My poor older girl diagnosed Navicular - ADVICE - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 10-08-2009, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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My poor older girl diagnosed Navicular - ADVICE

Last Sunday night Molly, my 22 year old Quarter Horse mare, came up lame in her front leg. She did not at the time have any heat or swelling, she applied weight but very little and "hobbled" along. Her personality was bright and cheery with her usual appetite so after taking her temp, normal, I figured we'd do a wait and see. Thought maybe she'd just twisted something and would be OK in a few days.
Her condition remained similar up until yesterday when I noticed she'd warn away quite a bit of her toe and was really avoiding using her heel. Her leg was now a little swollen/stocked up from knee to hoof so we called the vet out.
I live thirty miles from nowhere and we have little country vets here. He has no equipment for x-rays so this was a well educated guess. He says Navicular.

At this time I would assume my next step is to have x-rays done to confirm and see where were at? He did say in some cases this doesn't make or break the case. We are in the process of a move so it will be close to a month before I can haul her three hours to have this done. He has prescribed her bute, 2 grams AM and PM for the next four days then drop down 1 gram AM and PM then four days later try to cut that in half as well.

Any advice? Supplements that could help?
(I have no experience with anything like this so I've spent the night researching)
My mare has had NO prior lameness. I've owned her for just about twelve years and shes been a sure footed full time Dressage horse, Barrel horse and Trail horse, never sore, never worn shoes, no issues.

Can someone explain how one day she woke up nearly "three legged lame" after never having had any sign of anything?

What can be done to help manage this?

What are the odds she'll ever be able to be even a light bareback trail horse again?
It kills me to know my last ride a week and a half ago with her may be her last, it was nothing special and I NEVER suspected she'd come up permanently lame :(

She is pastured on five acres of soft grass and lots of sand, the vet gave me the impression I could try shoes however if she is limping this bad on soft damp sand he felt shoes wouldn't make much difference - I read online farrier work and shoes make a world of difference?

If anyone can shed light on anything that would be great :(

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post #2 of 15 Old 10-08-2009, 11:12 PM
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Make sure your farrier keeps a good heel under her. Regardless of what the problem is, whether it be navicular bursitis, bone spur, whatever... the treatment on the farriers end is the same.

With good trimming you may stay out of shoes for some time, but there may come a time where she'll need shoes on fronts with a wedge heel.

When you get moved, get digital xrays by a competant veterinarian and see exactly what you're dealing with. There are injections in some instances that help alot.

Navicular syndrome is not the end of the world, and with proper farrier care she'll be comfortable and you can ride her. Dressage may be out tho

.// \\
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post #3 of 15 Old 10-08-2009, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Make that "Ex dressage and Ex barrel horse" these were just examples of what she was doing in her younger days. She is a trail horse now and has been only a trail horse/training buddy for three years.

In the mean time will the bute keep her comfortable? She has a heavy limp.
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post #4 of 15 Old 10-08-2009, 11:58 PM
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Our old mare had navicular and she lived to be 32. Navicular was not the reason we had to put her down. She did really well with and egg bar shoe and pads.
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post #5 of 15 Old 10-09-2009, 02:54 AM
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Firstly, 'navicular' without x-rays just means unexplained heel pain. Some level of heel sensitivity is unfortunately a normal state of affairs for most domestic horses. If the horse came up suddenly very lame after being fine, I'd think an abscess or injury in her heel was a more likely 'educated guess' without further info, but what exactly did the vet do to come to that conclusion?

Horses have weak heels predominantly from living on soft footing & not getting enough exercise from birth. Basically, a lot of mature horses still have the digital cushions & lateral cartilages of a foal. Not strong enough to support a grown horse. So they start to land toe first. The heel falls further out of use and becomes weaker still. Unfortunately toe first landings are what is now taken to be the cause of the actual damage to the DDFT & nav bone that can be seen in x-rays of 'navicular disease' horses.

Many people have found that bar shoes & allowing the heels to overgrow, or when that no longer works, jacking them up with wedges is a way to make the horse comfortable, by further removing the sensitive heels from pressure. However this is generally short lived and it also causes the breakdown of the front of the hoof, as the coffin bone is driven lower in the foot. It is also of course a palliative measure designed to treat only the symptom, not actually strengthen the heels.

