Buying off the track thoroughbreds

Buying off the track thoroughbreds

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Buying Off Track Thoroughbreds

Here’s a quick guide to the process of buying Off Track Thoroughbreds.

Most racehorses are well-mannered and will have started being handled much more than non-TBs since foals.  So, on the whole it should be a pleasurable experience taking on an ex- racehorse.
Be realistic about your ability and experience

  • Do you have enough time, money, patience and experience to deal with the demands of a former racehorse? For instance, did you know most racehorses come off the track needing costly treatment for ulcers?
  • An ex-racehorse isn’t a novice ride and shouldn’t be seen as a cheap way for children to move onto horses.
  • If you decide to lunge in the first few days bear in mind they may go pretty fast! Yearlings do a fair bit of their sales preparation in canter to get them fit in their ‘wind’. This means that plonking a heavy GP saddle on them and expecting them to trot neatly is probably out of the question.
  • Thoroughbreds are a sensitive breed. For example, a cut that probably wouldn’t bother your stock horse may blow up on a thoroughbred, making them more expensive to own.

Understanding the former lifestyle of off-track thoroughbreds

  • They may not be used to conventional riding techniques.  A racehorse will be unfamiliar with long stirrups and a heavier saddle and is unlikely to understand seat and leg aids until they are retrained.
  • Jockeys are often given a leg up while the horse is walking. So an off-track thoroughbred is unlikely to stand still for you while you mount from a block.
  • Ex racehorses aren’t used to being exercised alone.  They’ll associate riding out in company with their former life on the gallops.
  • It’ll be used to being in a busy yard and might be overwhelmed by your individual attention.
  • Most will have been ridden in a loose ring snaffle. Whilst they should have had an annual teeth rasping, try and book your dentist in within the first month. This is because some may fall through the net if they’ve been between yards when the dentist has been round.  This won’t just help with bitting choices later on. It will also ensure your horse can fully chew and break down his feed and forage thereby aiding digestion.  This in turn will help you to see an improvement in his condition a little more quickly.

Management of Off Track Thoroughbreds

  • All-day turnout will be a new experience that should be introduced gradually.
  • Management regimes on racing yards tend to differ slightly as they are catering for larger numbers of horses where efficiency is key. Knowing about these different ways of handling your off track thoroughbred is good to know.  It will help you understand why something that seems simple to you, might upset or be difficult for him.
  • On a racing yard, horses will usually have had all four feet picked out from the near side, bringing the off hind inside the near hind to pick out. Therefore, continue this practice (as it is actually safer for you). Alternatively, be patient whilst retraining to pick out from the offside.
  • Racehorses are loved by their carers and will respond to affection and patience, especially fillies. If you buy a colt, it will have been stabled away from fillies. So, until you’ve had it gelded, for several months keep it away from the opposite sex.  This should be both within the stable yard and in the paddock until you can see his behaviour improve.
  • Racehorses usually have very good feet whilst growing up and whilst in training. It’s when they get older and heavier on their hooves, combined with feed changes from a racing diet that problems arise. So, while you gradually reduce the calorie content and quantity of the feed, consider adding a Fibregenix balancer  to support hoof growth.

Patience is the key

Most importantly, you must be willing to give your off-track thoroughbred plenty of time to adjust to its new lifestyle. Not every horse will readily adapt to new disciplines and most will always retain a racehorse mentality to some extent.

Where to look for an off the track thoroughbred

  1. Directly from its owner or trainer. You can buy one at the sales, or from a retrainer either by buying it or loaning it.
  2. Look up the horse’s record. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look for gaps in the record that might indicate time off with an injury and how many times it raced. However, don’t count out a horse with a lengthy racing career. If it managed to stay sound for a long time, the chances are that it will continue to do so.
  3. Request to see it ridden and ride it yourself. Is it the type of horse you want? Will its conformation stand up to what you would like it to do? How does it behave in the stable and when being tacked up? Ask to ride it. It may not know much about flatwork, but is it willing to do what you ask? Does it move reasonably well?
  4. Find out about the horse’s temperament and personality. Ask about injuries and why it has retired from racing.
  5. Should you decide to buy it, make sure you get it vetted as you would with any horse.
  6. Don’t expect the horse to be given away, if it is, then you have to ask yourself why. If it’s likely to have a chance at succeeding in any kind of career, it’s worth a price, like any horse.

