Ringbone in Horses

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About Ringbone

Ringbone in horses is a progressive, degenerative and performance limiting condition. With about 60 – 80 percent of all lameness being traced to a foot problem, ringbone is one of the many possible causes. Ringbone is a common term used to describe an osteoarthritis that affects the coffin joint (Low Ringbone) or the pastern joint (High ringbone). You should also know that there is True ringbone and False ringbone. False ringbone means the ligaments and joint capsule supporting the joint have been injured. Put simply, true ringbone in horses is like arthritis, involving the joint cartilage itself. Ringbone got its name from the inflammation and extra bone formation around the joint that appears as a ring.

Causes of Ringbone

There are several factors that contribute to ringbone. Lets take a look at some of the foremost:

  • Poor conformation has been identified as leading cause of ringbone in horses. Horses with angular limb deformities (that toe-in or toe-out) may distribute abnormal stresses across the joint surfaces and joint capsule and ligaments.
  • Traumatic induced ringbone is also very common. Any horse can develop ringbone over the years from the combined effects of pounding, especially over hard surfaces or at high speed. But ringbone can also occur following strain-sprain type injuries to the soft tissue support structures of the joint. In fact, ringbone occurs more commonly in horses that make sharp turns and sudden stops.
  • Improper trimming or shoeing will greatly increase the chances of ringbone as well. Trimming the horse with toes too long and heels too short increases the risk of ringbone because of the strain it puts on the joints. When a horse is trimmed in a way that goes against his natural anatomy, problems could easily occur.

Results of ringbone

In the early stages of ringbone, there may be brief swelling in the pastern area that goes away with rest. Affected horses may show sensitivity to pressure. If the condition becomes chronic, the typical outward appearance of ringbone becomes evident with firm, cool swelling around the joint. A nerve block and X-ray should be done by your veterinarian to determine the cause and influence treatment.

Treatment of ringbone

The primary goal of treatment should be to create a plan with your veterinarian to minimize the factors that contribute to its development. This should include evaluating the conformation of your horse and its suitability for your intended use. Medical management of chronic cases may include rest, leg wraps and hot or cold therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, or local injections of a corticosteroid. It is also important to have regular scheduled hoof care by a skilled farrier to insure proper balancing of the foot and appropriate shoeing.

Often times, medical management will extend the athletic career of horses for some time. However, in many cases, medical management alone will not result in long-term soundness, and surgical intervention is required. In dealing with ringbone in horses, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of is your best chance for full soundness. If you are planning on buying a horse, it’s always a good idea to have a veterinarian perform a pre-purchase exam and possibly take an X-ray of the pastern region if problems are suspected.

Products for Ringbone

Listed below are some things that we have used to treat ringbone here at Rafter R.

For questions or further information about ringbone in horses please contact us.

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