The Power of Ponies! Ponies are a few things - adorably cute, feisty, and quite often a bit devilish. While ponies may be smaller, they are still as mighty as their larger horse counterparts. Ponies are also a bit trickier to care for simply due to their size. It’s not just bending over to pick out those feet - ponies are often a challenge to care for in other areas. Tack fit is often a challenge for ponies and their riders, as you need to find saddles appropriate for the pony rider. These saddles must also fit the pony - which is often hard to do as the pony rider becomes taller and taller! When you are fitting a saddle to a pony, pay special attention to how far back the saddle sits, making sure it’s still comfortable. Croupers are common on ponies to help the back of the saddle remain properly placed. There are also some rein attachments that can be used to prevent your pony from eating while he is being ridden, thus allowing the young rider to have a more enjoyable time! Their small stature means a few things in terms of how hard ponies work. Pound for pound, ponies can carry and move with more weight than horses. That’s added stress on their legs and backs! Ponies also tend to have more skeletal problems than horses, so daily attention and care for the legs is critical. When it comes to their feet, they are typically a bit tougher than the horse hoof, but remember that they carry a larger percentage of their weight with a rider than a horse, so that’s more for the hoof to support. Ponies are also famous for becoming overweight! While this makes them adorable, the health consequences are real. Metabolic disorders, such as Cushing’s disease, are common and can contribute to laminitis. Ponies can also develop liver problems and have increased blood levels of fats. Overweight ponies also put more pressure and strain on their legs and joints. When you are caring for a pony, you will need to step up the care and management routine in a few areas. Monitor weight, use grazing muzzles, and have regular blood tests to stay ahead of metabolic disorders. Support your pony’s body with properly fitted tack, and use therapeutic measures like ice boots to pamper his legs. Regular grooming, Veterinary care, and a well balanced diet will help your pony thrive!
How to inspect your horse's legs! Your horse’s legs are a vital part of his health, and it can take only a few minutes a day to make sure everything is normal and good. If you find something during a leg inspection, it’s often in the very early stages and you can nip it in the bud. All you need is your hands, eyes, and a few minutes. Leg inspections are best done first thing in the morning during the first chores. As you toss hay, feed buckets, fill water buckets, you can do a visual exam of the legs. For horses that tend to stock up at night, remove the standing wraps (if you use them) at this point and see how the legs look. Use both hands and your eyes...and sometimes even your nose. If all looks well on the visual exam, don’t skip feeling the legs. A great time to touch and feel the legs is when you are first picking out hooves. This gives you a chance to make sure the shoes are where they are supposed to be. If your horse is barefoot, it gives you a chance to check for chips or snags along the hoof edge. This also your chance to make sure there is no discernible heat in the hoof. Heat in the hoof could be nothing, or it could be an abscess, or it could be life threatening laminitis. Finding these things early lets you intervene early and increases the chance of a positive outcome. Picking the hooves also gives you the chance to do a quick run down of the legs and tendons. In the cross ties, you can go over the legs once again more thoroughly in proper light. Inspect your horse’ss legs from the elbow and stifle down, as you can find shoe boils in the elbows that way. Use both hands on each leg and look for the following: Heat Swelling Possible windpuffs or a change in existing windpuffs Cuts and scrapes Bugs (like ticks) Warm or hot hooves (a sign of laminitis) Don't skip the hooves - look for heat, swelling, tweaked shoes, stones, etc. Areas of tenderness Dry/flaky skin Anything new Scratches or pastern dermatitis Splints For the most part, the everyday stuff like scrapes or bugs can be taken care of easily. You will need to decide if swelling, heat, or tenderness warrants a call to your Veterinarian. These are often signs of soft tissue injuries, which can be as simple as a tiny cut that gets swollen or a major tendon tear.
