Locking Stifle Surgery

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Keri

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My gelding just got his locking stifle taken care of by surgery. My question is for those who've had it done. How long is it until they are back to normal??? My vet said just walk him for a couple weeks and after that, he should be fine. But I'm guessing full recovery is longer???
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I'm not really going to do any training until next spring with him so that he is for sure fully healed (cart pulling and such), but I guess I was just wondering.
 

hobbyhorse23

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Keri, congrats!! You'll be so glad you did it.
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Kody was supposed to be on stall rest for two weeks (my choice- the vet who did it said to turn him out like normal the next day, my own vet said to keep him stalled for 90 days
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) but I made the mistake of letting him out the next day "for just a moment" while I fiddled with a gate and the result is that Big Blue Ball video on YouTube. Little brat was galloping around and mauling a ball!
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I did keep him in the stall with daily handwalking the first week and a half but after that I gave in and let him out as unlike the splitting surgery Kody was clearly healing quickly and not in a lot of pain. I kept a little diary of his recovery and it notes that by week 3 he was standing squarely on both hind legs again (he'd been doing this weird contracted stance on his toes after the surgery which I think was related to his atrophied muscles) and by week 5 he was driving straight lines and could treadmill without soreness but couldn't track up on any kind of circle. I turned him out with a colt in week 6 and the manic racing in large circles was clearly too much for him, he was sore in minutes. By week 7 he was no longer using both legs together to bunny-hop into a canter and was trotting out freely. By week 8 Kody was back to real work doing lessons and a short schooling trip to Happ's although I still felt that he could easily overstrain himself and he did tire out after 40 minutes or so when he'd usually go for at least an hour in that condition. In week 13 he went back to doing jumper and liberty and by week 14 he finished and won a major CDE but that was a real stretch for him. By week 16 however he was stongly back in the game and finished another CDE in fine style, not even tired.

Kody's example is probably a worst-case scenario as despite years of correct driving he was severely undermuscled in the hindquarters from this condition and had to rebuild his movement from scratch. He was bilaterally affected and locked with each and every attempt to walk unless he was in harness so I suspect part of his recovery time was the soreness of using new muscles and learning to move in completely new ways; I doubt for instance that any other horse would have shown the tippy-toes thing he did the first few weeks. On the other hand while Kody turns out to have had a lot of weakness back there he WAS fully conditioned for long-distance driving and it still took him that long to heal up so I don't think horses recover from this quite as soon as some people would have you think (i.e. back to full driving in a week like nothing happened). Heck, what's the rush? You're doing this so the horse will be sound in the long term and it seems to me that it's foolish to jeopardize that in the first few weeks. We're told not to longe horses with locking stifles because circling puts too much strain on the inside leg and I think that's still true as the horse heals. With large horses there is a slight danger that you could fracture the patella through too much strain until the scar tissue has built up and stabilizes it and that's why my surgeon recommended keeping the horse confined for so long.

Just take it easy and look to your horse for clues on what he's ready for. I think for arena driving he'll likely to be fit to return to regular work by week 5 or 6 and could probably be ground-driven several weeks sooner but that's only a guess based on my own experience and allowing that your horse probably has fewer issues than mine did. Many people resume normal activity much sooner and if your horse seems fine then there's probably nothing wrong with that. The important thing is to take your cue from him and not from some external timetable. If he's not healed, he's not! This is a great time to go for long straight walks/ground-drives/drives in the country and make a return to tight turns and figures the last thing you resume.

I hope this works out for you as well as it did for us! I've only had the one horse done and am a well-known conservative so take my advice for what it's worth. The worst that is likely to happen is that your horse heals much faster than I'm indicating!
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Leia
 
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Keri

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My vet said to keep it easy on him for a couple weeks. So I walked him this morning for a while. He had a rough time on pavement and rocks. Wasn't sure if it was to level and he couldn't get a grip with his back legs. But he was fine on the ditch canal road. His spirits seemed up and he was perky. I'm weary to let him out with the other horses until after 2 weeks. Who knows what the other monsters could do to him!
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But I have him stalled with a 4 month old weanling and they seem to be happy being buddies.
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Thanks Leia for the advice and from you experience, I'll let him be for about a month and a half before I start anything drastic.
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Tizzy's mom

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Hi

I would like to ask those who have had this surgery done, was the tendon (sorry if that's the wrong term) completely cut threw or did your vet just make "slices" into the tendon? I have heard of it being done both ways. Could you also tell me an approx price for this surgery and what state you are from?

