My lack of showing isn’t the only reason my riding and blog enthusiasm is a bit dampened this summer. Simon is NQR, and has been off/on for months.
I mentioned in the spring how he was falling out in the hind occasionally during our rides. Had the vet out twice, and on the second visit we injected his hocks. That fixed the problem entirely… for about three weeks. I’ve tried taking video to see if I can re-create it on the lunge line to show y’all, but he usually only does this under saddle. I have to video examples, but you have to look closely.
Watch at 1:30 and 3:02 in the video below. Note, this is very old video and I think he’s moving quite well here… but he still shows the dropping behavior I’m talking about.
Probably a better example is this video below at roughly :19 seconds. Another note, he was in the middle of rehab here and is not 100% sound on his hind… I know that, this is just showing the (what I think to be) stifle behavior.
When I started noticing the dropping behavior coming back, I asked my trainer to do some flat rides and pay close attention if she felt anything. Sometimes he came out a little stiff (not unusual for him), but she always said he felt great and didn’t notice him dropping or falling out in the hind at all.
With me, he’s been doing it consistently. What used to be once or twice a ride has turned into once or twice around the ring – almost always in the corners.
I’ve tried riding him very forward and in more a dressage frame, and it didn’t help.
I’ve tried riding him in the dirt ring as opposed to the grass ring, didn’t help.
I’ve tried a long “power walk” warmup. I’ve tried going almost straight to the canter. I’ve asked the farrier to re-balance his hind shoes. Nothing helps. In-between these blips, he feels pretty damn good. Slightly uneven (which is his normal due to fugly hocks) but not unsound. I wouldn’t call this an unsoundness, but in my opinion it’s nearing a safety issue on a bad day.
Last night, I started in the grass ring with the intent of jumping some logs if he felt good. In the middle of our warmup, he fell out so badly that we had a very lurching stride. So I headed to the dirt ring where the footing is more even, and he typically works better. I felt some slight “blips”, but nothing severe. We did some sitting trot, haunches in, and I worked on no stirrups. We got some lovely canter, slow and collected, and when I circled he dropped again in a very dramatic/lurching way. I stopped my ride, and finished walking him out around the property in tears.
I had already called a (new) vet, and at this point am waiting for them to come out next Tuesday. I’ll do whatever she thinks we need to get to the root of this problem.
Right now, I’m just really frustrated and worried and upset. It’s not because my horse is NQR. That’s horses and it happens, and I don’t care if he needs a layoff or whatever… that’s all fine. What I’m truly worried about is that for whatever reason, I’m now too heavy for him. My trainer doesn’t notice this like I have, and I don’t think it’s because she’s not paying attention 🙂 I have also watched another light rider ride him, and I didn’t see him drop any. Basically, no one notices but me. I may be starting to go crazy.
My trainer wants me to keep riding him, because he doesn’t seem in pain at all and mobility is good for the fusing hocks. We’re going to give him a little bute the night before each ride to see if that makes a difference. Mainly, I’ll just be anxiously awaiting this vet appointment and trying not to melt into a puddle when I go out to the barn.
49 thoughts on “Downhearted”
Have the vets looked higher up? Hip, SI, back?
My last OTTB had a really similar issue behind. Several times I was convinced that there was some subtle neuro issue that just wasn’t obvious enough for the vets to see. On the advice of one of the best internists at Hagyards in Lexington, I treated him for Lyme (we were in KY) and did a rehab designed to really strengthen his back: Long lining, long slow miles at a power walk (I’m talking 10 mile rides), hill work, very deliberate event horse style conditioning, raised cavelletti every ride and in hand backing over cavelletti (eventually raised ones). He conditioned beautifully and it slowly went away. He sold and is now successfully eventing and his new owner’s trainers fully expect him to go prelim. Personally, I now think it was maybe very mild kissing spine and really strengthening the muscles around it allowed him to work comfortably.
He’s had two vets look at him in the past, one in 2013 who I LOVED (now won’t come to new barn due to distance) but the issue wasn’t happening then, so we didn’t look higher.
