Weak Stifles

This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by NinaJD NinaJD 2 years, 8 months ago.

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  • horseygirl Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    I have a horse that has a very nice dressage type trot, backs fine, looks fine and strong at the walk and trot but when asked to canter will switch leads, bunny hop and look like she is going to collapse if asked for the canter with a rider (head in the air). Lunging with side reins she looks much more controlled at the canter. She was diagnosed with weak stifles (somewhat straight hind legs and cow hocked). Any experiences like that (she just turned 5) and possible future outcome?

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    There isn’t a whole lot that you can do to correct conformation, but there are exercises that will help to strengthen the muscles. If she can do it correctly on a longe line, then part of the problem is the rider. Teach her how to carry herself correctly without a rider, and then work on balance exercises with one. It may not fix everything, but will certainly help.

    Saying that part of the problem is the rider does not necessarily mean you are doing something incorrectly. However, adding a person who must also balance his/her weight and position does affect the horse’s ability to balance.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Joe-Joe Joe-Joe. Reason: needed more words

    It is never the horse's fault

    horseygirl Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    It did seem it was a lot in the balance because regular lunging she did the lead switching and bunny hopping but with the side reins, it seemed to help balance her so I am hoping as she matures more and with some strengthening exercises she will work through all the ugliness. Thanks for the comments! I think there is hope for a good riding future properly brought around. She is such a sweetie to work with.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    It may help if you also do a lot of work having her flex and bend in both directions, beginning in the stall, and then start having her do bending exercises in long lines. Teaching her to carry herself correctly should also help strengthen her hindquarters and keep her in a nice frame. Regardless of any stifle issues, she cannot move well if she is not balanced in herself, never mind balance with a rider. She is still very young – my boy was 21 when I started teaching him this stuff, and he learned quickly. This teaching is not a long, involved daily ritual – you can make some of it a game for her (Joe Joe learned to bend his neck because he wanted to reach his peppermints). Both you and your horse should always enjoy yourselves, so you both look forward to whatever you plan to do, and stop before she gets bored and when she is doing it right. But, always ask her to carry herself no matter what you are doing, and do not be carrying her.

    Just think how you would feel if you had a twisted ankle or something, and had to run with a 40 pound backpack – could you balance that way? Take her in baby steps, and it will become natural to her. Do not push her to canter until she is completely secure at the walk and trot without side reins while you longe her and also with you on her. You could also find someone to longe her with you on her, without reins or stirrups, so your balance is also good for her movements.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    To second Joe-Joe’s excellent advice – I would add hacking out – trail ride and only walk. (The old saying is true: Don’t try to run before you can walk.) Build strength over time – walking – vary terrain not speed. Hill work. Hill work at the trot as her balance improves and only in short intervals. Build her up in smaller less stressful increments. Think of weight lifters who build strength by doing repetitions instead of heavy lifting. Avoid tight circles as that throws her off – until she has better musculature, balance, and muscle memory. When you force her to falter you risk injury.

    You could also try a variation of smartpaks smartflex or a supplement to enhance muscle development. Joe-Joe – which supplement did you give your guy to build up his muscles?

    All horses have some conformational challenge – some more than others – there aren’t perfect horses anymore than there are perfect people. It’s how we deal with our disadvantages that build our greatest strengths. I have faith that you’ll bring this mare along just fine if you give her time to develop her strength and don’t push her too far too fast. Good luck.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Mapale – I have him on Smartpak Muscle Mass, which I recommend highly. I did not suggest it for this case, because the horse is much younger, and should be able to improve her muscles with correct work. However, I did get excellent results for my old boy. Not everyone has hills – we are as flat as a pancake here, so hill work never occurs to me! It is an excellent suggestion. Anything to encourage the horse to use her hindquarters rather than the forehand should help.

    It is never the horse's fault

    horseygirl Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    I do so appreciate all the input. What was rather discouraging originally is now just the thought of looking forward to working with her in the slower paces and totally enjoying what we are doing at the same time! Thanks!

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Keep in mind that, unless you really, really want to show a lot, there is no law that says you ever have to canter. Have fun, and take your time. Patience is always key, and nothing good is accomplished by hurrying, unless you are trying to catch a train.

    It is never the horse's fault

    NinaJD NinaJD
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 139

    my old guy has an old stifle injury, which has caused his stifle to be weak.
    the vet recommends not doing small, tight circles, he tends to not be able to hold a “dressage, collected” head set anymore(he used to be level 2), and not a lot of trotting for him either. He also said to do hill work, trail riding is great for that since the terrain is different everywhere and even having him step over poles.
    not sure what all would work for your horse, but that’s what i was told to do with mine.
    Granted, if he had been rehabbed better after the injury, he’d be able to do a lot more.
    but just some ideas.

    "Take the time it takes, so that it takes less time."
    "Expect a lot, accept a little, reward often."
    Pat Parelli

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