Ringbone in Horses

Updated February 3, 2023 | By: Dr. Lydia Gray
Figure 1: Advanced osteoarthritis of the pastern joint (ringbone) with boney proliferation.
Figure 1: Advanced osteoarthritis of the pastern joint (ringbone) with boney proliferation.

What is Ringbone in Horses?

Ringbone is painful new bone growth on the pastern. New growth centered around the pastern joint is called "high ringbone" while new growth centered around the coffin joint is called "low ringbone."

Another way veterinarians describe ringbone is whether it involves the joint (articular) or is around the joint (periarticular). Ringbone may also be referred to as osteoarthritis of the pastern joint.

It may be possible to see or to feel this new bone growth or just the heat, swelling and pain associated with it. Horses may develop gait changes such as a short, choppy stride or become outright lame.

Treatment and Management of Ringbone

A veterinarian can confirm the diagnosis of ringbone through physical examination, local "blocks" and X-rays. Then, specific measures aimed at relieving pain and slowing the disease process can be discussed.

A combination of rest, prescription medications to treat joint disease and pain, supplements to provide anti-inflammatory support, and corrective shoeing is usually recommended.

Adequan and Legend are commonly given, as are phenylbutazone and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Joint supplements that contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, MSM, and other herbal ingredients are also popular.

While treatment and management of ringbone may slow its progress, it is a degenerative process that will continue to worsen with time and activity. Surgically fusing the affected joint may be an option in certain horses. By preventing motion, joint fusion reduces the pain of ringbone and may allow some horses to return to use.

Ask the Vet Video on Ringbone in Horses

SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.

Article First Published June 2012