Bone Spavin

By: Dr. Lydia Gray

What is it?

Bone spavin is the horseman's term for osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease of the hock joint. A very common cause of lameness in the adult performance horse, it generally occurs because of wear and tear or repetitive trauma to the hock joint. Other risk factors include poor footing, poor conformation and poor trimming/shoeing. Horses with bone spavin may be outright lame or develop performance issues such as refusing fences, swapping leads or stopping poorly.

What can be done about it?

Any horse with lameness or performance issues should be examined by a veterinarian. In addition to a physical examination, specific lameness tests may be performed such as flexion tests and local nerve blocks. X-rays and other images may help the veterinarian diagnose the condition, determine the extent of damage, and set a course of treatment which may include:

  • Reducing the amount or level of exercise
  • Corrective trimming/shoeing
  • Injectable medications to improve the health of the joint such as Adequan or Legend
  • Other medications to relieve pain and inflammation such as phenylbutazone or Surpass
  • Oral supplements to support joint health
  • Complementary therapies including chiropractic, acupuncture, and extracorporeal shock wave therapy (EWST)


What else do I need to know?

Bone spavin begins as a subtle lameness of gradual onset. So horses that resist working off the hind end, appear to have back pain, or have developed behavior/training issues may actually be suffering from hock arthritis. Because another characteristic sign of bone spavin is the horse that comes out of his stall stiff and sore but "warms out of it" with light exercise, horses with arthritis should be turned out as much as possible.

About Dr. Lydia Gray

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