Does your horse need heat or ice? Determining which therapeutic aid to use for your horse, be it ice or heat, largely depends on what type of condition you are treating as well as your Veterinarian’s input. Typically speaking, ice or another cooling technique is used for acute injuries and post exercise care and support. Acute injuries occur suddenly. A good example of this is the horse that is doing his best rodeo impression during turnout and becomes one with a fence. When you take him to the barn, he has a swollen lower leg and a hitch in his giddy-up. The Ice Horse Emergency Wrap works with First Ice or Deep Heat packs! You may also want to cool your horse's legs after he exercises. This takes the heat out of your horse's soft tissues, tendons, and ligaments to help prevent long term damage, reduce post exercise soreness, and remove any pain from arthritic joints. Typically speaking, heat can sometimes benefit chronic injuries. Chronic injuries or conditions develop over time. A good example of a chronic condition is arthritis of the hocks or the horse with a sore back. Heat can often help your horse's joints and back loosen up for riding. This is especially helpful if your horse likes to be stiff and uncomfortable as your ride begins. And here’s where is gets confusing and why you need to involve your Veterinarian. Horses are masters of getting by until it really stinking hurts. If a horse has a sore left hock, he may appear and feel sound for months, until possibly his right front tendons are a bit sore from compensating and then he becomes “off”. You may think, oh, he has an acute tendon injury, or you may find the hock soreness first. It’s difficult to determine the egg vs. chicken in this scenario, therefore it’s hard to determine a chronic vs. acute situation. You and your Veterinarian together can figure it out, and with that information, proceed forward with an icing or heating plan. It’s not uncommon to treat some injuries with both cooling and heating. You may find that you initially treat an acute injury with cooling methods (usually the case), and after the initial inflammation goes away, your Veterinarian suggests a heating treatment. You may also find that your Veterinarian suggests icing immediately after exercise, and treating with heat later in the day. This may be the case for arthritis. It’s important to remember that when icing and heating, more is not always better. Using ice for more than 20 or 30 minutes can actually increase inflammation, and using a heating treatment like DMSO in the initial stages of swelling can add even more swelling to the injury. You may find that your horse needs short treatments several times a day, which are easy to do around your barn chores.
Which Ice Horse does my horse need? There are a few ways to figure this out…his job, his past history of injury, his need for veterinary “maintenance,” his quirks. You may want to ask your Veterinarian to help you decide how best to support your horse with therapeutic icing and which parts of your horse’s body need some support. What is your horse’s job? The trail horse, who puts lots of stress on the hooves with uneven ground and stones, also consider the western reining horse that slides and spins, stressing the hind legs, and the hunter or jumper that spends a lot of time jumping and landing. There’s also the barrel racer that is going to stress all four lower legs, which has different support needs of the dressage horse that uses his back and hocks for work. Consider the eventing horse that runs fast and jumps high, and enjoys cold therapy leg care after a cross country gallop. Learning about the biomechanics of your particular horse and his job can help you decide where he can benefit from therapeutic icing! What is your horse’s past medical history? Many horses, because they are horses, end up with injuries at one point or another. These can be random run of the mill injuries, or injuries sustained during work. The OTTB that bowed a tendon on the race track will need therapeutic icing on those tendons, no matter his new job. The horse with a previous stifle injury from slipping in the paddock can benefit from ice therapy on those stifles. Don’t forget to also factor the parts of your horse’s medical history that don’t include injuries. Metabolic disorders such as Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance can affect the health of the hoof, which makes icing those tootsies a great idea. Your entire horse's body weight rests on one or two legs at many points in his job! What’s his need for Veterinary “maintenance”? Many horses receive other types of therapies on specific body parts, such as necks, hocks, hips, and even coffin joints. If you are spending a lot of time on massage, intra-articlular injections, chiropractics and the like, using therapeutic icing in between treatments may help your horse partner feel his best. Don’t forget to consider his quirks! For the stall kickers out there, fetlocks and knees can often become inflamed from the banging. Does he LOVE to run full blast and slide into the fence stressing the lower legs? Does he have some unique conformation issues? All of these things factor into what parts of your horse will benefit from ice therapy.
