What is Ringbone?
As they age, horses will wear on their leg joints and hooves from day-to-day activity. Eventually, this can lead to a degenerative arthritis condition called Ringbone. It affects the pastern and coffin joints, also known as the high and low ringbone. Ringbone in horses starts when joint inflammation occurs, leading to pain and lameness.
Signs of Ringbone in Horses
Lameness is one of the first signs of Ringbone. Horses that have a more upright hoof angle are more likely to suffer from Ringbone because they don’t absorb impact as well and put more weight on the joints. In more advanced cases, you may notice a bony, swollen mass surrounding the high or low ringbone.
The mass will be hard (bony) when you press on it, and pressure will not hurt your horse. Sharp pain will occur once the affected joint is flexed – but don’t try this yourself. Call a horse health professional to take a look, instead.
How To Treat Ringbone In Horses
Your farrier or horse health professional may have a variety of treatment suggestions depending on your horse’s weight, activity level, build, etc.. Ringbone can affect horses of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and there is no one treatment that works for all patients. Since it is a progressive disease that is irreversible, the focus will be on managing your horse’s comfort and mobility.
A farrier may suggest special corrective shoes to minimize overuse of joints for comfort. As far as medication goes, joint-feed supplements and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are popular for reducing pain. These treatments are usually topical or injected.
There’s also another method that is used that may surprise you: fusing the joints. Depending on how the disease progresses, the affected joints may fuse together. This relieves some of the pain the horse experiences because the joint cannot be flexed anymore. Some horse health professionals elect to medically speed up the process if they think it’s the best option for the horse.
What Should I Do If I Think My Horse Has Ringbone?
If you see signs of lameness or a swollen area around the ringbone joints, call your trusted horse health professional. They will be able to properly rule out other options and diagnose your horse without further injuring them. From there, you can discuss a treatment plan that has your budget and horse’s best interest in mind.
Your farrier might recognize Ringbone during a scheduled appointment as well. He might be able to give some advice on corrective shoe fittings or other options to improve the comfort of your equine companion.