Reviewed February 2024

Common questions, simple answers

You know, I get asked ALOT of questions…some very legit, some that are off the scale. So, to save you some valuable research time, I’ve rounded up some of the most common questions I get asked with a simple, straightforward fact-based answer.
Let’s get started…

Can I feed my horse all his feed in one meal? – it’ll come to about 2kg, 3kg, 4kg etc NO
A horse’s stomach is small (around the size of an AFL ball) Don’t exceed a total of 1.6 – 1.8kg per feed for a horse and 1.4 – 1.6kg for a pony (including additional chaff or sugar beet, if fed)
Adding more to it, even fibre, is risking overloading the stomach and feed flowing on into the intestine before it has been properly digested in the stomach. At best this is a waste of feed, at worst it can cause problems when it reaches the hindgut.

Is it worth feeding chaff? YES
Chaff slows down the rate of consumption of starchy meals and being a fibre feed, promotes chewing which encourages the production of saliva.

Is it better to soak beet pulp? YES
Beet pulp products such as Speedi-Beet can soak up to at least seven times its own weight of water. Nutritionally, it’s chock full of hindgut friendly fibres and is a great method of getting extra water into your horse.

Can I feed less hard feed than it says on the bag to save providing too much starch and sugar? YES
That and avoiding turning your horse into a landwhale or going crazy on sugar overload are the most common reasons 99% of people aren’t feeding the recommended daily serves.

But will this make him miss out on protein and other nutrients? YES
Unfortunately, bagged hard feeds contain relatively small amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients per kilo of feed. Remember, the premix containing these added nutrients is the most costly part of any fortified feed. That’s why the recommended levels are supposed to enable the horse to get his full balanced ration of essential nutrients without resorting to additional supplements.

My horse looks great on his current diet should I still supplement him? NO
If it ain’t broke – why fix it?

Will Biotin on its own improve my horse’s hooves? NO
Sorry to disappoint, but no one nutrient will improve hoof quality or growth.

So I need to feed other specific nutrients which alongside biotin will improve them? YES
Biotin is just one part of the hoof improvement puzzle. It needs to be combined with other nutrients eg zinc, copper and essential amino acids ie lysine and methionine for the best effect. Oh, and add in a large tablespoon of patience too…

Can I feed a bran mash once a week? NO
Whilst this was once common, it’s now considered “bad practice” as it means a sudden change of diet. And remember, changes should ideally be made gradually to avoid upsetting the sensitive bacterial population of the horse’s hindgut. Even a “regular” change, eg a bran mash once a week, is enough to upset the bacterial balance and means the horse’s digestive efficiency is compromised.

So, is there any point in feeding bran? NO
Modern wheat bran is now missing much of the fibre and wheat germ for which it was once valued. Adding it to an already balanced diet will unbalance that diet as well as upsetting the calcium:phosporous ratio. This can compromise bone tissue formation and integrity – something which is particularly risky for growing youngstock.

Can I give my horse some extra carbs eg oats/barley/maize the night before my big competition event to give him a bit more energy? NO
Don’t even think about it! Remember, avoid a sudden change of diet. (Unless your saddle bronc rodeo skills are on par). Changes should ideally be made gradually to avoid disrupting the sensitive bacterial population of the horse’s hindgut.

Will too much protein make my horse hot? NO
In most cases, it’s the energy content (MJ / kg) of what you’re feeding and not the protein content. The source of the energy may also have some influence, i.e. ‘quick release’ energy from cereal starch or ‘slow release’ energy from fibre or oil. You’ll notice that most hard feeds that are rich in protein are also higher in energy. So, in most cases, the ‘fizz factor’ is as a result of a miss-match between the amount of energy fed (MJ) and that needed for daily life, rather than the amount of protein in the diet.