The last vet I specifically asked to look at stifles, but he thought it was a hock problem. That being said, I wasn’t able to be at the appointment and am changing vets due to various reasons. I will be there on Tuesday and am going to ask to look as high up as she thinks necessary… mainly back and stifles.
In my experience (which is of course only my experience), it’s REALLY HARD to get a sport horse vet to look at stifles when they can look at hocks. Which makes a lot of sense! Hocks definitely seem to be the primary complaint in these disciplines, especially when you’re talking about a fairly (or extremely) fit working horse. When I had our lameness guy out in January, I was literally ready to say, “Would you please inject his stifles just to humor me.” It didn’t come to that – we were actually pretty much on the same page – but yeah. I am alllll in favor of hiring good professionals and letting them do their thing; they’re the one who went to vet school, after all! But you’re the one who knows the horse best. It’s okay to insist if you feel like something important is being overlooked.
Good luck; I hope whatever it is turns out to be easily, swiftly, and completely resolved.
Completely agree, especially when they see Simon’s hock rads bc HOLY CRAP they are fugly. I will be insisting we flex/check/do whatever this time and already offered to ride him for the vet for them to see first hand.
Hugs. These things are stressful.
I doubt it’s a weight thing, really and truly. Maybe a balance thing? Pros ride differently than us one-horse ammies. I suspect it’s also related to the fact that you spend the most time on him–odds of probability are just that it’s going to happen more with you. I’m going to venture a guess that since he’s your horse, you spend more time toodling around on him than a trainer who gets on, works, and then gets off to ride the next one.
That’s the first thing that comes to mind, anyways. Best wishes to you. Nothing like this to make a tough year tougher, right?
Could be a balance thing. I alternate the ways I ride, and he seems to do it regardless if he feels really balanced or if he feels really not. Although I admit he’s slightly better when he’s balanced and moving along. Thanks for the support… guess we all need to have our tough years!
It is unlikely that it is your weight imo – that may just be all in your mind. What it could be is a simple weakness that needs a while to be rectified. Maybe more hill work? Or trot pole work to really engage his hind end. The one drop I saw was during a canter transition – is that when they are most common? In that case it is probably muscular weakness. I’m no expert, but Fiction has weakness in his hind end that results in him swapping leads all the time to compensate. Maybe they are similar issues? I hope the new vet can give you some peace of mind 🙂
We unfortunately do not have any hills. There is a TINY one that I walk up and down at the end of each ride, but it would be impossible to trot. I may have to make some cavaletti. We do poles, but not cavaletti.
They do happen in canter transitions, but mostly trotting in corners… that seems to be the most common place.
Awh man. 🙁 I’m sorry y’all are having so much trouble lately. I completely agree with SprinklerBandits, though. I highly doubt it would be a weight issue and it would end up being more of a balance thing, if anything.
Have you had him chiro’d? Sounds kind of similar to something my horse does everyones in a while. It comes through as wonky step, but isnt really lame. You can more feel than see it. I tried treating the hocks and the stifles at one point too, until i discovered taht the problem is higher. My beast is always out in the SI and lumbar regions, which throw his whole hind end out of wack. He’s never sore there, ironically, so it took me a long time to figure out what the problem is and when he is out it comes through as that wonky step…
Yup, I had the chiro out in the spring prior to hock injections. He was out in his tailbone, but nothing the chiro did solved the dropping problem. I had wanted to get him back out this month, but I’ll have to see what the budget allows after the vet visit.
I’ve had this issue with my old paint/tb it turned out to be an infection in the back that led to several surgeries and rehab. It doesn’t look that bad with Simon for sure, but perhaps it’s a top line, strength, balance thing?
That reeeeeally looks like stifles to me! Dino has a weak/locking right stifle and he will have the same “flat tire” moments. We’ve been going through more of them lately as I ask him to really start working hard in his hind end and it’s challenging for that weak right hind! With strengthening & conditioning it does get better. I hope that’s the case for Simon-pants and that the vet gives you a direction to go in!