If your horse has weak heels, I would advise you avoid shoes & get the horse regularly trimmed by a hoof care practitioner who is experienced in treating the problem. While heels should generally be low & frogs in contact with the ground, if you just force that shape onto a heel sore horse, he's just going to tippy toe around & avoid using them. It might be prudent to leave the heels a little(say quarter inch about sole plane) long for the time being and use padded hoof boots or other form of protection when necessary to allow the horse to move comfortably & start using her feet properly.

Of course, educating yourself is one important measure, that it seems you've already started. I believe it's vital that horse owners educate themselves on principles of hoof function & health, as many problems such as 'navicular' can be avoided or treated with *correct* care & management. is one great place to start & you will find articles specifically about 'navicular' & heel height, etc there too.
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post #6 of 15 Old 10-09-2009, 06:04 AM
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A great farrier makes all the difference.

Cocoa got navicular at age 7. She is now 31.
I had to stop riding her when she was about 20 yrs old. She has her good days and bad days but she gets around well.

Toby has navicular as well, sadly he was drugged by a shady horse dealer when I bought him and didnt know he was sore. But with good farrier care he is doing very well. I ride him on the trails and he doesnt have any issues.

Cocoa - 32 yr old QH, Cherokee - 8 yr old TWH & Toby - 16 yr old QH
R.I.P. Cocoa 4/13/78 - 2/9/11
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post #7 of 15 Old 10-09-2009, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, for now he did say all he can call this is un-explained heel pain technically.

His original thought was abscess however he spent a great deal of time checking around and found no signs of any type of abscess. He then used a hoof tester to find out where pain was coming from.

I would like to stick away from shoes, I've always gone with natural barefoot farriers. I'll have to look around for one whos treated these issues before, I doubt the farrier I have no would cut it.

I guess I don't get how we get this pain and limping to go away though, is this something that just flairs up and is treated with a pain killer (IE the bute he has put her on)? She has been limping for a week now with no changes and I don't see how it will just go away?
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post #8 of 15 Old 10-09-2009, 10:41 AM
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Probably shouldn't keep her on the Bute very long.. 2 reasons - It's just not good on their stomachs and can create additional problems, and she could cause more damage to what is ailing her by not feeling pain.

I forgot to add to my earlier above post, make sure farrier rocks her toes for a quicker breakover. Find a CJF or MF for your horse. They'll know what is best for your horse and trim per her conformation to keep her as comfy as possible. - stay away from 'shade tree/local hero' farriers.

You can stay out of shoes with correct trimming for typical Navicular problems. If this is a fracture, different approach applies.

.// \\
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post #9 of 15 Old 10-09-2009, 09:14 PM
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Over a year ago my vet "diagonised" Gem with possibly having navicular. It was just a guess and he said he'd know better with x-rays.
Gem really came up lame after we moved him (a few days later, we had the vet out). We thought it was because he a. hadn't been trimmed in a while and b was because of the large amount of space he had to run around in now.
He was walking toe first too.
When the vet came back out, it was the same day we were having the farrier so if it was navicular the farrier would know how to trim or shoe properly.
It turned out he did not have navicular(there was no sinking or rotating of the coffin bone) but there was some sensitivity.
The farrier thought it would be best to shoe him (he had been barefoot), and as much as we didn't want to to shoe him, Gem had made leaps and bound. He had no fancy bar shoes and was just put in Natural Balance Shoes. He was able to move much more freely and he wasn't in pain and he was overall just happy.
He is currently barefoot as he's just a pasture puff right now (due to me being pregnant) and is doing well. When he is slowly brought back into work, we'll see if he'll be able to remain barefoot or if he'll need to be shod again.

Sorry for the novel.

I would keep her comfortable until you can make the haul to the vet to get the xrays done, or to find a vet that has a portable x ray.
I would also get some anti ulcer supplement and give that to her as well if you plan on using bute for a while. Or maybe give her bute on days when she really seems to be in pain. (Not sure if that is the best though.)
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post #10 of 15 Old 10-09-2009, 09:30 PM
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i took care of an older navicular horse who could be ridden lightly, even sometimes in a ridng lesson with children, but his only thing was he couldnt jump. thats all i know, but maybe yours will recover enough for that too. i kinda think he had special shoes too
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