Ringbone in Horses

Ringbone in Horses - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Pain / Swelling

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Rated as moderate conditon

5 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Pain / Swelling

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Ringbone in Horses - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What is Ringbone?

Ringbone is not commonly seen in young horses but in older ones who have been worked longer.  Ringbone is defined as a ring of ossified tissue surrounding the joint to the pastern or coffin joint.  In many cases, it affects the front legs and since it develops gradually, it goes unnoticed.  Symptoms are vague and usually begin with intermittent lameness and heat radiating from the affected area.  The only way to properly diagnose this condition is with diagnostic imaging that may require you to go to a specialist hospital.  Treatment is supportive with rest, anti-inflammatory medications and corrective shoeing.  In more severe cases, surgical fusion of the joint may be a good option for you to consider.

Ringbone in horses is an osteoarthritis condition affecting the coffin or pastern joint of a horse.  Typically caused by injury to the joint, it can lead to a long term abnormality of your horse’s gait and the inability to perform the job he was originally intended for.

Symptoms of Ringbone in Horses

Symptoms of ringbone may include:

  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Heat
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling

Types

Your horse can suffer from two different types of ringbone: low or high.  Low ringbone is the more serious of the two forms and causes a bony enlargement at the coffin joint.  It occurs inside the hoof beneath the coronary band which causes pain and lameness.  Chronic low ringbone causes the coronary band to bulge at the front of the foot and is known as buttress foot.  When the condition affects the pastern joint, it is known as high ringbone.

Causes of Ringbone in Horses

The most common cause of ringbone is injury to the joint.  It may be from strain or stress due to athletic activity or conformation abnormality that causes it strain.  If your horse’s leg is crooked, especially from the fetlock joint or lower, it puts a large amount of stress on the coffin or pastern joint.  Horses with pigeon-toe are more prone to develop ringbone on the outside of the joints and splayed-foot horses develop more on the inside.

Diagnosis of Ringbone in Horses

The first symptoms you will see in your horse tend to be intermittent lameness, tenderness and heat radiating from the area.  Radiographs of the area should be taken as soon as your horse presents with lameness.  An MRI is also helpful when diagnosing this condition.  It will help diagnose ligament abnormalities that otherwise would go undiagnosed.  In addition to these imaging options, there is also nuclear scintigraphy, or bone scanning, that has the ability to see even the earliest of bone and cartilage abnormalities before it would be visible on a radiographic image.   

While imaging may be expensive, it is the only way to get a proper diagnosis.  The clinical symptoms of ringbone are very vague so diagnostic imaging is very important.  Otherwise, the veterinarian is forced to make an assumptive diagnosis and treat the condition blindly and just hope for a good outcome.

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Treatment of Ringbone in Horses

Rest is the best thing for a horse with ringbone.  It is also important to keep your horse at an appropriate body weight.  When overweight, it puts additional stress on their legs and feet making the condition worse.  You also need to take his job into consideration and alter his exercise and riding plan to reduce wear and tear on the joint.

Corrective shoeing can also be helpful when it comes to managing ringbone.  A shoe that limits the torque on the joint is helpful in this type of diagnosis.  Anti-inflammatory medications will also help your horse deal with the pain.  Oral medications, as well as intra-articular medications, can be utilized for your horse’s needs.  

In more advanced cases of ringbone, surgical fusion of the joint can help.  It eliminates the pain for the horse but does cause him to move with a more stiffened pattern.

Recovery of Ringbone in Horses

In some cases of high ringbone, as the pastern joint grows together it sometimes heals.  Low ringbone unfortunately is prone to result in permanent unsoundness.  Either form of ringbone can interfere with a horse’s ability to do his job.  The main thing you as an owner should keep in mind if you begin aggressive therapies after an early diagnosis, it is possible to keep it from developing into a severe case.  

If your horse does develop ringbone, it is important to have his hooves trimmed and shoed regularly.  Maintaining a healthy weight and giving him plenty of rest when needed is just as important to his healing process.  Additionally, adding chondroprotective supplements to his diet can act as a cartilage protecting agent.

