Stifle Surgery and lower level eventing

Hi guys!

I know that there is lots of info on Horse Care about stifle issues – in fact, I read a lot of old threads on Tuesday and scared myself half to death before I went down to the vet school yesterday! But, I would like to get the opinion of this group specifically.

The Princess has always been weak behind, and her canter has taken a long time to come under saddle. Since we were going to UF yesterday for an eval of a fat front leg, and her melanoma, I asked my vet there to do a from the ground up lameness evaluation on her.

We ended up finding slight front foot lameness and both hinds – feet blocked to the heels and hind end to the stifles, so we shot films.

Front feet soreness seems to be related to the pads she was shod with last time – they were putting pressure on her heels. Feet radiographs look great.

Stifles, not so much. She’s got cysts in each one. The good? They are small-ish, she’s got limited changes in the bone. The bad? It is clearly getting worse and they don’t think it can be managed with injections, if she is going to stay a riding horse.

My options are to retire her completely, retire her as a broodmare where we manage the discomfort with injections, or do surgery.

The bilateral surgery is currently scheduled for week after next, but I would like to get some opinions, war stories, etc.

I bought her as a yearling, and have brought her along super slowly (or maybe just lazily :wink: ) – she’s 8 and is only now working hard enough that this is showing up.

My goals with her are to do maybe as much as BN, schooling Novice some day. I’m old, fat, out of shape and while I used to want to someday reach Prelim – at this point, I’d be happy as a lark tooling around BN.

If she has the surgery, she’ll be rested for 12 weeks, back under saddle in month four, and if all goes well, ready to be in full work, including starting over low fences in month five.

Other factors – I just had her brand new dressage saddle - custom built for her, of course, delivered on Friday. :mad: So, I’m sure I could re-sell it if the decision was made to give up and retire her, but seriously? I’ve never even ridden in it!
I’ve gotten several opinions from well respected vets in the last 24 hours, with the rads I was able to snap pics of yesterday, and may have one additional surgeon look at them once I have the actual radiographs on CD. This would be the 4th arthroscopic surgery this surgeon would do for me and I trust her completely, both in her judgment and in her skills. But, with my job, I have access to a number of very talented vets and have the opportunity to ask questions, so I did that yesterday and may do it again.

The percentage that I’ve been given is that if we do the surgery, I am looking at 80% chance she’ll return to work and be able to go on to lower level eventing. The figure isn’t higher, as I understand it, because those studies don’t take into account the size of the cyst, and how much damage is present – if the figures were adjusted for those variables, I was told that her chances would be much higher of having a longer career.

So, since I will keep her with me regardless, and at this juncture won’t be able to replace her, nor do I want to, I’ve scheduled the surgery. They have accepted her into the melanoma vaccine study, so they will do the intake on that at the same time.

But, I’m still going through my mind and weighing everything and making choices and I’d love input from anyone that has had this done. I know there are several people here have done it, as I asked the question on FB too, but I love more data and information!

Thanks so much!

Libby & Razzy, The Princess

I don’t have any experience with this, but I’m very sorry you are facing this and I wish you both the best of luck!

The only stifle damage problem I’ve ever “had” was my mum’s old jumper mare had tears in I guess the cartilage “knee cap” in both stifles. I was young, so I don’t remember the details. She was 17 at that point though, so she was just retired and is happy in a field in her 20s now, with truthfully the lameness issues she faces being from a different hind end injury all together.

I don’t know anything about the surgery, but if it is feasible for you and if it doesn’t end up successful, that is still okay, I don’t see why you shouldn’t do it. To me, 80% chance of a recovery (with the potential that it is actually a higher chance than that even) really sounds quite good! The prognosis for some soft tissue injuries is much lower than that and I would view those chances quite positively.

Hopefully someone else can give you more experienced and informed advice though.

Best of luck!

I know a horse who had bilateral stifle surgery late (7ish) and went on to compete at the 2* level :slight_smile:

Sent you a PM

I’m so sorry you are faced with this decision. I don’t have any experience with this, but hugs and jingles headed your way! To me, 80% sounds like a pretty decent rate of recovery, especially given how small you say they are right now. I’d personally be tempted to go for the surgery.

No matter what you decide though, love and support to you!

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