Is ringbone the same thing as arthritis? MS, Florida

I have a 16 year old TB mare with ringbone. She has been used as a broodmare ever since she has retired from the racetrack. She has a mild lameness due to the ringbone. I would like to put her on a joint supplement to help relieve her pain. She is pregnant, so I am concerned about which products are safe to use during pregnancy. Can you please advise a joint supplement for her? Would SmartFlex Senior be safe to use during pregnancy? Thank you. AW, Pennsylvania

Dear AW and MS,

Ringbone is painful new bone growth in the pastern area. It can occur in the joint, in which case it would be considered arthritis, or it can occur between the joints, in which case it would not be considered arthritis. The two joints we are talking about here are the pastern joint (the joint below the fetlock), and the coffin joint (the joint below that, the one at the level of the hoof).

Ringbone is a progressive condition so once a horse has it, not only does it remain a chronic source of pain, it tends to get worse over time. If the joint is fused, either naturally or through surgery, much of the pain of ringbone is removed and horses can return to some level of performance. Most of the time however, owners work with their health care team to manage the condition through these measures:

• reducing the level of exercise
• corrective trimming/shoeing
• giving pain relievers such as phenylbutazone and Surpass
• administering injectable joint medications such as Adequan and Legend
• supplementing with oral joint products

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) has asked all supplement manufacturers to include the following caution on all labels:

“Safe use in pregnant animals or animals intended for breeding has not been proven.”

Unfortunately, since this statement must appear on ALL supplement labels, it’s hard to know which ones might really be of questionable safety to mares in foal! If you look closely at the label of our SmartFlex Senior though, you’ll notice that the herb Boswellia appears after this statement. That means that the Scientific Review Committee of the NASC has determined that this particular herb may not be safe for use in pregnant animals. Therefore, you should not feed your pregnant mare SmartFlex Senior or any other supplement containing Boswellia.

The other herb I’m sure you’re concerned about is Devil’s Claw. I’ve read conflicting information about this ingredient. Although the NASC Committee did not find enough compelling evidence to support a separate caution on the label, it is included with a very large group that is not to be used in pregnancy.

If I were you, I would reach for a joint and/or anti-inflammatory supplement that does not contain any herbal ingredients, just to be on the safe side. Excellent choices would be our SmartFlex I, SmartFlex II or SmartFlex III as well as our newest product, SmartTLC.