Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Patella Fixation Stuff

Today was hoof trim day, but I ran out of time and didn't get to edit my photos. So that post will have to wait. For now, I shall talk about stifles, UFP, and effusion...

My vet's horse is boarded at the same barn as Lilly. Convenient, right? I try not to bug her for "free" advice, but I couldn't help myself today. She was checking in on her horse because he coliced yesterday and I thought it would be the perfect time to ask her about UFP. As you may recall, I have been pondering whether UFP is something Lilly might have. I posted about it here, and have been watching for signs and symptoms ever since.

What's UFP? If one of the patellar ligaments used to allow the horse to lock its hind legs remains in the hooked position, the horse is unable to bend its leg. This condition can range from a slight delay in a leg's forward motion (what Lilly has) to completely locking which freezes a leg for long periods of time. My vet told me a horror story about a horse she worked on who was locked for FOUR DAYS and they ended up cutting the horse's ligament. Yikes...

I gave her the rundown of Lilly's symptoms and history and I was basically picking her brain about whether we would be able to diagnose the UFP with an x-ray or ultrasound. She thinks an x-ray would be a good place to start because that would show us if she has arthritis. She offered to palpate her stifle and noted that there's quite a bit of effusion (fluid) on the left side, which is the side with the issue. She was glad to see that Lilly is very symmetrical, because a lot of horses with UFP have disproportionate muscles.

We're planning to do an x-ray in the near future (maybe Monday) and then depending on what we find, we'll go from there. The reason I want to do the x-rays sooner rather than later is because she mentioned that circles are really bad for UFP horses... since circles are our main focus going forward, I want to make sure I don't make something worse. With an x-ray at least I'll know what I'm up against.

If she does have UFP, it is thankfully a mild case and there are quite a few options available. A strict fitness routine is one option, which would work toward strengthening the quadriceps muscles and help to put more tension on the ligaments. That would involve hills, hills, hills, and poles, poles, poles, but circles are a giant no-no. We could look at some different trimming methods too and see how she's wearing her hind hooves. Trimming the inside hoof wall more than the outside has been helpful for some horses. Injecting the stifle is another option, as well as blistering (which I am not going to do), and finally surgery, which is also not on the table. Accupuncture isn't an accepted treatment method, but it's being done with great results.

Interestingly, heavier horses have fewer issues with UFP because the fat pad behind the patella enlarges, thus reducing the likelihood of the ligament catching on the bone. And here I've got her on a diet...

Oh, and hard footing is also helpful, which is completely opposite of the hoof care plan I have her on now...


  1. I'm just going to cross my fingers that it's not UFP and you can circle to your hearts content. And keep a skinny Lilly. Hope the xrays are all good...

  2. Hi there! My horse has UFP. It started in her RH then leveled out to both hinds, and is now getting progressively better due to lots of trail riding on hills (and also now living on a pasture which has a fairly steep hill separating her hay and water). I am amazed at the results of the exercise program alone.

    The UFP didn't show up until her training got to a more advanced level, so we've backed off on lateral and pivoting work for a while (and cantering).

    We had a radiograph done back when the symptoms started, but the problem with radiographs is that they don't show soft tissue damage.

    Sally showed me how to see the UFP (even if it's minor). It's a little tweak that causes the hock on the affected side(s) to "wobble" slightly. It is best seen with the horse trotting away from you on a bend - with you standing on the outside of the bend.

    UFP would certainly explain Lilly's reluctance to do a tight circle in one direction as opposed to the other, and the canter on the affected side for me felt VERY jarring (due to "bunny hopping", when both hind legs move together to try to compensate). She would also really drop her shoulder when cantering on the initially effected side. UFP can cause short-stridedness in the hind end, especially at a walk (and the feeling that the front and hind end aren't "connected" when you are riding - or engaged). That was what I felt when the symptoms initially started. She would also try to shift me over to her left hip when we trotted, but that is improving.

    So as I said, we've done lots of trotting in straight lines (not much cantering at all - sigh - except when she's snuck it in for a few strides) and lots of trotting up and down hills. Hope this helps!

  3. Sand, thank you! Me too!

    Rebecca, that's the issue you're having with Nellie, right? I was wondering about Lilly's choppy canter too, but she's more choppy going clockwise, except when we're cantering circles. She's always dropping her shoulder too.

    I've been feeling it a lot more since Lilly has been back in steady work and it happened a lot at the last horse show.

    Lots of straight lines is what my vet was saying today too... the problem is, we don't have many hills and there really isn't anywhere to go trail riding.

    Thanks for the information!!

  4. Forgot to mention: lots and lots of backing up!

  5. You're going to need to introduce her to harder footing eventually to build up her digital cushions...

    I'm interested in hearing more about how you handle this, it's something I know nothing about.