Side bone is a common problem however many horse owners are unaware their horse has it. It is a condition where the foot cartilage tissue ossifies and causes bony protrusions in the foot to develop. There are several causes of this condition such as improper shoeing or trauma to the foot which results in poor movement. The good news is that the prognosis for sidebone is generally good provided it is managed correctly and it is important that horse owners are aware of this condition and know what signs to look for. Here is our guide to sidebone in horses.
What is Sidebone?
Around the horse’s pastern, above the coronary band, there is the lateral cartilage. This is firm yet flexible tissue that helps support the hoof wall and helps to cushion the heel when it is bearing weight. Sidebone occurs when this cartilage starts to turn to bone- becoming hard and inflexible.
What are the causes of sidebone?
It is most commonly, but not exclusively, seen in the heavier built horse, and is caused by concussion to the feet – hard ground in the summer or trotting on the road. Another cause may be improper trimming or shoeing of the hoof. This repetitive motion injury over time can cause cartilage damage and lead to side bone.
Sidebone is more likely to affect the forelimbs as opposed to the hindlimbs and can affect both sides of the feet.
Which horses are affected by side bone?
Whilst Sidebone can occur in all horses there are some which are more likely to develop the condition including:
How is sidebone diagnosed?
Sidebone will be diagnosed by vets on X-ray, sometimes when investigating another problem. Whilst the sidebone is developing the forelimb stride will shorten. If lameness does occur, it is often seen when working on a circle as opposed to a straight line. Once the sidebone has formed it is not so painful for the horse, but it is important to realise that the normal function of the foot has changed, and that supportive shoeing/trimming and work management is essential.
Can side bone be prevented?
The best form of prevention for side bone is to ensure correct shoeing and trimming of the hoof to ensure that movement is maximised. With the heavier breeds which are being used for all round riding – schooling, hacking and jumping – be aware of the ground conditions and if the ground is hard, it may be an idea in the short term to change your work plans.
What is the treatment for sidebone?
Rest is the key when it comes to treatment as it provides time for the inflammation to be reduced. This process can take months and during this time anti-inflammatories will often be administered during the recovery period.
Whilst sidebone rarely causes noticeable lameness, the horse will be sore during the inflammatory phase and performance will be affected.
Osteoarthritis is extremely common and not just in humans, it can affect a range of animals, especially horses. Also known as a degenerative joint disease, this condition can be debilitating, painful and can lead to reduced athletic function. Here we provide an overview of equine osteoarthritis for horse owners.
What is Equine Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis refers to inflammation in the joint and whilst there are numerous types, osteoarthritis is the most common form and can cause an intense amount of pain. Osteoarthritis is a synovial joint disease that breaks down the cartilage which covers and protects the bone ends forming the joint. Over time this begins to thicken due to the continuous wear and the joint no longer functions smoothly. The disease can impact any joint in the body including the hips, jaw, and spine however it usually forms in the knees, fetlocks, and stifles. The condition is chronic and can progress at different rates. There are multiple causes of osteoarthritis which include trauma, aging, and sepsis to name just a few.
Which horses can suffer from Equine Osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, this condition can affect all horses regardless of their breed, age or discipline. Therefore, it is a disease that all horse owners should be aware of, take seriously and seek professional medical help if your horse starts to show the common symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can vary however, they can include swelling in the localised area, lameness, and stiffness. There may also be a cracking or grinding sensation in the affected joint.
It can be challenging for owners to establish how much pain the animal is in. As one of the main Osteoarthritis symptoms is lameness, your vet will carry out a lameness work up to help diagnose and accurately determine where the pain is originating. X-rays can sometimes be used to spot lesions however, these will not be visible in the early stages of the condition. You may also notice that the horse is stiff when they start to move when they come out of the stable. However, stiffness does not necessarily mean it is Osteoarthritis and could be a symptom for something else which will have to be ruled out first.
What are the methods of treatment?
Methods to effectively manage the pain caused by equine osteoarthritis are still limited. However, there are pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options that owners can choose from.
Before any treatment options are chosen, any medical condition should be discussed with a vet beforehand. Using the wrong method or delaying the treatment can result in serious consequences, negatively impacting the health of your horse.
One popular non-pharmaceutical treatment method is effective weight management. The number of overweight horses continues to rise and this extra weight can cause significant strain on the affected joint. By increasing their exercise regime and reducing the amount of daily food intake, this can be achieved. As the horse is in pain ensure the exercise remains light and low impact for longer periods. Short intense bursts of exercise could cause more strain on the affected joint.
At the early stages, OA affects movement even before a visible lameness is seen. These subtle changes in movement will lead to compensation as weight bearing is shifted to other areas so it is important to support the whole body.
OA can be crippling and can cause your horse a lot of pain as the condition develops. It can also be frustrating for the owner to manage the condition both in the short term and long term. Although the disease is common other conditions have similar symptoms, so if you believe your horse is in pain, you must seek professional veterinary advice.
A qualified NAVP veterinary physiotherapist will be able to support you following diagnosis and help manage the symptoms using the many skills in their toolbox such as massage, kinesiotaping and laser. The suitability of each depending on the individual animal following a full assessment.