Ringbone in Horses Symptoms and Effective Treatments

Ringbone in Horses: Symptoms and Effective Treatments

by | Jun 28, 2023 | Equine Health, Equine Treatment

Just like us, horses can suffer from arthritis – a condition that causes discomfort, pain, and can drastically reduce their quality of life. One common form of arthritis that afflicts horses is known as ringbone. Though the name might evoke images of a fancy jewelry piece, the reality is far from glamorous. Ringbone in horses is a painful and debilitating condition that necessitates prompt detection and action.

Whether you’re a first-time horse owner, an experienced equine enthusiast, or a professional equestrian athlete, it’s essential to recognize the signs of this condition and take the necessary steps to manage it effectively. This article will take you on a detailed journey to understand what ringbone is, how to identify its symptoms, what the best treatment options are, and how to prevent its occurrence.

In the course of our discussion, we’ll also delve into the world of equine health products, from quality feed supplements like AniMed Aniflex Complete Joint Health Supplement to reliable physiotherapy equipment such as Equilibrium Therapy Magnetic Hind & Hock Chaps. By acknowledging ringbone as a real and present danger to our horses, we equip ourselves to combat it, ensuring the wellbeing of our beloved equine companions.

What is Ringbone in Horses?

When we delve into the subject of ringbone, it’s important to understand that it’s not a single condition but rather an umbrella term for a type of osteoarthritis that affects the pastern and coffin joints in horses. Named for the telltale bony enlargements or “rings” that form around the affected joint, ringbone is a serious concern that can affect horses of all ages and breeds, though older and heavily worked horses are often more susceptible.

There are two types of ringbone: high and low. High ringbone occurs at the pastern joint, just above the coronet, while low ringbone affects the coffin joint located within the hoof. Both forms can cause significant discomfort and potentially even lameness in the affected horse.

The primary causes of ringbone include poor conformation, excessive or hard work, trauma, improper shoeing, and obesity. A horse that is frequently ridden on hard surfaces or that has been subject to high-stress activity such as jumping can be more susceptible to ringbone due to the increased wear and tear on their joints. In these cases, using a protective hoof boot can help reduce the impact on the horse’s hooves and joints.

Poor conformation, such as a long pastern or upright hoof, can predispose a horse to ringbone as it places undue stress on the joints. Proper hoof care is crucial in these instances, and can go a long way in addressing conformation issues and reducing the risk of ringbone.

Similarly, maintaining a healthy weight for your horse is vital in preventing excessive strain on their joints. An overweight horse has an increased risk of developing ringbone and other arthritis-related conditions. A balanced diet is a cornerstone in maintaining a healthy weight, and supplementing with a feed balancer and Mineral Supplement can ensure your horse is getting the necessary nutrients without excessive calories.

Lastly, horses that have suffered a trauma to the joint, such as a severe sprain or fracture, may develop ringbone as part of the healing process. It’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary care for any joint-related injuries and consider using supportive braces like Professionals Choice Equine Sports Medicine Ventech Elite Leg Boot Wrap to aid in recovery and prevent further injury.

Ringbone in horses isn’t just a singular health concern; it’s a multifaceted issue that requires vigilance, preventive measures, and an acute understanding of our horses’ needs. With this knowledge at hand, we can make strides in providing our horses with the care they deserve, reducing the risk of this condition, and maintaining their wellbeing.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Ringbone

Ringbone’s initial signs may be subtle, often mistaken for a mere change in stride or an occasional show of discomfort. However, as the disease progresses, these signs become more apparent and potentially debilitating for your equine companion.

Typically, one of the first symptoms horse owners may observe is stiffness or difficulty moving. A horse with ringbone may exhibit a shorter stride, have difficulty bending its joints, or be unwilling to perform actions that were previously straightforward, such as cantering or jumping. The introduction of a joint supplement can aid in alleviating stiffness and promote overall joint health.

Lameness is another notable symptom, often intermittent in the early stages but may become persistent as ringbone progresses. The lameness may worsen with exercise and improve with rest. Anti-inflammatory medications, as prescribed by a veterinarian, can help manage pain and inflammation associated with ringbone. For additional support, using a leg wrap like the Back on Track Therapeutic Bell Boots can provide comfort and reduce inflammation.

Physical signs of ringbone include swelling or a hard lump around the pastern or coffin joint. This might be more evident when the horse is standing on a hard surface or after a workout. In such instances, using a cooling wrap like the Ice Horse Tendon Wraps can help alleviate swelling and offer relief to your horse.

