Last Updated on February 27, 2023
Ringbone in horses can be a frustrating problem that causes ongoing lameness. But what is the best supplement for ringbone in horses? Let’s find out!
One of the most frustrating experiences in owning a horse is arriving at the barn to find your horse lame. This can be very disheartening if your horse’s lameness is due to the progressive nature of a disease such as a ringbone.
If you’re currently in a situation like this, don’t lose hope. Having a diagnosis of ringbone in your horse is no longer the career-ending disease it once was.
A diagnosis of ringbone on horses causes a huge amount of worry for horse owners, as this lameness issue can cause recurrent lameness that can be difficult to resolve. But with so many different supplements for ringbone in horses available, it can be difficult to know which one to choose!
As with many feed additives, there are various formulas available, all claiming to be miracle products that will help cure your horse. To choose the best supplement for ringbone in horses, we need to understand what are the key components that can help a horse with this debilitating long-term condition.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about ringbone in horses, including what makes the best supplement for ringbone in horses!
What Is Ringbone In Horses?
Ringbone is one of the most common forms of arthritis found in horses. It is a broad term used to describe osteoarthritis of the coffin joint (known as low ringbone,) or the pastern joint (known as high ringbone).
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage with a joint starts to break down. This causes the bone underneath the cartilage to wear down, creating pain and inflammation within the joint. In response, the bone creates a proliferation of growth which can easily be identified on a radiograph.
Like all arthritic conditions of horses, ringbone cannot be cured, but with the right management, the horse can live a comfortable and active life for many years.
Types Of Ringbone In Horses
There are two types of ringbone in horses, articular and periarticular ringbone. The articular ringbone affects the surface of the joint itself, both the cartilage and the lining, causing enlargement of the joint and pain and stiffness to the horse.
Periarticular ringbone, on the other hand, affects the ligaments and capsules near the joint, causing inflammation around the joint. This can be due to trauma, concussion, or strain due to exercise or play. Periarticular ringbone is more common and more serious than articular ringbone because as the affected joints become worn, bone spurs form on top of the damaged joints.
The problem is that this damage is irreversible, and there is no definitive cure for ringbone in horses. The disease is also progressive and will deteriorate, even if caught early. However, with proper treatment and good management, the progression of the ringbone can be slowed, and the horse can live a comfortable and active life.
Even though ringbone can be found in all four legs of the horse, it most commonly affects the front legs. It can be found in all types of horses irrespective of the breed, but it is more commonly diagnosed in larger, overweight horses and horses aged fifteen years and older.
Signs and Symptoms of Ringbone in Horses
Ringbone can be difficult to diagnose until it is in the more advanced stages. If your horse starts displaying any of these symptoms, it may be time to call the vet. Diagnosing ringbone in the earliest stages can have a significant impact on your horses’ quality of life and their chances of remaining in ridden work.
Here are the key signs of ringbone in horses:
- Intermittent lameness, commonly in one or both forelegs
- Swelling around the pastern or coronary band
- Hot or painful to touch areas around the lower limb
- Reluctance to lift legs, or to have feet picked
- Refusal to play or exercise
- Increased levels of lameness when going downhill
- Rigid or thick areas around the pastern – this is evidence of new bone growth
- Raised bumps and ridges – by the time these bony growths are evident, arthritis will be fairly advanced.
Can You Ride A Horse With Ringbone?
With a prompt diagnosis and comprehensive management strategy, riding a horse with ringbone may be possible. However, it is unlikely that a horse will be able to return to the same level of ridden work following a diagnosis of ringbone, and some activities such as jumping may be off the agenda.
The interesting thing about ringbone in horses is that over time the condition may improve. This is due to the bony proliferation which occurs around the joint – eventually, this will fuse the joint, reducing the level of pain the horse feels.
The level of lameness should always dictate the decision of whether to ride a horse with ringbone. A lame horse should never be ridden, as this is very painful for the animal. If the pain can be managed with a combination of therapies such as remedial farriery, gentle exercise can be very beneficial for the horse.
Is Ringbone Hereditary In Horses?
Ringbone in horses is often thought of as hereditary, as it can be due to conformational faults that predispose the horse to osteoarthritis. For example, horses with very upright pasterns are prone to concussion of the joints of the lower limb, leading to a ringbone. This conformational fault can be passed on from one generation of horses to the next.
For this reason, it is not advisable to breed from a horse that has been diagnosed with a degenerative musculoskeletal problem such as a ringbone. It is also a good idea to identify horses with conformational problems such as upright pasterns at a young age so that steps can be taken to reduce the risk of ringbone. These can include avoiding hard ground and using foot pads to reduce concussions.
What Is The Best Treatment For Ringbone In Horses?
If your horse is diagnosed with ringbone, your veterinarian will discuss many different treatment options with you. These will include various medications to help keep your horse comfortable, and other drugs which can be injected directly into the joint to ease inflammation. In some circumstances, surgery can be carried out to fuse the joint.