Ice Horse Hock Wraps Your horse’s legs are a vital part of his health, and it can take only a few minutes a day to make sure everything is normal and good. If you find something during a leg inspection, it’s often in the very early stages and you can nip whatever it is in the bud. Leg inspections are best done first thing in the morning during chores. As you toss hay, fill feed and water buckets – add in a visual exam of the legs. For horses that tend to stock up at night, remove the standing wraps (if you use them) at this point and see how the legs look. If all looks well on the visual exam, don’t skip feeling the legs. A great time to touch and feel the legs is while you are picking out hooves. In the cross ties, you can go over the legs once again more thoroughly in proper light. Inspect your horse’s legs from the elbow and stifle down, as you can find shoe boils in the elbows that way. This also gives you a chance to make sure the shoes are where they are supposed to be. If your horse is barefoot, it gives you a chance to check for chips or snags along the hoof. This is also your chance to make sure there is no discernible heat in the hoof. Heat in the hoof could be nothing, or it could be an abscess or life threatening laminitis. Finding these things early lets you intervene early and increases the chance of a positive outcome. As part of your leg care routine, Easy-to-use Ice Horse® Hock Wraps provide uniform compression and coverage to reduce inflammation and heat in the front and back of the hock. The wrap is open over the cap bone, shaped, and sized to give full consistent compression and coverage. Ice Horse Wraps help reduce heat and inflammation after work or injury. How do Ice Horse Hock Wraps work? Ice packs mold to the horses legs for maximum coverage and stay cold for over two hours. Ice packs are reusable. When you are done, simply place your packs back in the freezer. Within hours they are ready to use again. Ice Horse® Hock Wraps are made with Quadrispan™ anti migration fabric. Our unique breathable fabric keeps the wraps in place on the horses leg and the ice compressed against the area being treated. Specially placed Velcro closures allow for a secure tight fit every time. Removal is easy – no yanking or jerking on the tabs to undo. Check out Ice Horse Hock Wraps and many other great products, including the Back Blanket and the Big Black Boot at www.icehorse.net. Remember these products come in pony sizes too!
The Canadian Equestrian Team (CET) is pleased to announce they have selected MacKinnon Products’ Ice Horse as their official cold therapy treatment for the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics to be held in Rio August 05 - 21. “We were thrilled to receive a call” said Julie Garella, Ice Horse CEO. “CET let us know the team had selected Ice Horse products once again as their cold therapy solution for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The results were so good for Pan American Games in 2015 that the CET decided to use an assortment of products from Big Black Boots to Back Blankets while training for, and competing at, the upcoming Olympics 2016.” Canadian dressage and eventing Team horse therapist, Dr. Usha Knabe speaks to the benefits of Ice Horse products, “Ice therapy is an age old method and we have been using it in international sport for a long time. What Ice Horse has been able to provide is a solution for easy to use, consistent and reliable ice therapy. Ice Horse products allow you to access multiple areas like the back, stifle, knee and hock. You also know that it’s not too cold and that you are providing effective treatment. With these products we have been able to provide ice therapy to our team horses and the results speak for themselves.” About Ice HorseFor over 15 years Ice Horse has been the trusted name in cold therapy for horses and riders. The products feature inserts which when frozen turn to soft fluffy snow, mold to the horse legs and stay cold for over two hours. To learn more visit www.icehorse.net About the Canadian Equestrian Team:The Canadian Equestrian Team (CET), a committee of Equine Canada, is responsible for developing, selecting and training all international teams in the eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). These eight include the three Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping, as well as driving, endurance, para-equestrian, reining and vaulting. The CET sends Canadian riders across the globe to compete individually and as a team at the Olympic Games, Pan American Games, World Equestrian Games, World Cups, and more. To learn more, visit www.equinecanada.ca.