Should I cut my horse’s feed down if he isn’t being worked even if it’s just for a few days? YES
If your saddle bronc skills haven’t improved significantly, then cutting down is a good idea. Eliminate hard feeds first and then you can reassess other high energy feed sources.

Can I still give my horse a cereal-based feed if he’s ulcer prone? NO
Unfortunately, grain-based feeds are highly acidic – remember what got your horse there in the first place. So limit the intake to less than 1g per kg of body weight per meal or preferably no grain-based feed at all.

Can I still feed Cereal hay if he’s ulcer prone? NO Just think about it…

Will my horse be able to put condition on when he has ulcers? NO
Generally, horses with active ulcers will exhibit very picky feeding and will limit their feed intake accordingly to avoid digestive discomfort. Having said that, some horses are more stoic than others and I’ve come across horses that still ate well and looked well despite having EGUS.

Can I feed my ulcer prone competition horse lupins then for energy instead of cereals? YES

Could my horse’s hot/fizzy behaviour be as a result of poor digestive health? YES
If only people realised just how sensitive the horse’s digestive system is. ANY time there’s the slightest change in PH eg from sudden changes in the diet or being deprived without feed for many hours, it’s going to impact your horse’s digestive health and his temperament. It’s just one of those annoying things about our equine friends…

Can I feed oil for energy to my ulcer prone horse instead of cereals? YES
Oils are benign and won’t cause an acid spike. They’re also slow release and the majority of horses tolerate and can get energy from additional oil in the diet. Just go slow introducing it…

Should I provide some sort of joint supplement now that my young horse has started his showjumping/dressage/eventing etc career? YES

Even though he’s young and doesn’t have any current joint issues? YEP
The second we start working our young horses whether it’s lunge work or sitting on them, we’re impacting the joints. Many growth plates don’t close until maturity which is often at around 6 years old, so it makes sense to ensure they get some protection and nutrient support to keep joints and bones healthy.

Should I ask my local stockfeed supplier or vet for feed advice? NO
Ok, here’s the deal. Bear in mind that your local produce supplier may be wanting to sell you the latest and greatest that the rep persuaded him to buy. Not all of them have the depth of knowledge required to offer sound advice. And while we’re at it, unless a vet has diversified into nutrition, know that that in 6 years of studying, a vet will spend only a few weeks on this topic. I’ve seen some VERY questionable advice being dished out by vets.

Should I go on to a social media nutrition advice forum and ask about my horse’s diet? NO 

In fact, make that a supersized NO! Why not I hear you ask? Because it’s pointless, confusing, and you can bet that what works for someone else’s horse won’t work for yours. After all, if you have a dental problem, you don’t go to your local GP do you?

So, if you have a nutrition question you want answering… Call me, Anita, on 040 892 0707 or email me at:

Tying Up in Horses

Tying Up in Horses

Home » Horse health

RER, PSSM, Azoturia, Monday Morning disease, Set-fast…

So what exactly is tying up in horses?  These muscle problems have previously had a variety of different names which have described the symptoms rather than the disease. However, advances in research have resulted in a better understanding of the disorders and more appropriate names have been introduced. Two distinct disease processes have been identified.  Each one seeming to be prevalent in certain breeds, suggesting that a genetic factor is likely to be involved. Furthermore, it might be worth checking what you’re feeding…

Trigger Factors for Tying Up in Horses

One of the questions that frustrates owners of horses that suffer with tying up is why does it happen one day and not the next? Often, there’s no obvious reason why the problem occurred on any given day. However in some cases it can be that a number of trigger factors all coincided sufficiently to tip the balance. Possible trigger factors include

  • not reducing the feed prior to a day off,
  • not warming-up or cooling down properly,
  • high starch diets,
  • dehydration/fatigue
  • viral infections.

On their own, the horse can often tolerate one or other of these factors but when several combine, problems can occur.

Symptoms of Tying Up in Horses

The degree of severity of the symptoms of tying up in horses can vary enormously.  A horse may appear slightly stiff but is still able to work to some degree. Alternatively, it could be a complete seizing of the muscles so that the horse can’t move. If the symptoms are only very slight then it’s very difficult to diagnose the problem as there could be several other causes. When seeking advice from a vet or nutritionist it’s very important you give details of when the problem occurred.  For example, was it before, during or after the horse had worked? You will also need to provide details about the horse’s regime that day to enable them to advise you on a suitable diet.



