Ringbone - Lameness in Horses

Ringbone - Lameness in Horses

Leslie Batistich
About 60 to 80 percent of all lameness in horses can be traced back to a foot problem. This should not be surprising when you realize that the entire weight of your horse is concentrated on those four small structures. It is also not surprising that a wide variety of things can, and do, go wrong with the structures inside of the foot. Today we will take a look at one of the more commonly diagnosed disorders, ringbone. Ringbone is new bone growth on the last three bones in a horse’s leg. Unfortunately, ringbone cannot be cured. However, with prompt veterinarian aid, and sound farrier work, its effects can be minimized.

 

Ringbone refers to a disease which involves either the coffin joint or the pastern joint. High ringbone involves the pastern joint, low ringbone involves the coffin joint. Ringbone is further classified as periarticular, meaning the new bone is around a joint, but does not involve a joint surface; and articular, which is when the new bone involves a joint surface.

Any horse can develop ringbone over the years as a result of the cumulative effects of the trauma of repetitive motion stress, long term concussion, and nutritional imbalances. This condition is expedited by poor confirmation which causes the horse to stress one aspect of a joint more than another. For example, upright pasterns, or weak collateral ligaments of the pastern joints. Ringbone can also be caused by any injury which disturbs the periostium of the bone, especially wire cuts. The initial signs of ringbone are generally not specific and may range from a decrease in the normal performance of your horse to variable progressive lameness.

In early cases of acute periarticular ringbone, cold therapy applied twice daily for 20-30 minutes for several days will help to reduce swelling and pain. Your vet may also prescribe a cycle of anti-inflammatory medication and recommend stall rest for your horse.

In early cases of articular ringbone, where the horse is lame, your vet will most likely treat your horse with a cycle of long acting corticosteroid in the affected joint. Consult your veterinarian for advice in both types of early ringbone; especially if your horse is a valuable performance horse.

All bio-mechanical treatment for ringbone consists of trimming methods and the application of alternative shoeing that lessen the articulation of the affected joint. Trimming, by itself, is not going to be as effective as the application of therapeutic shoes. Proper trimming and the right set of corrective shoes can do wonders in getting your horse back to health.

Ringbone should be taken very seriously; more than one great horse has been shut down by this disease. As with anything equine, early detection is the key. Always pay close attention to your pony’s feet, and keep in good communication with your farrier.

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Snow Pads / Snow Guards

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Hello. I am looking for any type of a snow guard product to help keep snow and mud out of my horse’s hooves during the winter. I have read that there is a product like this in Sweden and it is used instead of having to place a flat pad on the bottom of the hoof to prevent snowballing in the sole of the foot. It is a rubber like product which fits inside of the hoof. I think that they call them “snow guards” there. Currently, my farrier puts pads plus studded shoes on my horse. My feeling is that with the pad I am now using that there is still room for mud and moisture to get in behind it and pack into the sole. I live in Oregon and have to deal with mud and snow all year. Let me know if you have any ideas.   Cindy.  Hi Cindy. You are correct, there is such a thing as a “snow guard”. However, as you know, you have to have your farrier pull your horse’s shoes and apply the pads. I have found a product that works really well in the wet seasonal conditions that I deal with in the winter and spring up here at Lake Tahoe and Western Nevada. It is called HOOF-it II.  It is a pour able pad which makes an excellent functional snow pad. It is a product that the average horse owner can apply by themselves without needing to pull shoes. In my experience, which is a lot of back country riding in less that ideal conditions; it works better than the traditional snow pad since it solidly fills the sole of the hoof. It simply does not allow water, mud or snow to back fill behind it. And, as I mentioned, you can do it yourself.

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abnormal bone development above the coronet band

Sidebone in Horses

Leslie Batistich

The equine condition of sidebone is most significant as an indicator that your horse’s foot is receiving heavy and/or unbalanced forces. When sidebone is present there are chances that other changes to your horse’s feet, such as navicular disease or ringbone, maybe more likely to develop. 

Sidebone may be suspected after palpation of the suspected area, but a radiographic examination is essential for conformation of this condition. The good news is that sidebone usually causes little or no lameness. It does however, decrease the natural shock absorption capacity of your horse’s hoof. Due to this, it is common to see problems such as navicular disease, narrow heels, and ringbone in horses diagnosed with sidebone. In rare cases, sidebone can be caused from a direct trauma. 

