A couple of summers ago Ole, my daughter's Quarter horse would go intermittently lame, sometimes after even the lightest work. The first time it happened I assumed he had twisted an ankle or something and gave him time off. But it kept recurring and I kept giving him time off with the result that we ended up not using him for most of that summer. I called the vet to come and perform a lameness exam so we could figure out exactly what the problem was and how to fix it.
My vet, Dr. Greg Harms, started out watching Ole work at a walk and trot, but Ole wouldn’t take his left lead at all, either on a circle or on a straight line. Greg then did a flexion test on all Ole’s legs and all the joints and quickly found that it was his left hind fetlock that was the problem. Greg then took x-rays and told me he would call with the results.
A couple of days later the call came with the results – ringbone – and Greg said he would come by and explain all the ramifications and treatment options. So what exactly is equine ringbone?
What is Ringbone?
Ringbone is the layman’s term for osteoarthritis of the pastern (high ringbone) and/or coffin joints (low ringbone); it is progressive and there is no cure. Ringbone is most commonly caused by abnormal stress to the joints, but can also be a result of trauma. When the joint is stressed and inflammation and pain occurs, the body reacts by creating bone to try and stabilize the joint, which is the start of arthritis. The more pain, the more creation of bone, which in turn creates more pain. If one can interrupt the process by eliminating the pain, progression of the arthritis is slowed.
I was given a few options by the veterinarian for treating Ole to keep him pain-free. The first and foremost was to discuss the problem with my farrier and have him trim and shoe Ole with his condition in mind. Long toes and low heels create stress as does an unevenness side-to-side on the foot. Fortunately that was not the problem with Ole, but by making sure his toes are kept short, squaring the shoe so that he breaks over quicker, and putting a little longer length on the shoe to support his foot all help him.
I could consider giving Ole Bute the day before, the day of, and the day after we ride him, but in the first place we might not know ahead of time when we'd be going for a ride and in the second place, I hate keeping a horse constantly on Bute. So the next option was to give Ole a course of Adequan IM, which is what I have decided to do.
I have now been giving Ole Adequan and although it is fairly expensive, it is working for him and he has been sound since I have started this regime. Greg has said that if he discovers ringbone in a horse pre-purchase exam it usually will mean a no-sale. Fortunately, though, with treatment the progression of the disease can be significantly slowed and horses that are not doing strenuous work can still be used for many years. This is good news for Ole...and for us!