Yes, I think it’s a stifle issue too. He has always done it, but what concerns me is that he’s doing it WAY MORE now but at the same time his fitness has VASTLY improved… so something isn’t right.
No expert or vet here but I hope you can get it worked out!
I know with the chiro, it takes time for their adjustments to ‘stick’ because the horse has to develope the muscle to keep the right stuff in the right place 🙂 I’m a big advocate of a good chiro 🙂
I had a friend whose horse would do a similar motion even out walking in the pasture (but much more exaggerated). It was a stifle issue if I recall right. Best of luck with him, and please don’t get down on yourself 🙂
I really doubt it has to do with your weight. I had a similar concern before buying Ellie because she’s such a petite thing…..and I’m not. The vet just looked at me and laughed.
I don’t have any good advice outside but fingers are crossed for the upcoming vet visit!
Aw, this sucks! I’m feeling for you!
I’m with everyone else armchair vetting this post 😉 It looks to me more like a back issue than a leg issue. Maaaaybe stifle, but more likely back. He looks like he’s hollowing out for a minute, not necessarily taking a misstep. Hollowing could be anything. Maybe he is crooked and doesn’t feel like he can step forward with his hind in the turns and canter trans? Maybe he’s off balance? Maybe there’s some pain. That’s a tough thing to diagnose. Good luck!
I haven’t ruled out his back being an issue, it’s certainly possible. These videos are both over a year old. He travels a lot more over his back now, although there is always room for improvement.
I’m definitely no expert, just sending you hugs and sound, happy horse thoughts to Simon!
Another vote for stifles. I’ve ridden two horses with stifle issues (different kinds of issues, but stifle related nonetheless) and both have felt exactly like you describe. Not really lame but their hind ends will “slip” out from under them at times. One even felt like his back end belonged to a completely different horse. It was weird. Anyway, definitely have the vet take a look at his stifles. Also, I wouldn’t worry too much about him carrying your weight. You’re not pounding on him, you’re a nice, balanced rider and he is fit.
hang in there! i can recommend a lameness expert nearby, and REALLY love my vet, whose info i’m happy to share if you want it!
as someone who has spent the last year rehabbing a rescue, i know how frustrating this is. you are not alone!
Stifles and pelvis issues are sometimes inter-related…my horse “falls out” behind as well and has “sticky” stifles. I agree with the chiro comments and you might look into acupuncture as well. My horse is always out in his pelvis, which makes the stifle issue even worse. If you could find someone who does both chiro and acupuncture, that would be even better. There is a vet in Corpus, Dr. Rick (I would have to find out his company name, can’t recall at the moment). He has worked on Casino several times as part of the IVAS training they hold at our barn every year and he is amazing 🙂
Sending hugs! I do not think its a weight thing – I think you are on hyper-alert more than trainers and barn-mates because Simon is your horse. Given that it happens mostly in corners, it might be related to bending, or it could be deeper footing. Try a ride where you don’t ride around the arena – do circles and zig-zags and random patterns and see if it happens more or less and how/where.
I am voting for stifles. I am playing armchair vet here, and am no expert, but it seems like he is weak in the stifles and has moments of losing his balance. Nothing to do with you. You are a quiet, tactful rider. One stifle could be “sticking” which is causing those drop outs. Again, I am no expert but stifles are the first thing that came to my mind when I read your post and watch the videos. In any case, *hugs.* It will be ok!
First off its not your weight… so just put that out of your head right now.
Ive said this before with him, it looks to me like a possible issue with the right hind suspensory. Hind suspensories very often present off and on again. They are fine then 2 months later there an issue you cant figure out what it is but you know they are off. If you’ve done the chiro, injected hocks, talked to your farrier about his shoeing and had the vet out for a regular once over and all that didnt salve the problem i would really encourage you to get an ultra sound done of the suspensory. I know its scary and ultra sounds are not cheap but ruling that out would be worth it. At the first barn i was at with miss Jez there was a rash of suspensory injuries, i mean like 15-20% of the horses there (including mine). Its more common then people think and its hard to identify in the hind because give them a little time off and they come back sound only to be off again in a few weeks.
