If you're not familiar with UFP, here's an explanation from SmartPak that describes it very well:
The patella is the small, bony plate (the kneecap) that protects the knee joint in people, where the femur and tibia meet. In horses, this joint is known as the stifle. A unique hooking of the patellar ligaments over a notch on the femur allows the horse to lock its hind legs in the standing position. Unfortunately, if one of these ligaments remains in the hooked position, the horse is unable to bend its hind legs. This condition is known as Upward Fixation of the Patella and can range from a slight delay in a leg's forward motion to completely locking that freezes a leg for long periods of time.
From what I read, this condition can have quite a few causes:
- Conformation-excessively straight hind legs
- Lack of fitness
- Negative plantar angles
- Excessive ligament length
You know, people ask me all the time if I've ever thought about breeding Lilly... here's just one more reason why I might laugh out loud when they ask! She's built pretty downhill, which seems to be a factor with UFP, and she's also sporting hind legs that are slightly straight. I've definitely seen worse, but it's there.
|Legs a little too straight...|
She's been on 24/7 turnout since the middle of August when her shoes came off, but she hadn't been in consistent work until the middle of October when we started an exercise plan. With her thin soles and sore feet, I'm not sure she's getting much exercise on her own, though. Part of our exercise plan incorporates backing over poles, backing up small inclines, and leg lifts, all which are supposed to help strengthen the stifle. The Equine Fitness book I have includes some great exercises for this specific purpose, and we're doing them every time we ride.
Negative Plantar Angles
I'll have to inspect her hind hooves more closely, but nothing has changed on her hind hooves. There's all kinds of things going on with the front hooves, but we barely touch the hind hooves when my trimmer comes out.
Excessive Ligament Length
I'm still trying to find out more information about this one, but I'm assuming it means just what it says... and it makes me think back to Lilly's stall door accident. Is it possible that her injury stretched the ligament, making it more difficult to release? I mentioned a while back that I noticed Lilly was resting her hind legs more than she used to. I attributed it to removal of her shoes, thinking she was just more comfortable, but maybe it has something to do with this instead.
The Atlanta Equine Clinic (thanks, Terry!) has a fantastic article on UFP and you can find that article here. After reading it several times, a few of the UFP clinical signs caught my eye:
- The horse will frequently drag the toe of the affected limb(s) during exercise - Every time my trimmer comes out, she makes the comment, "She really drags her toes, doesn't she?"
- The horse will resist the canter. Resistance may be most noticeable during the transition between the trot and canter, when the horse is forced to extend the pelvic limb for a prolonged period - How many posts have I done on this? I've lost track!
- The canter is very rough or "bouncy". This occurs as a result of consistent delay in pelvic limb flexion from the extended position - I was just commenting in the last post how her clockwise canter feels very rough. Almost like she's cross-cantering.
- As with many cases of pelvic limb lameness, secondary abnormalities such as thoracolumbar ebaxial (back) and proximal thoracic suspensory ligament soreness are also present - Back soreness? Ligament soreness? Those are two main themes with this blog.
Assuming UFP is what she has, I'm really curious as to why it has suddenly become so much worse. I've been seeing this in her for years but it was such a rare occurrence I didn't investigate too thoroughly other than having the vet/chiropractor out. Lately, it's been happening once every 2 weeks-ish and at the show on Saturday it was happening over and over again. Perhaps she was a bit fatigued, thus making it worse, but she really wasn't ridden very hard at all. Each class lasted about 5 minutes and only one of them involved cantering. I was really bothered by how often it was occurring.
If it's simply a strength issue, and exercise is the usual treatment, why does it seem like the more I strengthen, the worse she gets? Looks like another call to the vet is in order.
And you know, on top of this issue, we're back to the diarrhea again... she was covered in it when I went to visit her today. Way more information than you want to know can be found in this post, if you're curious about the history.