What is ringbone?
Ringbone is a vague term for any new bone formation between the coronary band and the fetlock.
In layman’s terms it is basically a result of either damage to the cartilage covered joint surfaces or trauma to the ligaments that surround the lower leg joints. (i.e. ligaments that have been partially torn from the bone surface.)
Above: Fairly normal Proximal
phalanix (long pastern bone).
Above: Proximal phalanix
showing formation of osteophytes.
Above: Middle phalanix bones:
Left – fairly normal
Right – showing bony changes.
The underlying causes of ringbone are
- Concussion arising from ground impact that pounds and ultimately erodes cartilage on the joint surfaces.
- Hoof deformity (mostly long toe and or low heel) which results in a delayed breakover and major stress to the soft tissue and joints of the lower leg.
- Poor medial/lateral balance which means one side of a foot contacts the ground significantly earlier than the other side, causing a “snapping” action in the joints.
If it is not addressed Ringbone may progress all the way to complete joint fusion:
Late stage of articular
ringbone, showing fusion of Proximal
and middle phalanix.
Treatment for ringbone
Ringbone is much better if it is prevented from occurring in the first place, because there is probably no cure. Once it’s there, it’s there! Treatment is really about managing the existing damage and preventing it from getting worse. Corrective shoeing is simply not a viable option because the concussion that is generated by shoes will continue to reek havoc in the lower joints that are already compromised.
How can barefoot rehabilitation work?
Barefoot rehab is a good option for managing horses that are suffering from ringbone.
Reduction of concussion
A healthy functional barefoot absorbs nearly all of the concussion generated by impact with the ground. The frog is on the ground and can play its role as the primary weight bearing structure on landing.
Maintenance of correct medial lateral balance
In nearly all instances, medial lateral balance can be correctly determined by trimming feet level with functional sole plane which is a uniform covering of the pedal bone and is highly representative of skeletal alignment in the lower leg. Once established, this balance can be maintained by regular trimming. (However some horses may have a conformation that is so skewed that there may need to be some farriery interference beyond the level of the sole plane, but this is a rare occurrence).
Maintenance of correct breakover
A barefoot horse can be trimmed regularly (even once a week if necessary) so the toe is never allowed to grow out of balance and breakover can be maintained where it is physiologically correct.
Hoof capsule flexibility
One vital property of horse’s feet is the ability to distort over rough ground, particularly in the back half of the foot. They must be able to flex. (Shoes are rigid and do not allow any flexing in the hoof capsule).
Allows the use of hoof boots with concussion pads
If the feet do not have full function, especially in regards to the ability to absorb concussion, hoof boots with shock eliminating pads can be put on whenever the horse is ridden.