Yeah, my first thought was stifle, but when Barry had the suspensory injury he had similar on/off moments and he had that dropping action. He jumped and worked willingly too. So I second getting an ultrasound because while the stifle would need work, the suspensory would need rest. Good luck, that is very tough.
I really, really, really don’t think it’s your weight. I won’t keyboard diagnosis, but I will say that you’re not that heavy and Simon is not a petite pony. Shawn Flarida is one of the most accomplished reiners in the world and he’s a heavy dude… and his horses ARE 14.3.
First off, it’s not your weight. I would guess I weight as much if not more than you and Ashke is now back strong and hamstring healed.
Second, coming from the perspective of having a horse that I rehabbed, I would venture to say this is a back strength and possible SI problem or hamstring issue. He looks just like Ashke did when we were working on strengthening and developing his lower back/hamstring area.
He has two issues that I saw in watching the video. First, he’s not tracking up as much as I would like to see, and he’s not using his back as much as he should. Both of those things can be attributed to a short stride/hamstring issue. I know, I’ve been there.
So, do cavelletti. Lot’s of cavelletti, where he is asked to lift his feet. (This was impossible for Ashke when we first started under saddle). Don’t jump for a while as this can tweak that hamstring if it is a hamstring issue. (I really wish you were close enough to see Diane. She would be able to tell you what the issue was via acupuncture).
Do long trail rides over mixed terrain (it acts like a natural cavelletti). Do it at a walk, with limited trotting to start. LSD will help him develop long, strong muscle.
Do dressage as crosstraining and really get him to reach down for contact, round himself and use his back. Every time you ride him you will strengthen his back, but you want to do it in a way that gets him to lift and use his loin and hips. I credit the dressage training we did over the winter with finally resolving all of Ashke’s physical issues. But, it took six months of only dressage practice for it to completely resolve and strengthen him to the point of no more short striding and a completely clean bill of health from vet and farrier.
I would say do hills, but it sounds like you don’t have any. So, when you are working on dressage, do lots of walk/trot transitions. Ashke and I did walk/trot transitions for months, and it finally paid off. If there is a trail where you can incorporate walking (only walking) in deep sand that will help strengthen his legs, back and hips.
It will be okay.
I’m in love with his snip <3
I’m going through something very similar with my horse. They don’t have the same problems, but I’m also going through a patch of NQR-ness and haven’t loved the answers I’ve gotten. In all honesty the way that I ride her drastically changes her way of going and at this point I think I just need to devote myself to riding in a way that makes her sound. Does he do the falling out if you realllllllly slow him down and collect him up? Like, way slower than you would typically travel? Feel free to email me if you want more information on why I’ve learned this is helpful, but slowing a horse way down and lightening their front end completely changes the way they can use themselves and I’ve found it very helpful in keeping Mollie sound. The world of biomechanics is amazing 🙂
I have nothing to add that hasn’t already been said. But hang in there, you’ll get to the bottom of it and get him back to his normal self 🙂
Hang in there. I also love his pre-ride face. Too much adorableness.
It’s not your weight. Period.
You might ask your vet to check for neurological issues – it sounds a little like neuro stuff.
Whatever it ends up being, HUGS to you, and good wishes and thoughts.
Not sure if this was already mentioned (didnt read through your many comments!) but sounds like it could easily be a chiro issue. Maybe he has slipped outside or somehow gotten himself out of whack. I remember you had it done earlier this year but something easily could have happened. Plus it isnt a most expensive thing to try, although its not super cheap, so it might be worth a shot. Especially if one hip is dropped like that. Maybe worth a shot? 🙂
I hesitate to add to all the arm chair vet advice, but I thought that perhaps I could give you a heads up?
