What is Sidebone?
The collateral cartilages are in sense, elastic, and allow the foot to move freely when your horse moves. When the collateral cartilages become ossified, they lose the elasticity and are much harder without flexibility.
Sidebone can develop in any horse, but is found in heavier built horses, such as the draft breeds rather than the lighter built breeds and small ponies. Hunters and jumpers are also predisposed to develop sidebone because of the undue stress on the collateral cartilages.
Sidebone is commonly found in the front feet. There have been instances where it has been diagnosed in the hind feet.
Sidebone in horses is the ossification of the collateral cartilages in the foot. The collateral cartilages are just above the coronary band on each side of the lower pastern. The collateral cartilages are considered to be shock absorbers for the foot.
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Symptoms of Sidebone in Horses
Sidebone can be painful for your horse, if you notice your horse acting as if they are in pain and not wanting to walk, check their hooves for any foreign objects that might have lodged into a hoof. If you see nothing there, contact your veterinarian for an assessment. Other things to watch for include:
- Pockets of calcification felt when palpated
- Limping or stilted walk
- Unwilling to walk
- Constant shifting of feet
- Resting on leg more than the others
Many people associate lameness with sidebone, but horses diagnosed with sidebone have not gone lame. They may limp or have a stilted walk, but they will not be classified as lame.
Causes of Sidebone in Horses
Many veterinarians believe that mild sidebone, or ossification of the collateral cartilages, is simply a part of the aging process. This is especially true for the giant breeds and draft horses that have to bear a lot of weight on their legs and feet. Hunters and jumpers are also at a higher risk of developing sidebone, especially as they age.
Premature or excessive sidebone could be the result of undue stress on the collateral cartilages. This can come from a number of sources including poor foot conformation, chronic imbalance, abnormal leg conformation or direct trauma to the collateral cartilages.
Diagnosis of Sidebone in Horses
When diagnosing sidebone, your veterinarian will do a thorough examination of your horse. They will palpate above the coronet and may feel a loss of normal flexibility of the heel over the cartilage. A palpation of the coronary band and the collateral cartilages should also be done to feel for any calcification of the cartilages. The coronary band may have a bulge over the ossified cartilage and the hoof wall may appear more upright.
X-rays will be taken to confirm the ossification of the collateral cartilages. Your veterinarian will take x-rays of the affected foot as well as the normal foot. A comparison can be made of the two feet to determine the severity of the sidebone.
In the event that an x-ray does not clearly show the ossification of the collateral cartilages, an MRI may need to be used to assess the severity of the sidebone.
Treatment of Sidebone in Horses
Once your veterinarian has made a definitive diagnosis of sidebone, a treatment plan can be put in place. Aging horses that have normal or progressive ossification of the collateral cartilages should not require treatment. Younger horses or horses where lameness could become a problem do require treatments.
A farrier may need to be called to perform a skilled trim on the affected foot and put a specialty shoe on to correct any foot imbalance that can be causing the sidebone to occur. The affected foot will need to be re-shod regularly.
Stall rest will be required for an extended period of time, usually six to eight weeks. The stall floor should be cushioned with bedding or specialized flooring to take undue stress off the legs and feet.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs, may be used. This will alleviate any swelling within the collateral cartilages and surrounding tissues. Be sure to follow dosing instructions carefully.
Recovery of Sidebone in Horses
Recovery from sidebone is guarded, especially in cases where lameness has presented or there is excessive ossification in the collateral cartilages as well as hoof deformity. Your veterinarian will give you more information regarding your horse’s recovery once treatments have begun and they can see how well your horse is responding to those treatments.
Preventing excessive sidebone is important to keeping your horse healthy and active into old age. This is done by maintaining a regular hoof trimming and shoeing schedule with your farrier. Talk with your farrier about different shoeing techniques and which ones are best to maximize the movement and circulation within the foot and promote good collateral cartilage health. Keeping your horse well rested is also important as is allowing them to have soft bedding within their stalls to alleviate stress on their legs and feet.