Navicular. In the horse world, we all know that word to be quite devastating, after all, there is no cure for Navicular and the horse will continue to get lame despite all efforts, until the time comes to make “the decision”. Right? Maybe not.
Navicular is one of those highly “overused” diagnoses. Horses are diagnosed (incorrectly in most cases) with Navicular many times without any proper testing. If the horse is lame, either consistently or intermittently, on any front foot, and the lameness is ruled out as something obvious, the horse is most commonly diagnosed as having Navicular. The standard treatment for these horses doesn’t work long term and will not fix the problem, even if it IS actually Navicular.
Navicular is a “syndrome of soundness problems” in horses. It describes an inflammation or degeneration of the navicular bone and surrounding tissues (typically in the front feet only), that leads to significant and disabling lameness. Navicular begins when there is stretching of the tendons beyond a 2-degree limit, the limit in which any tendon has the capacity to stretch without damage. Navicular is most often caused by shoes, and/or by an improper trim that causes strain on the digital flexor tendon. Sometimes, though rarely, Navicular actually affects the navicular bone. The only way this can be seen is through ultrasound and radiographs.
That being said, most cases of Navicular CAN be recovered with the proper trim over time, NOT by shoes. Shoes will exacerbate the problem and will cause Navicular to progress even quicker. It is imperative that a proper barefoot trim is implemented, on a very short rotation (every 4 weeks being best) to help keep the toes from getting too long. Using hoof boots is also more than helpful for these horses as many of them walk toe first (because the toes are left consistently too long with shoes or a “pasture trim”), causing the back of the hoof (digital cushion) to become weak and sometimes sore or painful. For these horses, encouraging a heel first landing will cause less concussion on the flexor tendon, thus recovering Navicular much faster.
To further help with a quick recovery, there is a phenomenal herbal protocol from For Love of the Horse, that works very well (along with proper barefoot trimming procedures, of course) for horses suffering from Navicular. The Tendon Repair formula will work to reduce inflammation, relieve pain and decrease the formation of adhesions between the tendon fibers, while promoting a clean, swift recovery of the flexor tendon. http://www.forloveofthehorse.com/tendon_repair.php If radiographs have been taken and it is seen that the navicular bone has indeed been affected, their Hoof Bone Repair formula will literally, actually, repair the damage that has been done to the bone. It will also work very well with the Tendon Repair formula for additional pain relief and to diminish inflammation. http://www.forloveofthehorse.com/hoof_bone_repair.php
Navicular does not have to be a devastating diagnosis for your horse. If your horse HAS been diagnosed and you know that no further testing has been done, don’t hesitate to ask for it. It may well be that your horse has a smaller issue that your trimmer can help address. If your horse does have Navicular, talk with your trimmer or find a barefoot trimmer in your area that has experience with the recovery of Navicular horses, call For Love of the Horse, and get your horse on the road to recovery. There is help and there are ways to effectively fix this problem.
PICTURED: Tritan, owned and ridden by Sarah S. of Rochester, PA. Tritan was properly diagnosed with Navicular in 2010, he was extremely lame and Sarah had been told to euthanize him. Images clearly showed holes in the navicular bone. Following the proper protocol with trim, herbs, and boots, follow up imaging in September 2014 showed a full recovery. Tritan is currently sound.
PICTURED: Magic, owned and shown by Megan C. of Smithville, MO. Magic was diagnosed through proper imaging, with Navicular, in October of 2016. After following the proper protocol for recovery, beginning herbs and a correct and frequent barefoot trim (also with boots for a period of time), Magic is recovering nicely and is currently sound. We expect follow up images to be much improved, if not fully recovered. He and Megan are having fun and winning shows!