Simon’s symptoms sound a lot like my sister’s horse, Rusty’s NQR issues.. He would drop/lock behind every once in a while, mostly under saddle. He started to deteriorate, and he would do it walking around the paddock, particularly in the cold. We thought it was neurological – related to the string halt he once had. It turned out that he had an upwardly mobile patella joint. The patella is the “knee cap” in the stifle, so yeah, if Simon does have that, it’s in his stifle.
Rusty (my sister’s horse) just needed some shots and regular riding to strengthen the muscles and keep his patella joint from slipping, so if Simon has that, hopefully it will be much the same. He does sound a LOT like Rusty, so I hope you get it all sorted out.
But yeah, DEFINITELY get those stifles checked out, and maybe mention upwardly mobile patella joints to your vet to put it on their radar.
Best of luck!
bonita of A Riding Habit
As not a skinny rider, I commiserate. There are so many freaking times that I’ve wondered if I’ve crossed some imaginary line with my weight on Archie, if his sore back would be alleviated with a lighter rider, if that weird step was my fault. It’s down right devastating to think that I could be unknowingly hurting my horse.
That said, I don’t think you are. I second the eighty other people with the idea that it’s a mechanical issue, not a you issue.
Hope this turns out to be an easily corrected/managed issue!
The NQR feeling is literally the pits… as you know, I went thought a lot of that last year with Alex. I totally feel your pain and hope the vet is able to give you some answers. It’s a helpless feeling, it really is, but everything will be ok! And I will join the others in saying it’s not your weight, so don’t even go there 🙂 Hugs!
Sorry to hear about this. I don’t have any helpful advice other than to repeat what’s already been said many times, that is I sincerely doubt it has anything at all to do with your weight. I hope this new vet is able to help you pinpoint the issue and come up with a plan to get him rehabbed.
These guys steal our hearts (and our pocketbooks!) and it is very disheartening when they are NQR, especially when we don’t know the reason(s). You guys are in my thoughts.
I don’t think it’s your weight and really don’t want you to blame yourself for what is going on with him. There is definitely something going on, but he certainly doesn’t look terrible. To me, it looks like you’re on the right track with thinking it’s the stifles and higher up. My fiancé and I get a ton of horses in with hind end issues and have yet to have had the need to inject their hocks to fix it. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I have rarely seen hock injections help a horse for any significant amount of time. That includes all kinds of performance horses, from western to dressage to jumping to racehorses. It’s an easy answer for the vets to come up with, but I think it’s rarely the right one. From what I’ve seen hocks either a) are sore due to how problems higher up affect their movement or b) if the problem is actually the hocks, the soreness in the hocks causes soreness higher up. It’s a vicious cycle and I haven’t seen a whole lot of vets that consider that one problem may be causing more in other areas. They treat what they think is the source, but not the other areas. Then the horse still can’t move correctly and eventually the origin of the problem becomes sore again. Anyway, I hope your new vet is really good with things like this and you guys get it sorted out. In the meantime, hang in there.
🙁 I’m sorry to hear that you are having troubles. Hopefully the vet will be able to straighten things out. Horses have soundness issues for a variety of issues. I’m sure the vet will have some better ideas
You’ve already had so many comments about what this MIGHT be that I hate to chime in, but here is my experience: It isn’t your weight. Horses can carry a lot of weight. Look at what a man weighs. Have you seen what those cutting and reining horses can do under some of those big ol’ cowboys? Simon can carry you with no issue. :0)
My last Arab mare got cast in her stall with a blanket on. During her struggle to get up, she injured the soft tissue around her stifle (patella). While we were trotting, she would occasionally get hung up and lurch through a stride or two. The vet was able to diagnosis it and recommended LOTS of slow hill work, work over the top line, and time. It took a year, but she went back to doing 50 mile endurance rides quite successfully.
I am sure you will get this figured out. An author that I admire talks about holding firm in your thoughts the things that we want to see manifested. Keep a picture of a healthy, sound Simon in your mind. With some diligence on your part, you’ll help to see that image realized. Hugs to you both. :0)
Oh Lauren, I’m so sorry.