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Ringbone Average Cost

From 308 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Ringbone Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Zip

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Unkno

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11 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

So I have a 11 year old quarter horse that I am interested in buying. He is pigeon-toed in the front, and is it calf kneed or cow hawked? He has one of those in the back. I’m really scared about him getting ringbone. One of the horse at our barn has ringbone very bad and limps around and can’t be ridden, like can barely move. It is so sad watch and i don’t know if I can put a horse through that. That’s why I’m scared to buy him. He is amazing otherwise and we have been leasing him for about 2 years now. We show all around together, like we do everything, games, trail riding, pleasure, and even jumping. I really need advise on what to do, should I buy him, or is he definitely going to have ringbone and I shouldn’t buy him? How can you prevent ringbone?

June 16, 2018

Zip's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without seeing Zip, I don't have any way to comment on his conformation, unfortunately. It is always a good idea to have a veterinary exam before buying a horse, and having him seen will allow them to determine how severe his conformation is and whether he will have any potential problems in the future.

June 16, 2018

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Jack

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Irish cob

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17 Years

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Fair condition

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0 found helpful

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Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Ringbone

my irish cob was diagnosed with upper ringbone in both front fores 2 years ago and manages well apart from the hot summer period when the ground is hard to walk on. He has also got arthritis in his back and sacroliac joints which he has been treated for a few years ago and seems to manage really well. My question is..when he has a ringbone flare up can you recommend anything particular other than rest and medication. he needs to continue in work due to his other arthritic issues as I he is also becoming overweight due to the lack of work.

May 24, 2018

Jack's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without seeing Jack, I cannot recommend any treatment for him, unfortunately, but rest and anti-inflammatories tend to be the mainstay for therapy for that condition. Keeping his weight under control will make a big difference as well.

May 24, 2018

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Trev

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Welsh Cob

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12 Years

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Mild condition

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2 found helpful

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Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Lame

My horse has suspected high ring bone in front, he has has 5 months off rest and I’ve slowly been bringing him back into work to get weight off. He’s feeling really good when out hacking and also when schooling well, occasionally he feels slightly short if correct bend hasn’t been achieved. He’s had corrective shoeing, is on anti-inflammatory supplements and magnetic bands when in field. Before he went lame I competed in show jumping and cross country I know this might not be achievable, but what other things can I add to try and work towards this? And how will I know what his limits will be?

Jan. 16, 2018

Trev's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without examining Trev, I have a hard time commenting on additional therapies for him, or what his limitations might be. It would be best to to follow up with your regular veterinarian to get their advice on any further treatments that he might benefit from. I hope that he continues to do well.

Jan. 16, 2018

New kill pen rescue has a badly clubbed foot and ringbone in the lower pastern bone. Starting her on meds, hoping she can be more comfortable. Since her only "job" is to be fed and loved, is this enough? Her farrier comes every two weeks, but I'm not sure corrective shoes will help.

May 8, 2018

Elizabeth S.

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Levi

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Quarter Horse

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10

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Low Ringbone

I am looking into buying a horse that has been diagnosed with low ringbone. After a vet check, I was assured that corrective shoeing, arthritis supplements, and joint injections will keep the horse sound so that he can be barrel raced off of a couple times a month with only walk/trot exercise at home. The horse is not lame but does show some signs of soreness. As of now the horses is not being treated at all for the ringbone, hence his soreness. With the correct treatment, can this horse be sound to run at barrel races or is he limited to be a companion/trail riding horse?

Dec. 8, 2017

Levi's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Corrective shoeing (by a competent Farrier), joint supplements and appropriate management can lead to a good horse for companionship, trails etc… some horses may even be able to be used to compete but this would be down to the Veterinarian managing the condition, I cannot say if Levi would be suitable for your needs or not. You should discuss with the Veterinarian who checked the horse or call out another Veterinarian for a second opinion before you make the purchase. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 8, 2017

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Max

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unknown

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15 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

N/A

I am considering taking on a companion pony (that has intermittent lameness from ringbone) for my thoroughbred and understand that the pony has never been officially diagnosed or treated. The pony is 15 years and 13.2 hands and seems to have a good temperament. I am just wondering if this is a good decision or a potentially expensive exercise if it has had no care up until now and should I just keep looking for a horse/pony in a more sound condition.

July 26, 2017

Max's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

If the pony is purely for companionship; the condition may be managed with weight control and using a good Farrier who understands the condition. I would get the ringbone official diagnosed before purchase just so you know the severity and if there are any other problems. There are records of horses still competing that have ringbone; it is all about the management. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

Ringbone Average Cost

From 308 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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