Of the many things that can affect your horse's hooves, bruises can be tricky to diagnose and treat. With multiple possible causes, hoof bruises can create lameness and possibly advance into abscesses and laminitis for your horse. Involving your Veterinarian and using supportive treatments, such as icing, can help your horse heal from a horse bruise quickly. Hoof bruises are one of the many things that can affect your horse’s hooves. They can be the result of stepping on a rock, being trimmed incorrectly, or even stepping on some frozen ground at just the wrong spot. Many hoof ailments present in a similar fashion, and you might notice some of the following in your horse: Tender footed Walking gingerly, especially on hard surfaces Heat in the hoof Strong or bounding digital pulse What these things are a sign of – it’s not just limited to bruising! Bruises Laminitis Fractures Abscess Puncture Foreign Object - like a nail or screw Horrible infection Hot nail Because a few of these things are life threatening (nail in the hoof, laminitis, puncture wound), calling the Veterinarian is the best thing you can do. You should also know that some seemingly minor things can lead to bigger and more horrible complications, not to mention some huge Vet bills. Also know that your Farrier is awesome at his job, but his job does not include diagnosis, treatment plans, medications, or working with the soft tissue of a hoof. Bruises can show up as a hot pink, red, or purple coloration. Some bruises are not obvious. Sometimes your Vet will need to pull a shoe, trim some of the hoof, or do a bit more digging if an abscess is suspected. Bruises in your horse’s hoof are similar to a bruise on your leg - lots of broken blood vessels, swelling, pain. You can see the purple bruise along the outer edge of this hoof. Hoof bruises also run the gamut from totally mild and not lame, to horribly painful and very lame. Some bruises take a few days to heal, others take weeks. Some are caused by bad footing, some are caused by a rogue rock, some are caused by a frolic down a hard and unforgiving surface, some bruises are the result of a trim that is too short. Complications can include abscesses and even laminitis. Horses that are plagued with hoof bruises may have underlying causes, like thin soles or low grade laminitis. Treatments include stall rest, time, anti inflammatory agents, icing, hoof packings like magna paste, protective boots, or padded shoes. Icing your horse’s hooves has multiple benefits, including pain relief, a reduction in inflammation, and healing support.
What does the changing of season from summer to fall mean for my horse and the risk of laminitis? I’ll bet that every single horse owner understands that spring grass is super high in sugar, and therefore a bit risky for some horses developing laminitis. But, in the fall, there’s a totally different mechanism to understand and manage when it comes to your horse and the risk of laminitis. It involves your horse and his body naturally making more ACTH in the fall. It’s always a good idea to work directly with your horse’s Veterinarian for specifics, and how your horse’s individual ACTH level changes and needs to be managed. Managing laminitis risk is also more than just managing access to pasture and sugars, so be sure that you and your Vet are looking at the whole picture - bloodwork, exercise levels, previous incidences, lots of stuff. The Big Black Boot provided a way for your horse to receive continuous cold care for a case of laminitis. One thing to keep in mind… if you even suspect something is going on inside your horse’s hooves, act quickly by calling your Veterinarian. You may also want to start icing your horse’s hooves to reduce inflammation and give you horse some pain relief. The following comes from the Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group, Inc, (ECIR) and outlines this mechanism. Research has shown, and most veterinarians recognize, that the vast majority of laminitis cases are related to hormonal/endocrine disorders, specifically those involving insulin resistance. Avoidance requires diets very low in simple sugars (ESC) and starch, i.e., the components of the diet which cause an insulin rise (fructans do not elevate insulin).While it's true that regrowth of fall pastures and/or exposure to cold nights can raise the simple sugar and starch levels in grass, fall laminitis can, and often does, strike horses which had no trouble handling spring pastures and even many horses with no access to pasture at all.Eleanor Kellon, VMD, veterinary advisor to ECIR Group Inc, explains. “The typical case of fall laminitis is experiencing laminitis for the first time, or as a repeat of a previous fall episode. They are in their teens (or occasionally older) and owners report no change in diet or management. The cause is the seasonal rise in the hormone ACTH.” Cooler weather, thinner pastures, and trees shedding leaves all signal a fall risk of laminitis. ACTH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Its function is to stimulate the adrenals to release cortisol. Cortisol induces insulin resistance and also makes the blood vessels in the hoof more sensitive to chemicals mediating constriction.“All horses experience this seasonal rise in ACTH”, said Kellon, “but it can be much more pronounced in older horses, particularly those in the early stages of PPID (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction – Cushing's disease) which may not yet be showing any obvious outward symptoms.”The ECIR group has been following horses with hormonal disorders for over 15 years. In that time we have seen many horses whose first sign of PPID was an episode of fall laminitis. If your horse experiences this, have a talk with your veterinarian about testing for ACTH and PPID. The usual dietary measures are not enough when high levels of ACTH are involved. These horses require therapy with pergolide.For more information on the seasonal rise in ACTH, Cushing's Disease and insulin resistance in horses visit www.ecirhorse.org and our outreach group at https://ecir.groups.io/g/main.About ECIR Group IncStarted in 1999, the ECIR Group is the largest field-trial database for PPID and IR in the world and provides the latest research, diagnosis and treatment information, in addition to dietary recommendations for horses with these conditions. Even universities do not and cannot compile and follow long term as many in-depth case histories of PPID/IR horses as the ECIR Group.In 2013 the Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation, was approved as a 501(c)3 public charity. Tax deductible contributions and grants support ongoing research, education, and awareness of Equine Cushing's Disease/PPID and Insulin Resistance.
