Stifle and hip injuries are common in horses, and sometimes not easy to note and evaluate. The stifle of the horse is its knee area, which is connected to the hip by a long large femur bone. Racehorses are most often diagnosed with these injuries due to an accelerated gait and going around corners too quickly. Footing is important for a horse as well, and running on an irregular surface can also cause hip and stifle injuries due to an imbalance within the joints.
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Begin with flexibility exercises of the surrounding hip and stifle to maintain full range of motion. Bring a limb forward under the horse's belly, stretching the posterior hamstring group. Maintain these stretches for up to 30 seconds. This provides for muscle relaxation and physiological lengthening. Allow the limb to rest while alternating limbs. Repeat on each limb three times. Repeat these stretches daily to all muscle groups.
Progress to strengthening exercises as your horse seems to comfortable to tolerate it after the flexibility regimen. Slowly begin working with your horse to move backward, walking forward, and a soft gentle trot up and down gentle hills and terrains. Walk your horse around the pen in large circles. Progress to riding in the saddle on your horse on smoother terrain and working toward more unstable surfaces. This set of exercises utilises isotonic control.
Tail Pulling Exercise
Gently pull your horse's tail to one side and then the other, holding the position about 20 seconds. This imposes a weight shift to the side for which you are pulling, facilitating contraction of the quads and bicep femoris muscles, which stabilise the hip and stifle.
You can feed your horse and allow it to graze while doing the tail pulls. Be close in proximity to the horse's rear to avoid being kicked while doing so.
Further Limb Exercises
Gently lift the opposite limb of the one that is affected to force the horse to shift its weight on the healing limb. Continue in a variety of leg positions and hold each position for 20 to 30 seconds.
Be patient with the horse and these exercises as it will take time for rehabilitation.
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