  • Quarter horses, Warmbloods and draught horses are most commonly affected
  • Typically, quiet laid back animals but with no gender bias
  • Prevents normal metabolism of glycogen which is how the horse stores starch and sugars in his muscles


  • Eliminate cereal grains and molasses from the diet
  • Use oil and fibre as energy sources according to the horse’s bodyweight and workload
  • Provide a balance of vitamins, minerals and protein

How to achieve this:

Step 1 – Feed plenty of forage – Forage should form the basis of all horse’s diets but is particularly important in horses that can’t tolerate large amounts of grain. Select as good a forage as possible as this will provide more energy and nutrients which will help to meet the horses overall requirements.

 Step 2 – Select a balancer – Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal for horses in light to moderate work or Fibregenix Platinum Pro for horses and ponies in moderate to hard work. These will provide the nutrients required to maintain health and condition and for work.

Step 3 – Add oil or highly digestible fibre – A high oil supplement can be fed alongside a balancer and provides a concentrated source of slow-release calories. Sources of highly digestible fibre, eg beet pulp, are also useful.


  • Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds most commonly affected
  • Excitable, highly-strung increases risk, with fillies more prone
  • A stress-related disorder involving disruption of normal muscle calcium regulation


  • Reduce the starch content of the diet
  • Ensure that any cereals in the diet have been cooked
  • Ensure the diet is balanced

How to achieve this:

Step 1 – Choose a feed with as low a starch content as possible – Feeds which contain high levels of digestible fibre and oil, as energy sources. These will be lower in starch than those which are primarily cereal-based.  Generally, pellets/cubes will also have a lower starch content than a mix with an equivalent Digestible Energy content.

Step 2 – Check that the feed used is appropriate for the type and level of work the horse is doing and fed at recommended levels to ensure a fully balanced diet – Feeds are formulated to be fed at certain levels. However, using the wrong one or feeding less than recommended can mean that the horse isn’t receiving sufficient nutrients.  Unfortunately, increasing the feed can result in over-exuberant behaviour or weight gain.  Therefore a good alternative is to add a Fibregenix balancer to provide nutrients without energy.

Step 3 – Add an electrolyte supplement – ERS is most common in horses in hard, fast work and so an electrolyte supplement is vital to replace salts lost in sweat.

Management Tips for Tying Up in Horses

  • Warm up and cool down the horse thoroughly
  • Do not confine the horse to the stable for long periods
  • An episode of ERS often seems to occur after the horse has suffered with a virus. If you suspect your horse has a virus then reduce the workload, particularly if the horse has had RER/ERS before.


Electrolytes are minerals that, when in solution, dissociate and have electrical charges. The concentrations of electrolytes affect the movement of body fluids between cells. Most of the sodium, chloride and much of the water, lost in sweat comes from the extracellular fluid. This fluid consists of the plasma portion of blood and the interstitial fluid which surrounds the cells in the body. Most of the potassium and some of the water comes from the intracellular fluid (water inside the cells).

The most effective way to re-hydrate a horse is to supply water and electrolytes. This is more effective than either on their own. Ideally, electrolytes should therefore be added to the water.  However, if this puts the horse off drinking, add them to the feed but make it wet and slushy.

Take home message:

Follow appropriate management procedures and nutrition for tying up in horses.  This will help reduce the likelihood or frequency of episodes even for those with an underlying genetic susceptibility.

Reviewed and republished April 2021

Your horse’s immune system

Your horse’s immune system


We all know that without an efficiently working immune system your horse will be exposed to all manner of health issues.  So, in this blog we’ll look at what the Immune system is and how you can optomise it.

Your Horse’s Immune System – What is it?

An immune response is simply the ability to mount an effective defence against malignancies and invading micro-organisms by producing immunoglobulins (antibodies).