What are some risk factors for your horse developing laminitis? Horses of any type can develop laminitis - so it’s always a good idea to monitor every horse closely for any sign of laminitis. As with most medical issues, and especially with laminitis, do not wait to call the Veterinarian. Early intervention is critical! There are also some horses in the world that are more likely to develop laminitis - and the more you work with your Veterinarian the more likely you are to manage the risks. Here is what you should know about laminitis risk factors: Metabolic issues, such as IR (insulin resistance), EMS (equine metabolic syndrome) and Cushing’s disease all are risk factors for laminitis. Simple blood tests can alert you to any brewing issues, long before you see the tell tale signs of fatty deposits, cresty necks, and insane winter coats. Some Veterinarians suggest yearly tests for these conditions on all horses over the age of 13, with exceptions for younger horses on a case by case basis. Management of these conditions with a low carbohydrate diet, grazing muzzles, repeat blood work, medications, and diligent grooming can help you reduce the laminitis risk. Every horse is going to be different - it’s up to you and your Veterinarian to come up with a good treatment plan, and up to you alone to do the daily monitoring and execution of the plan! Age/gender/size. Older horses are at a higher risk of laminitis, as are geldings. Ponies are more likely to develop laminitis than horses. Rich pasture and high sugar content feeds are certainly higher in “sugars” which are known to play a part in some laminitis cases. If you have any doubts or concerns about your horse’s diet, an Equine Nutritionist can help you sort things out. . The obese horse is more likely to develop laminitis, among other things. Exercise levels may also play a part in your horse’s laminitis risk profile. It’s very easy for your Veterinarian to guide you through how to determine your horse’s body score to analyze his weight. It’s also super easy for you to tape your horse frequently to determine his weight - this will help you in tracking trends over time. Certainly the propensity for developing laminitis is carried in your horse’s genes. Hoof design and size and strength all play a role here, too. A hoof in danger will usually feel warm or hot, be sensitive, be unwilling to turn, and have a palpable or strong digital pulse. There are also a few other factors that can happen to any horse, at any time. Supporting limb laminitis occurs when a horse’s injured leg is too painful to bear weight, so his other leg bears more than it’s fair share and develops laminitis. The race horse Barbara is a famous example of this. Road founder, aka concussive laminitis, happens when the footing is hard and unforgiving and your horse experiences repeated concussions on his hooves. This is case in point of why icing your horse’s legs and hooves after exercise on any questionable footing is a good idea. The dreaded loose horse that gorges on grain. Laminitis here occurs due to the violent overload of sugars in your horse’s system that trigger dangerous amounts of endotoxins, a by product of digestion, which cause laminitis. Get those hooves in some ice! The bottom line is to know your horse inside and out. Work closely with your Veterinarian regarding weight, regular blood work, an exercise program, and appropriate pasture types and time for your horse. Remember, too, that one call to your Veterinarian if you even remotely suspect laminitis can save his life. Begin ice therapy on the hooves immediately and follow your Veterinarian's treatment plan to the letter. Don’t wait!