As well as veterinary treatment, there are many things you can do as a horse owner to ease the pain of the ringbone. Natural and holistic treatments can be used to slow the progress of ringbone and to keep your horse comfortable
One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that your horse maintains a healthy body weight. Excess body weight is extremely detrimental to horses with ringbone and will hasten the deterioration of the condition.
Another key factor in maintaining the health of horses with ringbone is to get the right balance of rest and exercise. Rest is essential to reduce pain and inflammation in the joint, but low-impact exercise can be useful to stimulate circulation within the joint. It is vital to discuss with your veterinarian how much exercise is appropriate for your horse with ringbone.
If your horse is diagnosed with ringbone your veterinarian should work alongside your farrier to formulate a remedial hoof care plan. The way your horse’s hooves are trimmed, and if necessary, shod can help to minimize the stress placed on your horse’s joints. Corrective shoeing can alter the break-over point of the horse’s motion, easing the tension placed on joints.
What Is The Best Supplement For Ringbone In Horses
Ringbone in horses can be relieved from the use of oral joint supplements. The best supplement for horses with ringbone are those that contain glucosamine, Omega-3s, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, ASU, hyaluronic acid, and other herbal ingredients.
These have been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and support the growth of healthy cartilage. This study shows the effects of various supplements on cartilage growth, and you can read more about a study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal on anti-inflammatory supplements here.
Other alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic work have been shown to have varying degrees of success with pain management in horses with ringbone. This is thought to be because ringbone is a wide and varying disease, with each individual horse showing different symptoms and degrees of progression. Because of the variation in the way in which ringbone manifests itself, it is difficult to know how your horse may respond to supplements and other natural therapies.
Preventing Ringbone in Horses
Like any medical problem in horses, prevention is always better than cure! Early diagnosis, treatment, and management may slow its progress, but it’s important to remember that ringbone is a progressive disease, and it will continue to worsen with time and activity.
Prevention of ringbone starts with good management, and the main focus is on reducing the level of trauma to your horse’s coffin bone and pastern joints. Poor hoof care and improper trimming methods can put excessive stress on your horse’s joints, as a result causing ringbone to develop.
If your horse has conformational problems such as upright pasterns, toes that point in, or feet that are disproportionately small for their size, then there is every possibility that your horse is predisposed to developing a ringbone.
If your horse suffers from any sort of injury to the joints of the lower leg, be careful not to rush them back into work. Giving them the appropriate amount of rest and ensuring the joint and surrounding tissues are strong enough to support the work will greatly reduce the risk of long-term degenerative problems in the future.
It is also vital to ensure that you warm up your horse thoroughly before any form of exercise. Adequately stretching out their tendons and ligaments, and warming their joints will result in greater flexibility, and reduce their risk for injury.
Summary – The Best Supplement For Ringbone In Horses
While a diagnosis of ringbone can be very disheartening, it is no longer the tragic news it once was. As discussed above, there are many options available to slow the progression of the disease and to help keep your horse free of pain. If the disease is detected and treated early enough, your horse may stay sound for years to come.
For more in-depth research about ringbone in horses, check out these two articles by Kentucky Equine Research on the basics of ringbone.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the best supplement for ringbone in horses! Have you had a lot of success in treating ringbone in horses with natural remedies? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about how to manage ringbone in your horse? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Is ringbone in horses hereditary?
In some cases, ringbone in horses can be hereditary. One horse may have inherited ringbone from it's parents, while the other can have it due to a different cause such as excessive concussion.
The ringbone gene is dominant, therefore only one parent has to carry the ringbone gene for their offspring to be predisposed. It was once thought that ringbone was always hereditary but this isn't accurate, and some cases are due to developmental issues in the horse's foot.
Do horses with ringbone need shoes?
Shoes are not always beneficial for horses with ringbone, but in some circumstances they can help to ease the pain within the joint. As each case of ringbone in horses is very different, it is essential for your veterinarian to work alongside your farrier to formulate a hoof care strategy. This may involve remedial trimming of the hoof or special therapeutic shoes to correct the hoof balance.
Can you ride a horse with ringbone?
Whether a horse with ringbone can be ridden or not will depend on the severity of the condition. A horse with mild ringbone may benefit from gentle exercise to increase circulation within the hoof. However, a horse that is lame or that has severe ringbone should not be ridden, as this will make the condition worse.
Can you cure ringbone in horses?
Ringbone in horses can be treated but it cannot be cured. This condition is normally treated with joint supplements, medication, and a course of rest.
In most horses, cases of ringbone need constant management to keep lameness at bay. Current treatments for ringbone include joint supplements, medication and sensible diet to maintain a healthy body weight.
Rest is also extremely important as it can reduce pain and inflammation. Special shoes may be required to correct the balance and movement of the limb.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.