Sticky Stifles

I knew before Sugar was given to us that she had stifle issues. I even researched equine stifles before I went to go look at her to make sure it was something I could deal with. Research in hand, I took on the challenge. I still only know enough to be dangerous, but think I’m ready to share my limited knowledge with others.

Stifles are equivalent to human’s knees. But I know what your thinking and they’re not where you think they should be. A horse only has stifles in their hindquarters, so they’re really where I would think their hips are located.

Stifle area picture from

When Sugar’s stifles are sticking , she appears to be lazier than normal and doesn’t pick up her feet all the way at any gait. She kinda drags the toe on right back leg (the one with the sticky stifle). Most of the time it’s not that noticeable, but gives her an unusual, strung-out trot. Part of the problem could be that she’s compensated for the stifle and walks with her back hollowed out, stretched out finding a comfortable spot, almost like a slinky, and doesn’t carry her back legs under her body.

According to the research, stifles will never be ‘fixed’, but with consistent daily exercise can be strengthened and managed. I’ll be honest, between the constant gnat annoyance and now with it getting dark at 5:30, Sugar’s stifle is not getting the daily time and attention it deserves.

It was interesting (and in hindsight makes sense) when the first cold, damp day of winter she had a pronounced limp when trotting under saddle. I know that people with arthritis complain more in cold, damp weather, so it stands to reason that Sugar’s stifle would act up more then too. We ended up walking for about 45 minutes, just to work it out. I gave her a dose of Bute at meal time. After dinner she was cantering all around the property. Not a limp is sight. Bute is the most amazing stuff.

But knowing the risks of long term Bute, specifically to her stomach and intestinal tract, I’ve started Sugar on Smart Flex, a joint supplement from SmartPak (I love that company – best customer service around!)

We’ve just started on Smart Flex a few days ago – but I’ll post a follow up in a few weeks.

About Heather Hamel

Growing up with horses is a little girls dream come true. Heather’s dream in life was to be a horse trainer - how dreams change - sort of! She moved to the wonderfully historic town of St. Augustine, Florida and was a historic tour guide and a ghost story teller while putting herself through college to become a special education teacher. After graduating, she felt the pull of horses in her life again. That's when she met Kobi! She learned quickly that when you own horses you become a part time vet, part time nutritionist, and full time equestrian. She wouldn't change a thing! In addition to being completely obsessed with her herd, she still teaches and tutors students with learning disabilities, and more specifically, dyslexia.
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