Locking Patella

The system of muscles, tendons and ligaments that allow the horse to ‘lock’ its lower leg joints with little muscular effort are known as the ‘stay apparatus’.

The horse’s stifle has an additional locking mechanism. The patella can hook itself over the inner trochlear ridge of the femur. This eases the load on the quadriceps muscles considerably. Unlocking the patella requires the combined efforts of the quadriceps, biceps femoris and tensor fasciae latae muscles.

Upward fixation of the patella is a condition where the horse is unable to unlock the stifle and therefore cannot flex the affected leg. This condition is often seen in;

  • Young developing horses
  • Horses with poor stifle conformation
  • Horses that are not in good condition e.g. reduced strength of involved structures.

Locking patella treatment should focus on increasing the muscle mass and strength of the hind limbs e.g. more hill and trotting work. Gentle manipulation carried out by a physiotherapist can also help. In prolonged and severe cases surgical intervention may be necessary (e.g. Medial Patellar Ligament Splitting).

Can Niagara Equissage help horses with locking patella?

Niagara Equissage can really help to improve this condition; indeed, many owners have reported that Niagara Equissage has helped to successfully cure the problem. This is due to its ability to tone and condition muscles. The therapeutic cycloidal vibrations which reach deep tissue, muscle and bone help to release muscle tension, increase muscle tone and stimulate nerve endings. The action also improves and increases the local blood circulation which in turn also improves the performance of the muscles associated with upward fixation of the locking patella.


Initially a twice-daily application on a medium to higher setting is the better course of action so as to get to work improving the muscle tone and strength. Thereafter, in conjunction with the horse’s exercise regime, one session each day will suffice – ideally prior to exercise.


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