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Dr. Will
Dr. Will, Horse Veterinarian
Category: Horse Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 649
Experience:  35 years as an Equine Veterinarian, Editor and Co-Author: Horseman's Veterinary Encyclopedia
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My 14 year old quarter horse has dislocated his patella at

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My 14 year old quarter horse has dislocated his patella at the stifle joint. He seems completely pain free, he still canters up the field when he sees me, he still trots about and plays with his field mates!! The patella looks like it will come through the skin as he walks, when he stands you can see an obvious lump, when he rests his leg on the tip of his hoof the lump looks much bigger. I have had 3 vet visits, they suspected a bursa or boney cyst but x rays show the patella is dislocated. My vet has never seen anything like it so has no experience in this type of injury and is consulting with a specialist. I really would appreciate someone elses opinion on this, or if anyone has had experience of this and how it was overcome. I am trying to avoid surgery on my gelding - but realise that it may be the only option.

Hi and Welcome to Just Answer!


May I ask,


1) What breed is your gelding?

2) Is the problem only on one side?

3) How long would you say the problem has existed?

4) Is there ANY change in his gate at all -- at pasture or when ridden? Can you make him back up easily?


I will watch for your answers.


Dr. Will



Customer: replied 6 years ago.


Hi, Dr Will

He is an american quarter horse, 15.1hh - real bulldog type, not ridden much really, just a big pet who I ride out on the mountain with occasionally.

The problem is only on the one side, the off-side.

The problem has been there for 2 weeks, I had vet out immediately I noticed it, it wasn't there in the morning when I saw him but was there when I got home in the evening. My vet practice sent a more experienced vet last week, he came once to examine him, then again the following day to xray him - when he returned to his offices to process the xrays the machine they use broke and ruined the xrays he had taken so he had to come out again yesterday to do it over again. Until yesterday evening my vets thought it was something like a bursa or boney cyst - he has had quite a shock to see the dislocated patella as my horse walks as if there is nothing wrong. My vets have advised to let him stay out in the field, but I am getting a bit anxious in case things get worse. Though I do admit that my horse doesn't seem to be in any pain at all.

There is no change in his gait in the pasture nor walking on the road, I haven't ridden him with it, he backs up OK - nothing unusual at all in his gait forward or backward.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Thank you again,


Well Angela, this is a little unusual. First, dislocation of the patella in horses is unusual -- very unusual. The far more usual situation is momentary upward fixation of the patella - especially in quarter horses -- a kind of subluxation. In this condition (which vets that don't work on QH's very often would not see) the patella is "stuck" out of place either momentarily or for quite a while. However, with upward fixation, there is always an abnormal gait. A "hitch" in his getalong so to speak. The leg "catches" and pops or perhaps just short steps on the affected side. It can be subtle sometimes so it takes a practiced eye to see it.


I would expect a complete luxation of the patella to result in serious gait issues. The patella would be rubbing on the lateral trochlear ridge and that would not feel good. The fact that he has no abnormal gait causes me to question the diagnosis.


My suggestion would be to seek a referral to an equine surgical center for a second opinion. I would venture to say that no equine surgeon is going to want to operate on a patient that has no pain or gait issues (because the patient sure could have one following surgery) -- BUT a surgical center would be equipped with the people and technology to make a definite diagnosis.


I suspect this is a form of upward fixation -- not luxation, but since I cannot examine your gelding over the internet I cannot say for sure. You need a good exam done by an experienced qualified equine surgeon.


Best of luck to you!


Dr. Will


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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi, Dr Will


Thank you very much for your time.


His x rays definitely show a dislocated patella, the fact that he isn't lame is baffling the vet here. The patella is definitely stuck out of place.


Anyway, many thanks for your input.


kind regards



Your Welcome,


Dr. Will


Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi, Dr Will


Just to update you - I was recommended to take my horse to specialist orthopaedic vet about 120 miles away. He x-rayed him and scanned him. What he found was that the patella was in exactly the right position and that he actually had a haematoma, probably from a kick.


He sent a report to myself and my own local vet who rang me and apologised for getting it so wrong. My horse is fine, he just has this big lump on his knee joint at the stifle which, basically, has turned out to be a very expensive bruise!!


I am just glad he is OK.


Thanks for your advice.