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Locking Stifles in Young Horses

While this can happen in horses of any age we are regularly contacted by people whose young horses have locking stifles sometimes as well as other musculo-skeletal abnormalities.

For years we have observed a correlation between Locking Stifles and the age of the horse and nutrition. When people give us feedback after making dietary changes for other issues they say “Oh by the way, he doesn’t lock stifles any more either”.


The current ‘possible causes’ seem to be limited to the physical realm:


- Conformation – particularly hind-limbs with straighter than normal angles of the hock’.


- Being unfit or lacking the necessary muscle tone/strength required to operate the patella ligament correctly -hence strengthening exercises including pole work are recommended

In our experience there is an underlying nutritional aspect to this condition – the young horse needs to be properly nourished in order to both grow AND operate his nerves and muscles.


It is easy to not only underestimate the nutrient requirements of growing horses but also to think they need ‘rich’ pasture, that clover is good for them and this will meet all their nutritional requirements.


Not only does lush, green grass lack sufficient Dry Matter for the equine digestive system but it’s high potassium and crude protein/nitrogen and LOW sodium interfere with calcium metabolism – obviously an undesirable state of affairs for the development of a growing horse. Green, growing grass is very unbalanced and you can’t remove the excesses so it is necessary to restrict consumption and include plenty of plain grass hay in the daily ration.

Feeding lucerne is not appropriate either for the same reason.


Calcium is vital for both structural (building bones/teeth/connective tissue) and non-structural purposes including nerve impulse transmission and the operation of muscles.


PremiumMVA or SupremeMVA (Australia) and XtraCal are excellent supplements for young horses in conjunction with quality forage and protein.



Photo: Sally Johnson's Cumulus, properly nourished since conception - trouble free and now competing Dressage.

Photo Credit: Cathy Dee

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