My 19 year old Thoroughbred mare has recently been diagnosed with Navicular disease. We have an appointment to put rockers on all four feet, in the meantime she has this things that clip on to her shoe and bute. When I bought her in 2007 her x rays where perfectly clean. The vet said it was probably caused by A. Her being a big horse (16.3) and having relatively small feet. B. She lives in a boarding stable and stands most of the day.
As a result I've been walking her like 3 hrs a day as well as cold packs for 20 min a day and standing wraps. I realize this is not enough, but there just isn't much pasture land where I live. I'm looking into moving to a place with pasture land for her, but any suggestions to help her improve in the mean time?
Before I bought her she was a big success hunter/jumper ring. But her previous owner just kept her in the back yard and didn't do anything with her until show day. Since I've had her I've ridden her once, sometimes twice a day, because I've always kind of known that standing was bad for her. I mostly ride her dressage but on occasion I do jump her (not high). I have been showing her (1st level) dressage. I realize she won't ever be 100% again. However before she was diagnosed she was doing really well. Why wouldn't she do better after most of her pain has been relieved? Will I ever be able to show her again? Or is that finished?
Your vet is really the best person to ask but navicular is a terrible thing. My little brother's horse was permanently retired because of it. I was just talking to a lady at my barn who was told to put her horse to sleep because of it. She had him at pasture for three years and after that was able to ride him at a walk on level ground for another seven before he had to be put to sleep as he could no longer get up off the ground by himself.
Jumping would probably be out of the question, I don't know about showing. I hope that the corrective shoes help her feel better and do a lot of good! Good for you for doing everything right and spending the time to walk and wrap and care for her.
I hope someone with more personal experience can give you more insight but I'll be crossing my fingers and sending good thoughts your way!
First off I need to say I am no professional and I only take care of my own horses. And I have never dealt with navicular. But I study, read, and search a LOT and ask many questions.
The damage that has been done, as far as I know, from what has been studied so far, cannot be undone. I don't like making statements like that because it's just a road block to the people out there learning how to undo that damage. But anyhow,.. on with the show...
If you want to get your horse sound without needing to continue to use theraputic shoes, or possibly eventually having to nerve the horse, then my suggestion would be that you research barefoot horses.
Many follow tradition instead of researching the science and may disagree with me here. But navicular is from improperly developed digital cushions and the lack of heel first landings. So more or less it's from horses not using the back of the hoof.
If you wanna stop what is causing the navicular I would suggest that you allow the horse to get many heel first landings barefoot so that the back of the hoof can develop.
I found a couple studies to show what happens when you allow the horse to develop the back of the hoof. These horses had navicular but are now sound. There are other stories on those webpages if you click, "case studies", on the one page and, "barefoot stories", on the other you'll find em.
I'm a hcp & have had a bit to do with rehabilitating 'navicular' along with other probs.
'Navicular disease' is the term given for degeneration of the nav. Bone & DDFT. It is thought to be due to chronic strain, from joints being used incorrectly. More recent research indicates this is indeed the likeliest cause, and that degeneration of P3 and other joints usually goes along with it. Toe first impacts are the the general cause of the problem - the foot & leg has no facility for shock absorbtion in this position - and it is thought that the strain of high heels &/or toe first impacts may first cause damage to the ddft, which then causes degeneration of the nav. Bone.
'Navicular syndrome' effectively just means unexplained heel pain. It is generally this that leads to the toe-first landings in the first place, **assuming the horse is getting good, low-heel trims**. Unfortunately with the way our young horses are generally managed, kept on soft pasture, little exercise etc, many horses don't get the chance to even develop their feet fully in the first place, so are tender & 'tippy toe' when forced to work on hard ground. Therefore, heel sensitivity, or 'navicular syndrome' is very common. However shoes & trimming style can mask the problem to a large degree, which is, I believe, diagnosis is far less common & why it is often thought of as 'past the point of no return' by the time it's diagnosed.
Conventional treatments are all palliative measures, and it's conventionally thought of as an 'incurable' condition. I think that is because treatments aim at taking the sensitive heels further out of commission - bar shoes, high heels, wedges, etc. This has the effect of allowing further degeneration of the digital cushion & frog - if you don't use it, you lose it - and forcing the horse even more onto it's toes, with all the damage that goes along with that. I've heard it said that it's actually mechanical founder - due to the coffin bone being driven point first towards the ground - that is generally the end of the story for 'navicular' horses. Don't personally know of any research to back that one up, but it sounds logical to me, given treatments force horses further onto their toes, slamming the point of P3 towards the ground at each impact.