I have a Mini that I am debating on for this surgery!

Thanks so much!
 

Keri

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I just got mine done and it cost $150 to do both legs. He completely cut the tendon. Said it "popped" when he cut it. So it was pretty tight. But I called quite a few vets in Utah and southern Idaho. Not many vets would perform this surgery and a lot wouldn't even work on minis. And I got quotes from $400-$1000 (some wanted to do blistering first and I didn't want to).
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So your best bet is to call around and see. You may have to travel, but its way worth it. The horse can leave after the sedation wears off. And the whole procedure was less than an hour. I didn't watch. Blood and cutting makes me woozy!
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hobbyhorse23

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Don't bother with the splitting, it is a waste of time. I tried that in October for $800 plus $500 worth of x-rays and drugs and it made the horse worse than before. The recovery was long and painful, the horse miserable, the improvement temporary only as long as the horse was being worked for an hour a day, every single day, and in the end- I got nothin'.
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Friends who had their horses done at the same time had better results but in the end went back and had the other surgery done the same as I did.

For the desmotomy (complete severing of the medial patellar ligament) vets in my area wanted between $350-$1,000 but forum friends told me it could be done for $150 so I kept looking and finally found a vet in a more rural area that would do both legs for $269. It solved the problem instantly, the horse is much happier now and we haven't looked back.

Leia
 

divigo

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@keri

If I have to start a new topic let me know, but I have a question on the subject on locking stifles operations.

What if your horse has been operated on: they made holes in his both hind tendons, and after 5 months he has the problem again?

Three months after his surgery he was put on the plane to Europe and I got him home; so he did have stress I think.

Does he need to be operated on again or do you think it is not good for the horse and a waste of time and money?

Thanks,

Trisha
 

Keri

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If you're horse had the complete destonomy done, then there isn't anything you can do. But as Leia said above, if you're horse just had the splitting, then it may be necessary to do it again. From what I hear, most horses need a few months to fully heal properly before major work is done. My little guy is bult different. His surgery should fix his locking stifle, but it won't fix the way he walks. He looks like he's been trained with rubberbands (although he never has), its just his muscles.

So is your horse locking again and did he just have a splitting surgery??? If he just had the splitting surgery, I would go back and get him completely cut. A horse shouldn't lock up after a complete tendon cut.
 

hobbyhorse23

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divigo said:
What if your horse has been operated on: they made holes in his both hind tendons, and after 5 months he has the problem again?Three months after his surgery he was put on the plane to Europe and I got him home; so he did have stress I think.

Does he need to be operated on again or do you think it is not good for the horse and a waste of time and money?

Thanks,

Trisha
Trisha, it's unlikely that stress caused the reoccurence but the confinement of quarantine and air travel certainly could have. Horses with this condition need to be exercised constantly to keep that ligament nice and short and that's especially true after the splitting surgery as its success depends on causing sufficient scarring. If the horse loses muscle tone, if he's keep confined for a length of time, if his body simply heals too well so there isn't enough scar tissue thickening the affected area, then he will start locking again. Make sure he's turned out 24/7 and exercise him up and down hills and over raised cavaletti every single day for awhile and see if he improves. If not, you may very well want to consider the desmotomy. That's a very personal decision and depends on how badly the individual is affected and what the owner is comfortable with but it certainly is an option.

Keri said:
If you're horse had the complete destonomy done, then there isn't anything you can do. ... A horse shouldn't lock up after a complete tendon cut.
Actually I heard from the vet who did mine and one or two people who shared their own experiences privately that sometimes the ligament can "grow back" and the problem reoccur. I suspect/think/wonder/speculate that perhaps it's the scar tissue and not the ligament itself causing the reoccurance somehow but I don't know enough about the way the body heals from this to say for sure. In any case, they said if that happened you could cut the offending tissue again and relieve the problem. My impression is that this is so rare as to be beyond routine consideration but the vet had to mention it to cover himself, liability-wise.

Leia
 

hobbyhorse23

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Well, I'm full of something! *LOL* That's the consequence of far too much compulsive researching.

Leia
 

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