According to Ian Tizard, PhD, BSc, BVMS, MRCVS, who authored the book, Veterinary Immunology, An Introduction, the basic requirements of an immune system include four components:

  • A method of trapping and processing antigens
  • A mechanism for reacting specifically to the specific antigen (becoming antigen-sensitive)
  • Cells to produce antibodies or to participate in the cell-mediated immune response
  • Cells to retain memory of the event and to react specifically to the antigen in future encounters

When Boosting Your Horse’s Immune System Matters

Just like us, your horse’s immune system becomes less competent with age. Also, weanlings, young horses, stress, and poor condition can also negatively impact the immune system. This in turn makes them more vulnerable to disease and infections.

Significantly, supporting the immune system is vital to those with specific health issues or equine athletes whose bodies are constantly put under stress from competition or travelling. Even weather changes can also stress your horse’s immune system, so you want to be especially careful of management strategies during these times.

Gut Health to Boost Your Horse’s Immune System

Considering that 70% of your horse’s immune system is in his GI tract, the immune system itself is directly affected by the health of the digestive system. Several other organs such as the thymus gland and the bone marrow, are the sites where white blood cells are produced. Others, including the spleen, lymph nodes, and liver, trap microorganisms and foreign substances. They provide a place for immune system cells to collect, interact with each other and with foreign substances, and generate an immune response.

Nutritional Support

The nutrients most associated in immune health are antioxidants, micro and macro minerals, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (particularly Omega 3) and glutamine.  However, there must be an overall balance of all nutrients when it comes to good immune health.


Vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and beta-carotene – the precursor to vitamin A, all have a positive effect on the immune system.

Macro And Micro Minerals

Micro-minerals include such elements as zinc, copper, cobalt, and manganese. While macro-minerals include calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Omega 3 And 6 Fatty Acids

Studies show that both fatty acids, more so Omega 3, play a role in the immune function of clinically normal horses.


Glutamine is an amino acid. The immune system needs to receive an adequate supply of L-glutamine to protect against illness and potential tissue damage. L-glutamine deficits can result in:

  • diarrhea
  • atrophy of intestinal villi
  • mucosal ulceration in the stomach and colon
  • increased intestinal permeability
  • necrosis
  • digestive complications
  • poor nutrient absorption

Gut Support for Your Horse’s Immune System.

A combination of both MOS & FOS prebiotics is a powerful tool when it comes to supporting your horse’s immune health.


MOS (mannanoligosaccharide) contains high levels of beta-glucans.  These are shown to support a healthy immune system and may increase its reaction capacity. MOS itself enhances immunoglobulin production during gestation. This improves the quality of the colostrum and the transfer of immunity from the mare to foal at birth.

FOS Prebiotic

Short-chain  FOS (fructooligosaccharides) are selectively fermented by some bacteria in the intestinal microbiota.  By providing beneficial bacteria with a good source of food they can strengthen the immune system.


Nucleotides are the building blocks of RNA and DNA molecules in the horse’s body. Research has shown that all horses and ponies can benefit from the inclusion of additional nucleotides in their diet.  However,  performance horses or those with health issues have the greatest requirement.

The cell regeneration process is accelerated with Nucleotides.  Cell regeneration allows an animal to recover much quicker from the type of stress it is under (performance, illness, disease, injury, etc.).

Most pertinently to immune health, Nucleotides also assist with the activation and proliferation of lymphocytes. They help these white blood cells perform their primary function.  ie. produce antibodies to attack invading pathogens and destroy cells already invaded by microbes. Keeping these cells functioning properly ensures that the horse’s immune system is actively warding off potential threats.

How Do Fibregenix Balancer Supplements Help Boost Your Horse’s Immunity?

Fibregenix contains immune-boosting nutrients, all in a highly bioavailable form. Bioavailability is really important, because it’s a measure of how well an ingredient is absorbed and utilised by the horse.

Alongside the all-important key antioxidants, (Vitamins A, C, E and selenium) there’s a full range of chelated trace minerals. Digestible protein supplying all the required amino acids has also been added.  Another highly important component of Fibregenix is the gut health supplements.  These consist of Purified Nucleotides and MOS & FOS prebiotics. All this means that a Fibregenix balancer supplement will provide your horse with everything needed for a healthy immune system.