I had written a nice long comment last night on my phone but WordPress ate it. So here goes a second attempt:
I agree with the others: this is not your weight. You’ve had a ton of really great advice here, but I want to chime in with my own experiences. I owned a horse that had this problem. The problem was diagnosed by my vet at the time. We did the exercises for rehabbing stifles and did the special shoes. We worked in a dressage frame, we did cavaletti. After several months, his stifles were not improving so I bit the bullet and had surgery done to tighten his patellar ligaments. Lo and behold: the problem did not disappear. It improved but over time started to worsen again. I didn’t realize this horse had a neurological problem until the day he fell while I was riding him and I got hurt. He was grade 2 neuro. Neuro can be really hard to diagnose unless it is severe in a horse, and it can be masked as so many other different types of lamenesses. Vets don’t automatically think to do a neuro exam on a horse with weird hind end movement.
The fact that Simon’s problem has not improved with all of the kind of work that you have been doing with him really makes me think this is not stifle at all, unless he torqued the soft tissue in his stifle area like Karen suggested. Slipping stifles tend to get better over time with exercise as the horse builds up muscle. Soft tissue gets worse over time with exercise. Undiagnosed neuro gets worse over time no matter what.
Speaking of soft tissue, I will concur with Lolz above. I boarded at that same barn when 20% of the equine population there had soft tissue injuries, most of them suspensory. This was around the time that Lily had her annular ligament injury too. Lily was simply lame on her affected leg so the problem was caught quickly. Lolz’s Jezebel, on the other hand, was not: she was much harder to properly diagnose. She came in from the field NQR in November. Lolz had extensive diagnostics done and the vet determined that it was her stifle, with a lameness made worse by thrush. Between diagnostics, Jez ended up being stall rested for several weeks. I was asked to help exercise her when she was cleared for work. Jez continued to be on and off NQR during all of this. More than half of our rides were cut short because I would get on and she would feel off in her hind at the trot. Every time this happened, she was stall rested for a few days, during which she’d improve, then put back into work with turnout, when she would worsen again. A new vet was called out. She did nerve blocks to locate the source of pain on the leg, and she was the first to suggest ultrasound of the leg. It turned out Jezebel had a 1 cm tear in her suspensory ligament. You know the rest of that story. Once the problem was found, she did the stall rest and the rehab and has been 100% fine ever since. The main concern with soft tissue is that you do want to get it diagnosed quickly because something minor that would have required minimal layup and rehab can get far worse with regular exercise and rambunctious play in turnout.
It would be so much easier if horses could talk!
If the vet doesn’t think it’s stifle, I’d be asking for nerve blocks to localize the source of pain and take it from there. It will answer so many questions. If anything, it will tell you where the pain is *not* located. If he doesn’t block out lower down on the leg, you can start looking at SI and back and take it from there.
Fingers and toes crossed that the new vet will be able to figure this out! *Hug*
We had a similiar problem and finally just bit the bullet and spent the day at A&M Large Animal clinic in College Station. First gotta say … my jaw literally dropped walking into that place. So freaking nice! We spent most of the day there but finally got the answer. Yes, my bill walking out of there was about $1,000 but I also had a freaking answer to the nagging NQR – and that made it all worth it. I should have gone there to begin with. Would have saved us a ton of money, time and heartache for sure.
I really don’t think it’s an issue with your weight. You are a balanced rider and not landing heavily on him at all. He’s not a small horse and you are not asking him to do too much.
The problem is that it could be a stifle issue . . . or it could be a suspensory issue and they require completely opposite rehab. I would suggest having an ultrasound of the suspensory to rule it out because the strengthening work necessary for a sticky stifle is the opposite of the rest that’s required for the ligament.
It’s very frustrating to not have a good diagnosis because without it, you don’t know how to treat it.
Good luck & I hope you get some answers soon.