When lameness is present, alternative shoeing to promote expansion of the quarters, circulation, and added shock absorption may be warranted. The root causes for sidebone are hoof concussion, repetitive motion injury, imbalances caused by conformation faults, and improper trimming/shoeing. It is most common in the forefeet of heavy horses working on hard surfaces. It is also frequent in hunters and jumpers, but rare in racing thoroughbreds. Improper shoeing which inhibits normal movement of the quarters is an important predisposing factor in the condition of sidebone. It is critical to note that anytime a horse is trimmed in a way that goes against his natural anatomy, you are making a trade off that will more than likely have a high price tag for both, you and your pony. 

For example, horses that toe out, or toe in, will often naturally paddle their feet. If you ask your farrier to correct this and make your horse travel in a straight line, one side of the hoof wall will have to be lowered. This “correction” may make your horse appear to be moving normally (straight). But all it really does is change your horse’s normal conformation, and alter the movement which is natural for him. In doing so, problems such as sidebone, ringbone, and navicular disease may result.  

 

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No Hoof, No Horse

No Hoof, No Horse

Leslie Batistich
Hoof care is the most important aspect of horse ownership. The first time horse owner usually does not understand the complexity of the hoof, even most experienced horse owners don’t. The easiest place to start your introduction to hoof care is to ask yourself just exactly what you are going to expect of your horse, and then set out to try and find an animal that will suit your needs. Don’t buy a draft horse to play polo. Don’t purchase an Arabian and try to cut cows with him. No matter what you and your prospective equine partner are going to do, the best thing that you can do is always place conformation over love at first sight; even though this is sometimes hard to do. Always strive to find a horse with straight legs and good bone structure. Remember, the better you start with the better chance that you will have to enjoy a long relationship with your horse. If possible, check out his sire and dam, or if possible any siblings that might be in the area. Keep this in mind, just because a horse is a pure bred it does not mean that he will be sound. Whether you are looking for a potential futurity winner or a trail buddy, soundness of the feet is the bottom line. A pre-purchase veterinarian check is a must, whether the horse is going to cost $500 or $500,000. If you can have a friend who is experienced with horses be there to lend a keen eye. Most importantly, to me at least, is to have a farrier present at your vet check. Often, farriers will see things that the vet will not. Farriers look at feet in a different fashion than a vet, based on their work, and experience. Also, do not fall in love too soon. All horses cannot be great athletes. In spite of what we may think, owning him does not make him a world beater. However, treat him like an athlete. Warm him up properly, feed a high quality ration, and keep him fit, not fat. The better that you treat him the better you will both work together. If everything is going along fine, but you begin to become suspicious that something may be wrong with his feet, you should look for an on again, off again, lameness in the beginning. Look for a choppy or uneven gait, a shortened stride, and a lessening of his willingness to work. If you notice any of the above traits, check the feet for an obvious trauma, such as a wire cut. You can also check for swelling and inflammation. However, it is always going to be the best practice to call your farrier out to take a look. Usually your farrier can make the proper corrections to get your pony back on the right track. If the problem is severe your farrier will refer you and your horse to your vet for medical attention. With a little care at the purchase of your horse, and a watchful eye during your partnership, your pony should have a minimum of hoof problems during his life.
 

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Preparing for your Farriers

Preparing for your Farriers

Leslie Batistich
The horse’s foot is completely surrounded by a substance similar to your fingernail to protect it against having to sustain the wear and tear of having to carry one quarter of your horse’s weight over the varying terrain you may be riding him over. A horse’s foot consists of an outer layer of horn (hoof), inside which is contained the pedal and navicular bones, and the deep digital flexor tendon which is attached to the pedal bone.
The foot also contains the digital pad, lateral cartilages, coronopedal joint, blood vessels, and nerves. The foot as a whole absorbs concussion and by its continuous growth, it is able to replace its striking surface which is lost through everyday wear and tear. As a horse owner, you can help assist your horse in this latter process by choosing the right farrier for your particular horse’s needs. Farriery is one of the most vital of all the professions connected to the horse. If there were no farriers, the entire horse world would just about come to a stop; except for a few fortunate individuals lucky enough to be able to ride always and exclusively on grass, or in an arena completely void of rocks.
Even these folks would find it difficult to keep their mounts sound and true if there were no one to trim, shape, and generally care for their pony’s feet. The best way that I have found to increase my own knowledge of my horse’s feet is to watch my farrier shoe my horses. It will also be to your advantage to pay attention, and actively participate when your farrier comes out. Here are a few things that I always try to do to help out to make the whole process easier. I always let my farrier know in advance if I am going to have any special shoeing needs, or if I have a youngster that is going to be shod for the first time. Horses being shod for the first time should be used to having their feet picked out and be familiar with having the wall and sole of their foot tapped. You should ALWAYS present your horses for shoeing with clean, dry feet and legs. And always provide the farrier with a well lit area, and dry solid footing; undercover if possible. The first time the farrier shoes your horse, let him know how your horse is going and what discipline you use him for: trail, cutting, endurance etc. Assuming the horse is already shod, he will look at the wear of the shoes and the growth of the hoof to determine wear and growth patterns. With your help, the farrier will then determine whether your horse has any problems such as overreaching, stumbling, dragging its toes etc. If such problems are discovered, your farrier will discuss alternative shoeing solutions with you. The above ideas will help you and your farrier develop a relationship that will benefit you both, and more importantly, benefit your horse.  

