A couple weeks ago I mentioned my work day with five horses. One of those horses had a bone chip and this is that story.
Everyone was concerned about this 16 year old gray TB mare, “Taffy”. She was lame in her right front.
Taffy had already been rested for a few weeks. No change.
The worry was that she would need surgery to remove the bone chip.
Bone Chip Info
A bone chip is just what it sounds like: a little piece of bone that has “chipped” off from its “parent” bone.
Here is a good example (courtesy of thehorse.com)
The official definition is: Chips, short for bone chips, are technically osteochondral fragments—pieces of cartilage-covered bone (“osteo” for bone and “chondral” for cartilage) that have “chipped” off. They may be located inside of a joint or external to any joint.
Bone chips are generally thought to be caused by traumatic injury.
Poor nutrition may play a role as well, by weakening the bones.
I feel misalignment also plays a role. If the bones of the leg are misaligned, then the weight of the horse is not transferred correctly.
For example, if the cannon bone is crooked, it may place too heavy a load on the front of the fetlock. This makes it more likely for the overloaded portion to chip off.
What can be done about equine bone chips?
1) Leave them alone.
Bone chips very often cause no problems. There are plenty xrays done for other reasons, and bone chips are found by accident.
If they are not causing any problem, it is best to leave them alone.
2) Surgery to remove
If the horse is lame due to a bone chip, then surgical removal is the best option. It would be ideal to do alternative therapies after surgery. The goal would be to decrease as much adhesions and scar tissue caused by surgery as possible.
Useful post-surgical therapies include: Tucker BioKinetic Technique (TBT), Red light therapy, acupuncture, possibly others.
How do you know if the bone chip IS causing a lameness?
So that’s what happened with Taffy. Everyone was worried the bone chip was the culprit, causing her current lameness.
Too often people jump to bone chip surgical removal. But if that bone chip hasn’t been causing a problem for years, why would it now?
I’ve seen (sadly) many horses who already had bone chip surgery, but are still lame.
So how do you know?
1) With traditional veterinary medicine, you’d do lots of diagnostics to eliminate everything else. Such as xrays and ultrasounds and nerve blocks.
Then you might try different treatments to see if that worked. Such as joint injections or shockwave (not a good therapy).
And then, when everything else has failed, you’d go to surgery.
2) With TBT, we energetically ask questions of the horses body and find answers right away. (I’m not talking about animal communication, but rather quantum energy fields.)
Yes, I realize this sounds crazy. Please see this course for more information: What does my horse want?
With Taffy, I silently asked, “Is the bone chip causing this lameness?” and I got “no”.
Am I 100% certain? No. I’m human and still make mistakes. But I’m pretty dang sure.
Instead, I found her entire left leg (the lame one) was misaligned. That’s the shoulder, elbow, knee, fetlock, pastern, and coffin bone! I’m not sure when all that happened, but I bet that’s when the bone chip occurred.
Interestingly, her right front leg was fine. Must have been a weird accident.
And guess what?
She’s fine now.
Aligning her leg, and the rest of her body where it was needed, fixed the problem.
In summary, bone chips that have been there a while with no issues rarely are causing the problem.