It amazes me how every horse I work with teaches me something new. I really believe that every student and horse comes into my life for a reason and I try to be open and aware to new things I can learn. Valentine is teaching me a lot about a physical problem he has called "locking stifle". Anne Margaret told me about this issue but he hadn't shown me any signs this past week while working him. Yesterday I had him on the cross-ties and went to pick up his left hind. He wasn't able to lift it up, he held it straight and stiff until it unlocked and he snapped his leg up. I have seen a very old schoolhorse have this issue but his didn't completely lock up, it was just "sticky". I did a lot of walking on the lunge line and did some ground driving to practice steering at the walk. We trotted slow and steady and he seemed to get better the longer he worked. I didn't canter him today, just kept him chilled out and relaxed. His stifle only locked up when he stood still and was a little sticky walking forward. I talked to my friend Kristin, an equine vet that used to live in Maine. She said it is very common in the Friesian breed and it is a weakness in the ligaments surrounding the patella. The horse's stifle is similar to a human's knee cap and it is supposed to "lock" when the horse sleeps while he is standing. This mechanism is not working smoothly so as the horse stands still his patella "locks" when it isn't supposed to. Recommended for locking stifle:
- Steady exercise including gymnastic exercises such as working up and down hills and using trotting poles & cavelletti.
- As much turnout as possible to help the horse stretch and strengthen the hind.
- Taking the horse swimming.
- Surgery in severe cases to correct the ligaments.
Here is a good article that I found online that describes this condition and also how to deal with it. http://www.reinholdshorsewellness.com/lockingstifle.html
I am going to incorporate trotting poles into Valentine's routine fairly soon and eventually when he is more consistent there is a little hill behind the barn that I can work him on as well as a pond to try and take him swimming. That would be a lot of fun if he wants to swim!