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Winter Grooming

Winter Grooming

Leslie Batistich

Almost all adverse winter equine skin conditions result from a dirty coat. A dirty hair coat gives bacteria and fungi a perfect environment to get a foothold during the winter months. When your pony is in his winter coat, problems such as weight loss, skin abrasions, and skin infections are much more difficult to spot than when he is all slicked out in the summer months. 

The best way to ensure a healthy coat and skin for your horse during the winter is to make sure that you take the time to give him a vigorous grooming on a daily basis. If you happen to find cuts or scrapes during your grooming session be sure to apply your ointment of choice and keep an eye on the affected area to ensure proper healing is taking place. In addition, if you have access to a draft free area you should bathe your pony on a weekly basis. Make sure to use warm water, and use a heat lamp to help speed up the drying process if you have one. If not you can keep your horse warm by putting a cooler (preferably wool) on him until he is dry. Grooming benefits not only your horse’s physical health, but his emotional needs as well. In the winter there are simply going to be times when it will not be possible to saddle up in cold weather regions. During times such as these there is nothing quite like an extended grooming session to bring you and your equine partner closer. I feel that maybe the greatest benefit of grooming is the quality time you get to spend with your horse. In the winter, regardless of whether or not your horse is blanketed, daily grooming needs to be the rule and not the exception in your barn. Almost all horses enjoy being groomed once they become used to the process. Remember that winter grooming is essential if you are going to eliminate the dirt, shed hair, and dead skin your horse is going to accumulate with his longer, thicker coat. If you have any winter grooming tips please answer this post to share your ideas with your fellow horse owners.

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Navicular Syndrome

Navicular Syndrome

Leslie Batistich
Navicular syndrome is a critical problem with the riding horse. Navicular is usually suspected when your horse is showing pain in the caudal aspect of its hoof. Typically when this problem is diagnosed the horse owner will not only need to revise the horse’s training program, but will also need to look at corrective shoeing. I have found the composite shoe to be a more than competent corrective shoe for navicular problems. Every horse owner or caretaker should fully understand hoof mechanism, proper trimming, and how it affects the horse’s entire body, health and longevity. Navicular problems are not hereditary. Many horse people may believe that navicular problems are hereditary. Do not mistake this for a hereditary weakness. It is a very common health care problem. Navicular problems are almost always man made through improper trimming, short term or long term shoeing, and/or inadequate natural environment throughout the horse’s life. This type of improper care can cause problems in the navicular area of your horse’s hoof. The navicular bone is located directly behind the coffin bone, held in between the short pastern and coffin bone by tendons and ligaments. The navicular bone has two main functions: To protect the joint and tendons from pressure and concussion; and to act as a valve for blood flow to the coffin bone and corium in the hoof. An insult to this region causes pain and lameness in the horse. When your horse is diagnosed with navicular syndrome by your veterinarian a common drug therapy will normally include isoxsuprine hydrochloride, a drug which causes dilation of the small blood vessels. This is a long course of drug therapy which can become quite expensive. Corrective shoeing is always going to be required in more chronic cases of navicular syndrome. Your horse should be trimmed according to its own conformation and properly fitted with a corrective shoe. The main point is that to be able to continue using your horse, you are going to need to be proactive in making your horse comfortable while he is working. Remember, you are never going to be able to cure navicular problems, you and your farrier can, however, assist in relieving him from pain.

