Michigan 3 year old Spotted Saddle Horse ridden in full cheek snaffle and ohto flex saddle in  round pen and trails on 500 acres by intermediate  rider.

This 3 year old filly had 60 days of professional training put on her last fall in preparation for driving, i.e. ground manners and ground driving, no riding. (she never liked pulling a cart) I started riding her this April in the roundpen working on left, right, backing a
few times a week in addition to hand walking (helped get me and my dogs into great shape). 

She is not very tall, ca 14.3 hands, but built quite stout. In June we started going on the trails, i.e. riding around the house and barn, and for the last 6 weeks I ride her 1/2 hour 4-5 times a week on the trails.

I have noticed that she is a strong pacer and have taken all of your training advice on that and it is working great. She performed her first running walk just a few days ago...only a few strides, but we are taking it very slow.

My question is more of a medical/conformation one: I noticed that her kneecaps in both stifles pop back and forth. When I first started to ride her, she used to dip in the back end. Since we've been riding up hills and working on getting her body conditioned not to pace it has not been that noticeable. I can hear her kneecaps pop when I groom her or mess with her out in  the pasture. Is this a conformational fault that will cause us problems in the long
run or is this a growing phase? Anything I can do about this? Is it common in ST? Any info you can toss my way would be appreciated. My vet said to ride her and get her  conditioned and muscled up...we are working on that, and I think she is starting to get in shape (she is not as pace anymore) but I also don't want to push her too much. She is just
a baby.

Thank you for your help.

From Panelist Liz

Hi JB,

It does worry me that you can hear the popping sound. It sounds like they still do not have the muscle to support and keep them in place yet. I would take it slow and not push her. Sounds like she needs some more growing time yet. Light conditioning will be ok but no hard work and see how they are next year.


From Panelist Lee

She *is* just a baby.  The loose stifle situation can be a result of immaturity, a growth spurt, a current (but not necessarily final) conformation ratio, and, as your vet said, lack of muscling.  She may grow out of it, some of them do.  For now, what you can do is some specific exercises to build up her stifles -- esp climbing hills, and work over cavallettis (poles on the ground for a start, then raising them to about a foot high, either under saddle or better, on a long line).  

Try working at the hard trot, as this is the best exercise for those joints.  You are wise
not not want to ride her so much that she gets "muscled up" from that, but gentle consistent exercise over the cavallettis  on the line is a good idea. Try to do it every day, over about 3 poles in a row, (five feet apart is a good place to start) both directions for at least 10 minute each direction -- gradually increasing the time as she gets more fit.

This is not unusual in horses with a lot of Tennessee Walker blood in them, and as a SSH she may have a good deal of that.

You may hear recommendations of surgery or internal "blisters" -- try the exercise route first before you  get that drastic with a treatment.

Good luck,

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Erica

Weak stifles are somewhat common in Tennessee Walking Horses, of which your horse may be if registered Spotted Saddle. I would most definitely have a knowledgeable Equine vet out to check her out right away. Because of her age, I would not work her under saddle much if at all until she is older. I personally do not start any of my horses until they are a minimum of 4yrs old, and preferably 5-6. Your filly is still just a baby, and if she was
worked heavily before you got her that could have been part of this problem now. In either case, I say have a good vet out to look at her - and be sure the vet listens to your observations/comments! Good luck!

Erica Frei

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