Ringbone: the road to lameness

A better understanding of ringbone in horses will help you take effective steps toward prevention and recovery.

Ringbone can be painful, debilitating, and degenerative. It takes place in the pastern joint, referred to as high ringbone and/or in the coffin joint, referred to as low ringbone. This bony overgrowth, more formally known as exostosis, forms where the ligaments attach to the coffin bone. When advanced, the additional bone growth may circle the entire pastern creating a ring, which is where it gets its name.

A dark road to travel down

The longer ringbone is left, the harder it is to reverse. It’s a painful condition because the coffin bone area is constantly moving. There may also be inflammation that places uncomfortable pressure on the joint.

Ringbone is commonly thought to be the result of an injury to the joint, but an event of physical damage usually does not occur. Typically signs of ringbone appear slowly over time – a shortened stride, tripping (especially going downhill), pointing the toe, shifting weight, the presence of heat accumulation and other subtle signs. The horse may then begin to take intermittent lame steps, which will eventually develop into consistent lameness.

Natural hoof care is your horse’s hope

A properly functioning hoof will smoothly and effortlessly roll over the toe. It adapts to the terrain and supports the horse’s movement with effortless and flexible motion. The hoof should expand and absorb shock. It should remain supple and adaptable to encourage blood circulation, bearing the nutrients and oxygen required for health.

Limiting fluid motion with the rigid inflexibility of a metal shoe inhibits these actions. Shoes make rollover abrupt and sudden, stressing the joints and cellular tissues and distorting already straining cartilage, connective tissue and corium. The result is the anatomical challenges, ossifications, stresses and strains that lead to ringbone.

Corrective shoeing, stall rest, injections, various pharmaceuticals and operations can mask ringbone for a time, but the real cure must come from addressing the source of the problem. By supporting your horse’s natural way of moving, prevention and reversal of this disease can occur.

Here’s where your trusted trimmer comes in

Conformation, injury, and other external factors can cause ringbone, but for the most part, it is due to the hoof treatment. Good trimmers are equipped to perfectly balance weight-bearing and movement by considering various pastern angles, breakover and the individual animal’s movement. Other modalities that assist in the healing process are light or PRP (plasma replacement therapy), acupuncture and chiropractic treatment and massage, while ointments can help to relieve pain without adverse side effects. By choosing treatments wisely, horses can live long, healthy lives after ringbone.

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