Maintaining Ringbone: Minnow’s Trip to New Bolton

In 2008 Minnow was diagnosed with Ringbone, essentially a form of equine arthritis, it is a bone growth in the pastern or coffin joint of a horse. 5 years ago I took Minnow to New Bolton Center, an internationally renowned large animal hospital, after initial x-rays and visits from my vet could not determine why Minnow had suddenly gone lame.

When I discovered he had High Ringbone, I was in shock, and saddened that his riding and competition carrier with me was over at the age of 15. Initially I tested out joint injections with Minnow, which didn’t help much – you can read more about that journey HERE. So that left me maintaining the pain he had with bute on the occasions he performed or was a little extra sore. He was retired from any strenuous activity, including riding.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Over the years we tried various supplements, with little to no improvement, in the hopes to make him a bit more comfortable. So when Minnow turned 20 this year I decided to take him back to New Bolton in the hopes of finding some better options in managing his pain in the coming years.

I wanted to write this post to document the findings of our visit, mostly for my own records, but also to help anyone else struggling to help a horse with severe high ringbone.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Our trip to New Bolton started off with a lameness examination, which it was determined Minnow is 3 out of 5 degrees lame on his left front. On that left front he has bony enlargements that you can both see and feel on his pastern region. Neither of his feet are sensitive to hoof testers though.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Minnow gets around fairly well on the farm, and he will run and buck with his brothers on occasion – it’s just hard to see him limp knowing that he has some degree of pain. After his lameness examination we decided to get him radiographs – because there wasn’t much the vet’s could recommend without seeing how much his ringbone has progressed.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Once the radiographs were up we were able to compare them to the ones we had taken in 2008. It was immediately noticed that Minnow had a loss of joint space on the inside of his left pastern joint as well as bony growth. The vet told us that Minnow’s body is trying to fuse the joint in order to stop movement which is causing pain. This can take years, maybe 10 or more, and is a very slow process.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

Sadly with this significant arthritis in the pastern joint, there are not many options for Minnow’s reduced pain. They could surgically fuse the joint, but this would require several months of post-operative care (and the need for a cast) and may not make him pain free – just more comfortable. At 20 years old I just didn’t think this was a good option for Minnow and likely would cause him more distress and pain in the long run.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

The vet recommended we give him 1 gram of bute leading up to any performances or if he seems exceptionally sore, and to limit his movement by maybe turning him out in a smaller space. She said any supplements likely won’t improve him much and any effects would be short lived. She also said we could experiment with different types of shoeing or boots, but that is a whole trial and error process and there may be nothing out there that would help him.

Minnow the Super Hero Chincoteague Pony

I asked if his pain would continue to get worse as he gets older, but she said that most horses with high ringbone have higher and lower degrees of pain throughout their life and some just have their pain stay about even.

It was a bit disheartening to learn that there wasn’t some magical solution that could make Minnow more comfortable, but I sort of expected this outcome.

I’ve decided to look into different types of shoeing/pads for him – to see if there is anything that just might make him feel a little bit better. I’m hoping to document the process on the blog by video taping him before and again with each shoeing option. I’m going to try Ground Control Shoes from the Natural Farrier first – although I’m not entirely hopeful, I figure it can’t hurt to try!

I know that someday the time will come that Minnow may be too sore to perform and train with me (something that he loves more than anything), but I also know that he will let me know when that time is here.

Managing Ringbone - Chincoteague Minnow's Trip to New Bolton // Painting Pony

On a side note I noticed this framed picture hanging on the wall in the billing department on my way out. The note reads:

Because I knew and loved Stormy, and still do, I’d like to help pay her hospital bill. My best wishes to Stormy’s owner, Mike Pryor, as well.

Marguerite Henry

Please relay my gratitude to Stormy’s surgeons for their skills and generosity.
July 24, 1993

Stormy developed a tumor on her udder in the early part of 1993 and had surgery done at New Bolton. She recovered and was able to make her last Pony Penning appearance that summer. Stormy passed away in Pennsylvania, far from her Chincoteague home, on November 24th, 1993. (From Misty’s Heaven)

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