cause other issues) Turn out 24/7 with run-in shelter or stall barn access…. the more walking around a large pasture… the better. I’ve been told that galloping or cantering will not build the muscles needed as well as just trotting. Luckily for me, this mare with the stifle issue …has a really nice trot. I’ve got another mare that just beats me up at a trot! *LOL* I imagine hill work (up and down) could be helpful to build those muscles as well…but we don’t have many hills in Florida and the hills that we do..are often made of very deep sand…which can slip around as you go up or down …(which would make things worst not better). Also remember at the top and the bottom of hills…not to make tight turns at the top and the bottom…doing it over and over again…(as that part would be like circle work). Trotting in straight lines (not circles or turns…not weaving patterns) is good for my mare, but that may depend on how bad your horses stifle is and how strong or well developed your horses muscle are in that area. I’ve got a friend who also has a mare with stifle issues who has been told…long walking straight trial riding (and hills)….is best for her horse.
I’ve often wondered if there are any stretching exercises that might be good for a horses stifle…or bad for it. And I’ve often wondered if a good Chiropractor and/or Massage Therapist might be able to help? My vet says he has seen a few chiropractors do some amazing things for some horses. I have had a massage therapist out to work on all 3 of my horses once…and the horses looked like they loved it as much as I do. But it did not seem to effect the stifle issues much. There is a Chiropractor/Massage therapist locally who has been recommended to me by several horseman that use him and I’ve thought about it.
As a human who has tried both on myself, I prefer Massage over Chiro. After the one and only Chiro job I’ve ever had…I felt so much worst…instead of better. He bent me in ways I do not think my body was meant to be bent…and it was extremely painfully…and I was in lots more pain and discomfort for at least a week afterwards, then I had been before seeing him. Although he did prescribe these pain killers/muscle relaxers for me…that were extremely too strong…so strong that I stopped taking them after a few days..(even though, I was still sorer and in more pain after his visit than before)…because the pills he prescribed made me feel too foggy in the brain… and I was too worried about my ability to drive or think while on them…although there was nothing said to me by the chiro doctor…nor written on the prescription about that. I’ve got too many things I want to do …and being in a brain fog doesn’t allow me to do a lot of those things. (True, often a deep tissue massage, can also make you sore for a few days afterwards, but I have always got a relief of movement along with the soreness that made it worth it for me….which I did not with the chiro). After that one try …. I’ve decided that for myself I’ll stick with sports massages or sports acupressure instead. My one bad experience with a chiro on myself….might have just been one bad experience, but it certainly did impact my opinion of the practice.