I have a 26-year-old warmblood who is 17 hands. He is looking good and feeling great except his sidebone on his right front is starting to bother him. He limps quite a bit when it is cold but still jumps up and down playing. He is retired and is on Trifecta plus Triple Crown Lite. Is there anything I can give him that would make him more comfortable during these cold times? Would like a second opinion that is why I am asking this question. NP, Washington
Well, I can’t provide you with a second opinion, only a veterinarian that physically examines your horse can do that, but I can tell you what I know about sidebone. Then you can have an informed conversation with your veterinarian and decide how best to proceed with your horse.
As you probably know, sidebone is when the cartilages on either side of the coffin bone in the hoof harden, or calcify. In most cases, sidebone does not usually cause pain to the horse, except when the tissue is actively turning to bone. Even then, it usually doesn’t cause outright lameness unless it has been fractured or infected. So I have to wonder if the limping you see in your gelding is really due to his sidebone?
My suggestion is to ask your vet to perform a thorough lameness examination on him, including taking X-rays of his feet again. Your vet may also need to “block” his lameness, or inject local anesthetic into the limb to try and localize the source of pain. Other techniques that may help isolate the problem include using hoof testers, flexion tests and standing the horse with his hooves on wedges (then trotting him off.)
Thanks to the advanced imaging of nuclear scintigraphy, CT and MRI, we now know there can be many sources of pain in the foot, from the navicular bone to the coffin joint and from the deep digital flexor tendon to collateral ligaments. I don’t mean to alarm you, but it’s possible your horse has an injury or degenerative process in one of these structures and the sooner you find that out, the sooner you can provide appropriate treatment and management. While there are several medications and supplements that may provide comfort to your horse, until the cause of his pain is identified these will just temporarily mask the problem.