Oh this sounds so familiar and I’m sorry to hear you are hit with the torture of NQR — but know that you are SO not alone!! The subtle issues are too hard to play “guess on the internet,” so instead, I will share with you the best advice our beloved David O. gave me when Encore showed the same type of problems:
“Just go straight to the best. It will cost you less than 100 shots in the dark and they have the experience and the technology to do so much more today.”
Now, I am totally spoiled living 30 minutes from NCSU and Equine Sports Medicine God Dr. Rich Redding (who David urged me to contact directly and oh I am so grateful I did!). I did call my own awesome vet to get his opinion and he 100% agreed (I was also very grateful I had decided to insure Encore the first year I owned him, but in retrospect, even if he hadn’t been, it STILL would have been cheaper and more efficient).
I am a pretty educated owner and a biologist who is really good at physiology with a lifetime of horse experience — and all of the options I would have tried (injecting stifles, hocks – although it felt higher, Adequan, etc) would have been wrong.
Because the bone scan not only revealed the issue came from arthritic changes in his back (we inject 1x per year and he feels AWESOME powering over 3’6″!), but also that his hocks and stifles were pristine! Plus it showed me everything in his entire body and I got to sit down and go through the scan and the radiographs with both Dr. Redding and one of his residents, as well as ask questions and touch base through email follow-ups and info through my vet for the next 12 months.
Sorry for the essay, but TL;DR — stop the self-torture and guessing we’re all so good at (I’m a pro!) and go to the best you have access to and get the diagnostics done.
Our sad and my totally wrong guesses: http://www.teamflyingsolo.com/2012/05/full-stop.html
Diagnostics FTW (although undervet was NQR about only doing injections once, heh, but they are no different from, say, a yearly hock injection):
Unfortunately I can’t see what he’s doing in the video because my stupid internet is so slow it’s choppy, but if it is stifles he just needs to be strengthened (since he isn’t showing swelling or pain). Is he in really good shape? If he’s out of shape that can make the stifles worse. My horse has locking stifles (VERY obviously) and I don’t have hills either. If you check out my blog under the equine fitness and locking stifle you can see what I’m doing to help him, but I’ll give you a brief list here too and I really hope it helps. Backing is really good for strengthening stifles, especially if you can back up a slight incline (I back him over my culvert in the driveway) just make sure he’s doing it in a relaxed manner with his head down so he’s using the correct muscles. Also asking him to step over a square bale of hay helps. The key is to step over as slowly as you can with his back legs. So I ask Chrome to step over with his front legs, then stop, then ease forward with his rear legs. Also cavaletti that someone mentioned. You can also tap his hind legs one at a time from the ground with a whip and ask him to hold them up. Here is a link to a page where I shared some stifle exercises out of my equine fitness book http://rdxhorses.blogspot.com/2014/04/stifle-exercises.html I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the vet check goes well! Also I hope I haven’t repeated anything other people suggested. I don’t have time to read all the other comments.
Everyone has such good suggestions I don’t have much to add. Checking out Chromes page with his locking stifles is a good idea. My youngster has a more mild case if it but now that I know what to look for I notice it. When he’s weak from lack of work he will seem to fall out in the inside hind and it’s his stifle catching. I put him on a serious schedule of cavalettis at walk and trot length with lots of backing. I saw improvement immediately.
Also-have you looked at your own back/hips. I’m an ex figure skater too and my doc thinks my hip issue started a million years ago when I was a skinny bugger in sequins. I’m incredibly crooked and had no idea how tight my muscles had gotten until the right doctor saw me. I seem really flexible because at baseline I’m a pretzel
from skating days but this doc zeroed in on the areas I’m stiff as a board. Dickie’s tough side is the right which happens to be my bad hip. He is part of the problem but I’m not helping it.
I don’t think you are too big for him, but something in your body could be throwing him off. I would get checked out by a physio/chiro yourself if you can! When my back is out it makes Apollo seem off (because he’s trying to balance my crookedness). Apollo weight 1700lbs and I’m less than 8% of his body weight…and that’s enough to throw him off! Best of luck 🙂