What are splint injuries in horses? Splints are a fairly common occurrence in horses, and for the most part they are fairly benign. It’s always critical to involve your Veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan, as some splint injuries can be critical. There is much use of the words “popped a splint” to mean many different things. So let’s clarify a bit. The splint bones are small bones that run along the cannon bones of all four horse legs, inside and outside. The splint bones are attached with the interosseous ligaments. Keep in mind that the lower leg where the splint bones live is also chock full of other tendons and ligaments that interact with each other, so a splint injury may have larger implications depending on where the injury occured. What you usually find is a hard walnut shaped lump on your horse’s leg. Your horse may or may not be lame. Chances are that you will find the walnut lump while grooming. Splint injuries range in severity and location. Splint area injuries range from damage to the interosseous ligaments, damage to the knee where the upper end of the splint bone resides in relation to the knee, or the outer coating of the splint bone has been whacked or damaged. You can also have a total fracture of the splint bone. This photo shows the two splint bones along the horse's lower leg. Because of the complex nature of splint injuries, it’s always best to consult your Veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Your Veterinarian can determine a few things. One, is the injury the splint bone itself or the interosseous ligament? Two, how lame is your horse - what's the best exercise routine? Three, what’s the treatment plan? Then, and only then, can you proceed. Splint injuries have so many contributing factors, including conformation, diet, exercise habits, soft tissue injuries, kicks, knocks, interference, farrier work, etc. You and your Veterinarian can examine all of the contributing factors to create the best plan for your horse, even if he’s super sound and you think the injury is just superficial….remember the proximity of the splint bone to joints and soft tissues. This is an improperly healed splint fracture. It’s very likely that your horse will be rested, wrapped, receive ice therapy, and be hand walked during recovery. When you first discover a splint, call your Veterinarian to get a plan together before his exam. Cold therapy can help relieve inflammation with soft tissue problems, and act as an analgesic to make your horse more comfortable during the healing process!
What’s the big deal about icing horse hooves? If you have ever seen a horse with laminitis, you understand the agony and suffering that goes on. It’s horrible. Doing everything you can to prevent such a situation will help your horse have a better life! But laminitis is not the only circumstance in which case your horse’s hooves can use some ice therapy. It's a good idea to combine lower leg ice therapy with hoof ice therapy. Many things can influence the likelihood that laminitis can develop, so ice your horse’s hooves proactively if your horse has or does any of these things: Fever. The inflammation that occurs in your horse’s body during a fever can spread rapidly into the hooves via the enzymes that are involved in the inflammation. Diarrhea. Same scenario here. Diarrhea can upset your horse’s entire system and lead to dehydration, organ failure, and laminitis. Act fast. Working on hard ground. Frozen ground, hard ground, rocky ground, a surface that is new for your horse… you get the idea. Concussion of the hoof can create pain, inflammation, and worse in the hoof. It may be a bruise, it may be laminitis, but it can be helped with proactive icing of the hoof. Injuries. It might be that your horse is cast, has been on a trailer for days, was kicked or stepped on, has a soft tissue injury in the hoof…etc. This can create a scenario for pain and damage to occur to the hoof. While it seems like a tough structure, the hoof can be injured. Injury to the opposite leg. Lameness or injury that causes your horse to be non weight bearing (three legged) shifts dangerous amounts of weight to the un-injured leg. Laminitis is common in these situations. A prime example of this is the horse that steps on a nail or screw--the infection in the hoof is beyond painful, causing non weight bearing in the other healthy hoof. This is a definite time to call the Veterinarian! Binge eating. So your horse got into the feed room, or he managed to get out of his grazing muzzle and nom down on some grass. This sends a cascade of events through his gut and into his hooves that can lead to laminitis. Ice right away and call the Veterinarian for this emergency. (PS - this goes for binge eating hay, too… a horse that doesn't normally eat timothy but suddenly eats a boat load of it can have the same cascade of events.) These Big Black Boots provide ice therapy around the entire hoof! In a nutshell, the real reason to ice your horse’s hooves is to make sure they don’t fall off. Well, not literally, anyway, but your horse’s hooves are designed to carry his enormous body on four tiny little tootsies, and then we climb on board and ask them to run fast and jump high. So you begin to see why keeping them comfortable starts at the hoof level! Always involve your Veterinarian with any questions or issues that you discover with your horse. It’s always great to ice your horse’s hooves before you need to. Work hard to prevent laminitis in your horse with daily care, lots of pampering, and preventive care. Did you know? Ice Horse products are endorsed by leading equine veterinarians. Learn more about the science behind our ice therapy products.