Whether your horse is a seasoned performer, a veteran, a youngster or just in need of boosted immune support, Fibregenix is instrumental in taking your horse’s immune health to another level.  In fact, many of our customers have noticed how quickly their horses recover from illness or even avoid illnesses or viral issues where other horses in the same yard are struggling.

So don’t take any chances with your horse’s health.  Just let Fibregenix do the hard yards for you.

Reviewed and amended Feb 2022

Biosecurity at competition venues

Biosecurity at competition venues

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Follow these top tips for Horse Biosecurity Management at shows to keep your horse healthy and safe

How up to speed are you with Horse Biosecurity management at competition venues? The Show season is cranking up and many of you will be heading out with your equine athletes.  You may even be staying over for one or more nights. But how are you going to keep your horse free from potential disease when you get there?

It’s something we so often take for granted.  Therefore, being aware of how easily viruses are transmitted and taking a few precautions before, during and after travel, can make all the difference.

I remember taking two of my horses to a National Breed Show where they were stabled for two nights.  Within a week of returning home, both my horses came down with a severe respiratory cough and snot nose virus.  They were off work for weeks but had been perfectly healthy prior to this.  After that, I always made it a priority to disinfect the show stables they were in.  And this was before I even got them off the truck.

Before you leave

Ensure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date. If not, get them done in plenty of time before the season begins – strangles and tetanus are the standard.  However, if your horse is a seasoned campaigner that spends a lot of time away/interstate, consider influenza and rhinopneumonitis.

Keep sick horses at home. Watch for signs of fever, nasal discharge and diarrhea before you leave.

Horse Biosecurity Management At the Show

Wash your hands frequently! Just as you would during cold and flu season. Consider carrying handy disinfectant gel or wipes to use not only for your hands but also on surfaces you often touch.

Limit exposure. Don’t allow horses to have nose-to-nose contact. Limit the general public’s contact with your horses and your contact with other horses. If possible, request stables with solid walls high enough so horses can’t touch noses over the top.  Preferably without any gaps or cracks in the walls. If open-sided stables are unavoidable, consider requesting a stable on an end or outside wall.  Consider covering open walls with carefully-secured tarps.

Keep Your Distance! Horse shows are known to be great social occasions. Unfortunately, even the most innocent and friendly interactions can present a danger to your horse’s health.  Avoid strangers and keep your horse a safe distance away from others. Avoid grazing in common areas.

In and Around the Stables

Clean and disinfect stables at show facilities. You’ll be keen to unload horses and equipment as soon as possible after a long journey. But how do you know the health status of the horse that last used the stable you’ve been assigned? Disease’s unseen pathogens aren’t only waiting to find a new host in your horse.  They’re also happy to hitch a ride home and infect stablemates. Worryingly, disease pathogens in saliva and respiratory secretions can remain on dirt floors, walls and doors for extended time periods.  Spray-on commercial disinfectants are readily available and the best choice. Diluted bleach is an inexpensive disinfectant but works best on a surface that’s been thoroughly cleaned.

Mind those sharp edges! Thoroughly inspect the stable area for loose nails, debris and any other dangers to your horse’s physical safety.

No Sharing! Don’t share feed and water buckets, hay bags, grooming tools, tacks, or mucking out equipment. Disinfect these items frequently and after arriving home from an event. Use only your own feed and water buckets. Label them with each horse’s name and don’t use them for any other horse to avoid cross-contamination.

Use special caution with water sources. Don’t fill buckets or allow a horse to drink from a communal water tank. Always use your own hose. If a shared hose can’t be avoided, don’t submerge the end or nozzle in your horse’s bucket. Alarmingly, one of the easiest conduits for strangles to move from stable to stable is through a shared water hose.

Horse Biosecurity Management When you get home

Keep up your Biosecurity management at home. Upon returning home wash your hands, shower, and change clothing and shoes before working with horses kept at home. Any horse in a public environment can pick up a pathogen and incubate an illness for several days.  This can happen whilst not showing any outward symptoms. Ideally, every horse who goes to a show should be segregated from others for at least a week…  After a competition, monitor horses for any developing signs of illness. This can be a cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, decreased appetite or elevated temperature. Finally, be sure to wash all the clothes and equipment before coming into contact with other horses.

