Friday, 19 February 2016

All About ... Bone Spavins.

What is a Bone Spavin?

This is a bony growth (unlike the soft swelling of a bog spavin) on the lower side of the hock.  It is another name for osteoarthritis of the lower hock joints and unfortunately, it often affects both legs.  It can also be the final stage of degenerative joint disease.  It is usually seen in older horses but can occur in younger horses too.


  • Initially occasional lameness 
  • Stiffness when walking downhill 
  • Over time lameness will increase and may be in both hind legs 
  • Bony swelling on hock, usually on the inner side. 
  • The affected leg will usually have a shorter stride and will not be lifted as high as is normal 
  • One shoe/foot is worn down more quickly (the affected leg)


If the cartilage between bones is compressed over a period of time it can be eroded, this in turn will cause new bone to be laid down.  This can be due to conformational faults putting uneven pressure on the hock joint such as a horse with sickle or cow hocks.   Alternatively, poor trimming of the hoof or poor shoeing can affect the movement of the joint and cause uneven pressure.  Trauma is also a possible cause of bone spavins.  

In a similar way to bog spavins sudden turns or stops can cause uneven pressure as can sports which require more than usual flexion of or concussion to the hock eg: dressage or jumping.


A vet will use a flexion test to make an initial diagnosis.  This can then be confirmed by x-ray or using scintigraphy or nerve blocking.



The bony changes cannot be reversed but the worsening of the spavin can be slowed.  The pain can be eased and lameness controlled and surgery is an option.  Anti-inflammatory drugs can be given to ease the lameness and pain. Supportive shoeing can also help with the management of a bone spavin, rolling the toes on the shoes will reduce the height to which the horse needs to lift his leg.  Heel support can also help but a knowledgeable farrier should be consulted to work with the vet.

Gentle exercise will be beneficial, limiting the pressure placed on the hock.  Complementary therapies such as acupuncture have been seen to help in some cases.


Conformational faults can be supported with correct shoeing.  In any case using a knowledgeable and experienced farrier is essential to ensure that foot balance is maintained.  Taking a horse’s conformation into account when assessing their suitability for a particular sport will also help.  

Bone Spavin’s do not improve but can be managed.  Some horses’ respond better than others to treatments and you should always consult your vet for the best course of action for your horse.

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