Exercises for horses with sticky stifles

My horse, the same one with all the ditch issues, who by the way is getting significantly better with some of the feedback I got, has always had a really weak back end. He’s improved DRASTICALLY since the first time I saw him, which was a little over 4 years ago, however the one point on his body that has trouble getting stronger are the muscles near his stifles. My trainer has a horse, who is now retired, with some really bad stifle problems. He had major surgery due to terrible OCD, and I’ve been getting some advice from her to help my horse not get to that point.

Does anyone else have a horse with really sticky/clicky stifles? What have you done to help strengthen the muscles around the stifle? What exercises would be simple to do? I go up this pretty steep hill right by my barn every once in a while, I back him up this small hill leading into the outdoor arena nearly everyday, and I do a lot of work with getting him to really use his hind end more. I’m not saying any of those methods are failing me, but I would rather have more exercises to use with him than just a few.

Lunge and/or ride over cavalletti arranged on a circle like spokes in a wheel. You can vary heights and distances, shorten and lengthen by changing the diameter of the circle, etc. This works those joints and muscles pretty hard, so be careful not do too much too soon. E.g. I had my mare do these exercises on the lunge for 2 months before riding them.

Backing up a hill is going to isolate the hamstrings, not the quadriceps. I’d be walking the horse up the hill, in a marching frame and USING himself EVERY day, and making sure elevated cavalletti were part of the routine several days a week as well.

What DW said. It can also be worthwhile to do a course of Estrone

Is Estrone legal to use during the season? It was recommended for me to try but when I researched it I found conflicting answers so I thought it safest to wait until early next spring when we are legging up for the season, but I definitely think my horse could use a little extra help building some muscle to support his stifles now if it is allowed.

Estrone doesn’t build muscle, though. Its action is more in changing the laxity of the ligaments IIRC.

What’s Estrone? I have a dressage horse (15yo) that has had sticky stifles his whole life. He’s on Adequan which makes quite a noticeable difference.

First ask your vet…what is sticking? Is it the patella? In order to prevent more serious injury you will need to get specific information on what the issue is, and then build a rehabilitation program around that. Your vet should be able to give you specific ideas or recommend some reading and research that you can do. If your vet can’t give you any real ideas for rehab, get another vet!

I would be concerned that a mature horse in work has stifle issues. Might he have muscle metabolism issues that prevent him from responding to exercises…I had this kid of issue with my EPSM gelding. Diet as well as exercises might help. PatO

Ack! I’ve always been told to NEVER lunge a horse with bad stifles, by multiple trainers from multiple disciplines.

One exercise that’s rather hard to do but worked wonders for strengthening my then 24-year-old Novice eventer’s hind end was to go down a set of half-stride trot poles in shoulder-in or shoulder-fore both ways. (Obviously only if you’ve got shoulder-in at the trot confirmed) He HATED it and couldn’t even really get it or hold it at first (He’d try and manage to keep the bend but lose the angle) but after working it once or twice a week for about a month and I saw lots of improvement.

Another thing for the hind end is to do at least one turn on the forehand off of each leg, as the cross-over movement involved is the only movement that stretches both the back and front ligaments of the hind legs (or so I was told)

And backing about ten steps a day, and then backing uphill, is also supposed to be really good for strengthening stifles.