Changes in behavior are also key indicators of ringbone. If your once-energetic horse seems reluctant to exercise or has become irritable when touched or moved, this could indicate joint discomfort. Spending quality time with your horse, providing gentle massage using grooming tools like the HandsOn Gloves can enhance comfort, build trust, and can also be a valuable tool for early detection of physical changes.

A keen eye and awareness of your horse’s normal behavior are crucial in spotting these symptoms. It’s also a good idea to use a health monitoring device like the NIGHTWATCH Smart Halter, which can alert you to changes in your horse’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and overall behavior that may indicate discomfort or distress.

Early detection and diagnosis of ringbone can drastically improve the prognosis and quality of life for your horse. Therefore, if you suspect your horse may be showing signs of ringbone, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian right away.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The detection of ringbone involves a combination of visual inspection, physical examination, and advanced diagnostic tools. Veterinarians usually start with a visual inspection of the horse in motion to detect any signs of lameness or abnormal gait. For precise identification, though, radiography is the gold standard. Advanced equipment like the Sound Next Equine DR Digital Radiography System can detect ringbone’s subtle early signs, providing a detailed image of the horse’s hoof and lower leg joints.

Once a definitive diagnosis is made, there’s a range of treatment options available, each with their own merits and limitations. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first line of treatment, providing relief from pain and inflammation. While effective, long-term use of these medications can have side effects, which makes a product like Uckele Health & Nutrition’s Comfort Hoof supplement a great addition. It has anti-inflammatory properties, but with fewer side effects.

Physiotherapy, too, plays an essential role in managing ringbone. It improves mobility, reduces stiffness, and enhances the overall quality of life of horses with ringbone. A physiotherapy product like the Centurion Mini Pulse is a portable and convenient tool that uses pulsed electromagnetic field therapy to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

In cases where conservative treatment doesn’t suffice, surgical intervention, such as pastern joint fusion, may be advised. This procedure has a high success rate but should be considered a last resort due to the invasiveness and potential complications. Post-surgery, a product like the Professional’s Choice Ice Boot can be very beneficial in managing inflammation and promoting healing.

Intramuscular or intravenous injections of hyaluronic acid and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan are another treatment option. They aim to slow down joint degeneration and reduce inflammation. An oral supplement like Cosequin ASU Plus, which contains glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid, can support this treatment.

Lastly, horses with ringbone may benefit from corrective shoeing, which alters the hoof’s angle to reduce joint stress and promote more comfortable movement. A skilled farrier who understands the mechanics of hoof balance and support is vital in this treatment plan.

Treatment for ringbone isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It requires careful consideration, often involving a combination of therapies. Always consult your vet before commencing a treatment regime.

Prevention and Management

Just as we humans know the value of prevention, so too can preventive measures make a world of difference for our equine companions. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of ringbone in horses, there are certainly ways to lower the odds.

Firstly, regular, controlled exercise is key. Our horses aren’t designed for extended periods of inactivity. Too much stall rest can lead to stiff joints, while on the other hand, overexertion can accelerate joint wear and tear. Therefore, maintaining a balance is crucial, and an EquiVibe Whole Body Vibration Plate can help with this, promoting circulation, flexibility, and overall joint health.

Proper hoof care can’t be stressed enough. Regular trimming and shoeing by a qualified farrier will maintain correct hoof balance, thereby minimizing undue stress on the joints. Products like Farrier’s Formula can also support healthy hoof condition, further decreasing the likelihood of ringbone development.

Additionally, nutrition plays a significant role in joint health. A well-balanced diet that includes high-quality forage, grain, and supplements is key to maintaining joint health. Products like Absorbine Bute-Less Performance Supplement offer comprehensive joint support with ingredients known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

For horses diagnosed with ringbone, management is a lifelong commitment. In addition to the treatments mentioned earlier, routine vet check-ups and diligent observation for any changes in your horse’s behaviour or movement are critical.

Equine therapy products can also make a world of difference for a horse living with ringbone. Back on Track Therapeutic Horse Quick Wraps, for example, can increase circulation in the legs, helping reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Remember, managing ringbone is a marathon, not a sprint. Your commitment, patience, and tender care can greatly improve your horse’s quality of life.


The bond between humans and horses is one forged in trust, respect, and mutual companionship. As the guardians of these magnificent creatures, we bear the responsibility to recognize ailments such as ringbone in horses and act swiftly to alleviate their discomfort. Ringbone, a form of arthritis, is a challenging condition to manage. Still, with early detection, appropriate veterinary care, diligent management, and the use of quality equine products, we can help our horses live a life of comfort and dignity, despite their diagnosis.

About The Author

<a href="https://www.equiniction.com/author/issabella-m/" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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