Your horse’s stifle joint is the joint directly above the hock joint on the hind leg. It’s the largest joint in the horse’s body. The stifle joint functions to flex and extend the hind leg, moving your horse along. The passive stay apparatus that locks your horse’s hind leg so the other one can rest is also part of the stifle joint’s function. When comparing anatomy to the human skeleton, the stifle joint is equivalent to the knee. However, the human knee is straight when we are standing, and the stifle is angled when the horse is standing. Surrounding structures of the stifle include bones, muscles, and soft tissues. Above the stifle is the femur bone, below the stifle is the tibia, and the patella knee cap sits towards the front of the stifle joint. Inside the stifle joint, there are two femorotibial joint cavities. Within each of these joint cavities, you also have a medial and lateral compartment. Also within the stifle joint, you will find menisci (cartilage discs) between the femur and the tibia. There are also two cruciate ligaments within the femorotibial joint that help the stifle remain stable. On either side of the leg, you horse has collateral ligaments. The quadriceps femoris muscle and the femoropatellar ligament keep the patella in place. The patella is also supported by three patellar ligaments below the patella. There are many conditions that can affect your horse’s stifle joint, which will, in turn, affect his movement, comfort, and health. Leaning about these conditions and knowing what to watch for can allow your horse to have a better chance and healing and feeling well. You may have heard of OCD, osteochrondrosis, in the stifle joint. This happens when the bones and cartilage in the joint develop unusually. Bone cysts and fragments can occur. The treatments vary from horse to horse, as does the long term prognosis for a sound horse. Age, overall health, and the specifics of the horse’s OCD play into a surgical or medical treatment plan. It’s entirely possible to find OCD in weanlings, as well as older horses. Take a peek at the hock, here, too. So much range of motion! You might also find a patellar luxation in the stifle joint of the horse. This occurs when the patella literally pops out of place. This is uncommon, and can be corrected surgically. For most horses, this condition doesn’t create any discomfort, but their stance is affected. The patellar luxation can happen to the side, or it can happen where the patella is lifted up, causing the leg to “lock”. Horses can also have stifle injuries involving the bone, such as a fracture, or a tear in the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles). Kicks to the stifle are often the culprit here, as are running and jumping. Long term wear and tear as well as acute injuries can damage the stifle joint and surrounding tissues. There is also the case of a horse that finds himself tangled in fence, or has a cut puncture near the stifle joint. Infection is a real threat, and can permanently damage the stifle joint. Really, any cut or wound can become infected, and when this happens over a joint, things can go sideways in a bad way quickly. As with other joints, the stifle can develop degenerative joint disease. This DJD usually has it’s start with arthritis and ligament injuries. Ice therapy reduces inflammation! So - now that we have had a primer into the stifle joint - how you do know what’s going on in there? Your daily grooming routine should include using your hands and eyes to cover every single inch of your horse! Feel for heat, swelling, tenderness, cuts, scrapes, anything unusual on the actual joint. But - you may also find your horse is sore in his back - specifically the croup and loins (loins are directly behind the saddle, keep going to the tail for the croup). Hind leg problems are often transmitted to your horse’s back. On the ground - do you notice if it’s harder for him to pick up one hind leg? What about turning around in his stall, is it easier in one direction than the other? What about how his hoofs track up when he walks next to you? Does one hind hoof overtrack the front, when the other hind hoof doesn’t overtrack at all? Stifle issues also show up as a lameness. For a rider, the canter is the gait where you will feel and see trouble. Cantering on one lead is harder, picking up the canter is difficult, shifting from trot to canter is hard. Also consider “cross firing”, the case where your horse will have the correct lead up front but the wrong lead behind. Bending is also tricky. Conformation also plays a part. If your horse is post legged, his stifles are more susceptible to problems. The patella is on the left of the joint in this photo. Ultimately - it’s up to you to read his body language during grooming and interpret his “training issues” as a sign that something is wrong. As always, work with your Veterinarian to get to the possible causes of anything weird that you find. Keeping in mind that it’s proven fact that the longer you wait, the more expensive the Vet bill is, make the call early! There are many things you can do as a horse owner to stay ahead of issues in your horse’s legs, one of them being just paying attention! Also preventative care, like ice, can go a long way to reduce microscopic inflammation that becomes an issue later on. Don’t forget about a safe training plan, daily turnout, and a balanced diet. Lameness exams (even if your horse appears to be sound!) can spot issues before your horse says “NO” and major damage has occurred. Take off! It really just boils down to being informed about your horse, and using prevention to keep him healthy, instead of waiting until he’s visibly lame.