Look after your horse’s immune system.  Ensuring your horse has a healthy and strong immune system can go towards protecting him and can certainly help with his recovery if he does succumb to an infection.  Fibregenix feed balancers focus on optimising your horse’s gut health, where 70% of the horse’s immune system is. Additionally, a Fibregenix balancer is chock full of antioxidants which are also key to a healthy immune system.

In summary, the healthier the horse, the stronger will be his resistance to infection. Horse Biosecurity management at shows is a valid and worthwhile practice to follow.  There’s nothing more soul-destroying than having your competition horse out for the season because a few simple protocols weren’t undertaken.

Reviewed and amended April 2021

Locking stifle problems

Locking stifle problems

Home » Horse health

Locking Stifle

Similar to the human knee, a horse’s stifle joints are like hinges—some of the largest in a horse’s skeletal system.  Locking stifle problems can occur when a stifle joint becomes ‘locked’ due to overstraining or genetic joint problems. When the patella (kneecap) is unable to ‘unlock’, it means the patella is fixed in an upwards position. Be warned, a horse can panic when this happens, so it’s vital you stay calm and confident.Stifle diagram


Locking Stifle is most common in ponies, foals and horses that are unfit, although the precise cause is still unknown. However, what we do know is that there are several contributing factors.  These include :

  • poor conformation
  • lack of muscle strength in the hindquarters,
  • hereditary conditions



Signs of a Locking Stifle

Locking stifle can vary in its severity. If your horse has a mild case, he may simply trip or stumble every now and again.  More severe cases can result in him being unable to flex a hindleg and having to drag the offending limb. Don’t mistake a locked stifle for stringhalt. This neurological disease causes exaggerated and uncontrollable movement, sometimes making your horse jerk its hind leg up high while stepping.

Your vet can help you determine if any of the following signs indicate your horse has a locking stifle:

  • dragging hind feet (maybe showing wear on the toe)
  • reluctance to pick up feet
  • resistance to moving on a circle
  • kicking out for no apparent reason
  • hopping
  • resistance to cantering or cross canters
  • swinging hind-leg to the outside while moving
  • frequent stumbling or even falling

Prevention & Treatment Options for Locking Stifle

There are several treatment options. Whilst surgery is currently the only cure, there are options to help reduce the risk of an episode.

  • Generally helping to improve muscle tone, particularly in the quadriceps, will help to support the surrounding joints.
  • Trail Riding – increasing the distance and speed very slowly and over several weeks, will help a horse achieve its fitness level in a safe way.
  • Exercise over cavalletti’s (raised trotting poles) is a great way to help improve muscle strength and suppleness.
  • Lungeing your horse or hill work eg riding it on a slight incline so that it drives with its hindquarters also makes for safe training when done in small, slightly increased intervals.
  • Feeding a high-quality joint supplement should also help. This will aid good joint health, as well as promoting the health of the soft tissues surrounding the joints.

Remember: Always discuss your strategy thoroughly with your vet before beginning any training regime.

A Liquid Solution providing Additional Help for Locking Stifle…

Fibregenix Joint & Bone RLF contains key ingredients to help nourish and protect joints.  These include Glucosamine, Hyaluronic Acid, organic MSM and Rosa canina (rosehip). An additional benefit is the cutting-edge bone supplement of Calcium chelate and Vitamin D3.

The specific Ingredients in Joint & Bone RLF that assist with managing locking stifle:

  • Organic MSM helps to provide the building blocks for protein, which are vital for tendon and ligament strength.
  • Rosehip can aid the reduction of swelling within a joint. This may occur as a result of a locking stifle due to the joint being put under excess pressure.


Locking stifle is a problem that with the right approach can be managed and mitigated.  It’s important you start slowly, avoid overworking your horse, and thoroughly discuss your strategy with a vet before beginning any new training regime.

Always consult with your vet if you have any concerns about the way your horse is moving.

Reviewed and amended April 2021