You might have heard that stifle injuries in Western performance horses do not respond well to stifle arthroscopy compared to horses in other athletic pursuits. Sudden turns, stops, crouches and sprint propulsion of reining and cutting horses put a tremendous load on the hind limbs. That load has the potential to wreak havoc on the joints and soft tissues.
A previous study (2009) indicated that 37% of horses in various athletic disciplines were able to return to their previous level of function following stifle arthroscopy.
Laurie Goodrich, DVM, PhD, DACVS, presented a Colorado State University study at the 2019 AAEP Convention in Denver, Colorado, about the efficacy of stifle arthroscopy in 87 Western performance horses.
The horses were followed for at least two years following the stifle arthroscopy to determine whether their return to performance was successful. Most horses in the study had stifle joint osteophytes (bone spurs), subchondral bone cysts and narrowed joint spaces identified during arthroscopy.
In the study, specific issues had an impact on a horse’s return to function: Older age, a high degree of lameness, long duration of injury, partial thickness cartilage lesions, and increasing amounts of soft tissue abnormalities in the stifle.
Despite the hard work done by the backend of Western performance horses, the Colorado State University study revealed that 40% (32/82) returned to their intended use following stifle arthroscopy.
Use of post-operative triamcinolone, IRAP, stem cells, systemic Adequan or NSAIDs had no effect on the prognosis for return to function.
In conclusion, the outcome for Western performance horses’ return to performance following stifle arthroscopy did not differ from results in other breeds and athletic disciplines.