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Dealing with Hoof Thrush

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main-kit-web This spring as you go about your routine of picking out your horse’s hooves, you may discover an unusual thick black discharge and foul smell around the frog. These are the early signs of the hoof disease thrush. Thrush is an infection of the frog and of the surrounding tissue of the hoof. The bacteria associated with thrush infect the collateral and central sulci (creases) of the frog. The bacteria break down the tissue of the hoof, and this breakdown results in the foul odor and black discharge. If thrush is left untreated it can turn into a very painful problem in the heel area of your horse. Thrush is likely to infect a horse which is living in unsanitary conditions. A wet environment that is made up of urine and acidity from manure is a breeding ground for the anaerobic bacterium that are attracted to any dead tissue that is on your horse’s frog. Also, people who have horses in a climate similar to the Pacific North West should keep a close lookout for this disease due to the constant dampness. The good news is that thrush is anaerobic, which means that this bacteria cannot live in the presence of air. The best way to avoid it in the first place is to keep your horse’s feet dry and clean so air can reach the tissue of the frog. A daily hoof picking does wonders. If not caught in the early stages the bacteria will form deep seated pockets and literally drill into the frog eating away the remaining healthy tissue. If you do happen to notice a pungent odor and a black discharge from your horse’s frog, some treatment will be necessary. Mild cases of thrush can be treated by removing dead tissue by trimming, scrapping, and vigorous scrubbing (debriding), of the frog and hoof wall. Moderate cases will need to be scrubbed with an antiseptic and treated daily with a topical spray after trimming and debridement. Severe cases of thrush will need repeated intense debridement followed by sterile bandaging and a quality topical thrush treatment. Your veterinarian may also recommend a tetanus shot. With a careful eye, good hygiene, and quick treatment if needed, you will be able to prevent thrush from delaying you and your equine partner’s long past due spring ride. If you have had any experience with thrush please post your comments here and share your knowledge with your fellow horse owners.  

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Performance Horse Shoeing Tips

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No matter what kind of performance horse you might happen to have, cutting, reining, roping, or pleasure, one thing is a constant fact: your horse must be in balance with his body to perform at his optimal level. It is your farrier’s job to trim and shoe your horse to allow for optimal balance. 

I have been lucky with my reining cow horse, Smoke ‘em. He has never needed any corrective shoeing. I simply have my farrier trim him flat and level based on the conformation of each of his legs. I have his feet trimmed short to ensure that he moves naturally. Horses with toes that are too long or heels that are too high do not stride naturally and do not look pretty to the judges. Eventually, excessively long feet cause problems that may require correction and even rehabilitation down the road. You can compare this problem to the human athlete. If a runner wore shoes one size too small, or too large, for even one training session he would feel a lot more stress and strain in the legs than with shoes which fit properly. The same is true for your horse. The most important factor in the shoeing of your performance horse is to have him land level on the ground, You can notice this by observing your horse move at a walk. View him from the front and from the side. Does the inside or the outside of the shoe hit the ground first? Or, does he put the entire hoof down level? If his walk is level, he will most likely lope and trot level also. And, most importantly for cow horses, he will stop level also. If he does not land perfectly level his timing (and yours) will be off. This problem will only get worse as you work him at a quicker pace. Remember, all foot and leg problems intensify as the horse moves faster. The best way to make decisions about your performance horse’s shoeing needs is to watch him move from the ground, and learn to listen to your seat. If you have any tips on shoeing the performance horse please post them here and share your experience.

 

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Winter Horse Hoof Care

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Horses_wallpapers_369 Winter is the time when a lot of horse owners choose to pull their horse’s shoes and let the hoof regenerate. Pulling the shoes and leaving your horse barefoot enhances the overall health of the feet. Hooves tend to grow more slowly in the winter months. However, the unshod feet should be trimmed regularly, 4 to 6 week intervals, with an emphasis on keeping the edge of the hoof sufficiently rounded. The hooves should also be painted twice a week with an appropriate hoof dressing. A little extra care and attention during the winter months when your horse is barefoot will result in a stronger healthier foot the rest of the year. However, there are more than a few of us who ride and compete in the winter months and pulling shoes is just not ever going to be an option. If you are like me and live in a snow filled winter environment you know that training outdoors, and trail riding, can cause problems for your horses feet. The main issue that I have to deal with when I am riding in the snow is “snow-balling”. This is when mixtures of snow, ice, mud, manure, grass, or bedding accumulate in the sole area. It can pack very densely into large rounded ice mounds that are almost impossible to chip out. When a horse is forced to stand or move on snowballs he has decreased stability in his fetlock joint. His weight is liable to roll medially, laterally, forward, or backward. It is extremely fatiguing for his muscles, tendons, and joint ligaments as he constantly tries to make adjustments to maintain balance. It is easy for a snowballed horse to lose his balance and wrench a fetlock. I have found a product that works perfectly for my horse, and is very easy for me to apply by myself. I use the HOOF-it Winter Snow Pad to keep my horse’s hooves clear of debris in the winter. With this pad in place I have full confidence in my horse’s footing while training outdoors in the snow, or trail riding. Let me know if you have tried HOOF-it Snow Pads and how they have worked for you.
 

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