So, it seems if a horse has reached the 'disease' stage, it's an impossibility that bone degeneration can heal & remodel back to it's original state. It also seems unlikely that severe tendon damage will completely heal. Therefore, literally speaking, it seems that 'navicular disease' is indeed 'incurable'. **HOWEVER, despite the permanent damage, with the right treatment, horses can usually resume(or start) a pain free, and often a useful life. It's not often simple or straightforward & there are lots of ifs & buts regarding specifics, but put very simply, it involves setting up the hooves to allow them to be able to function correctly - remove shoes, low heels, short toes, thrush eradicated - and protecting & supporting the heels enough - usually boots & 'frog support' pads - to allow the horse to *comfortably* start using & therefore strengthening his heels & digital cushions.
Anyway, that's my basic take on 'navicular' problems. You can learn more about it and genuine treatment - as opposed to palliative, at hoofrehab.com among other good sites. Educating yourself is the key to making informed decisions about which 'experts' and approaches you think best, because there are conflicting 'expert' advice out there.
Thank you all for you're advice. I'll definitely look into alternative treatments.
I would be a little afraid of letting her run around bare foot. There was a time where I had her in a turn out in 6 inches of sand barefoot, and she still managed to get bruised. Being a thoroughbred she's not very hardy. I don't want to make it worse. Since she was a race horse I don't think she's been without shoes since year 1. But I'm willing to do anything to make her better. If I can find a place with soft ground I'll consider giving it a try. But unfortunately it might be a year or two until I can find a place.
. I think that is because treatments aim at taking the sensitive heels further out of commission - bar shoes, high heels, wedges, etc. This has the effect of allowing further degeneration of the digital cushion & frog - if you don't use it, you lose it - and forcing the horse even more onto it's toes, with all the damage that goes along with that.
I agree. What she has on right now are essentially wedges, but they're only temporary to relieve her of pain. My vet wanted to get the rocker shoes on her ASAP but my farrier (who is the best around here) was busy. She said that she had just come from a conference down in Florida that dealt with Nevicular disease. She proposed a rocker shoe, that allows her to decide how much weight she wants to put on her heel, which hopefully will be more and more the longer she wears the shoes.
On her right fore is where it's like worst. Like on a scale of 1-10 probably like a 4 or a 5. But the rest of her feet are more like a 2, her left hind more like a 3. We are going to try and deal with each hoof individually every 4 weeks. If she doesn't improve then I don't know what I'm going to do yet. I might have to ship her to pasture land in another state until I find other arrangements.
By the way. Heres a picture of her. Yes I realize my girth doesn't match, I was in between saddles at the time.
You've gotten some excellent information and advice so far. Let me add my two cents and also say competition *may* not be out of the question.
Previously a course isoxiprine (sp) was prescribed for newly diagnosed navicular horses; the drug was a vasodialator and was thought to improve circulation to the affected area. I don't know if that's still a recommended treatment, loosie might provide some insight on that.
Finding your mare a place to live where she can be out 24/7 with access to shelter would be a great first step. Sounds like you're on the right track with shoeing as well. Your mare appears to be in good weight; which is good, excess weight aggravates the problem.
Some horses do continue limited competitive careers after a navicular diagnosis; it depends on how managable it is. I'd say jumping's probably out of the question. Dressage training is a double edged sword - working in a 1st level frame is good because the emphasis on moving from the hind end and using through back actually takes some of the strain of the front heels. Sharp turns and working in small circles are bad because they increase strain and concussion. So your days of putting her on a 20 meter circle for 10 - 15 minutes are over, as is lunging.
The best and easiest thing for her to do is work in a large area on straight lines or even trail ride. If you can work like this 3 -4 days a week, school in an arena 1 day and then show lightly 1 day, you might be able to continue to compete.
You didn't mention in nerving in either of your posts. It is the treatment of last resort for navicular horses, and it is entirely palliative - it does nothing to treat the underlying problem, it just relieves pain. As such, it's somewhat controversial. I would advise you to do some research and discuss it with your vet to see if it's something you'd be willing to try. I have known nerving to extend the useful life of some horses for several years, and for the horses to enjoy better quality of life.
You've gotten some good information. But it's kinda like a person saying that the doctor diagnosed lung cancer after you've been smoking all your life. You can stop smoking now but the damage is done and other issues are now present.
Navicular disease is what happens when a hoof has been contracted for a long time. And what causes contraction is shoes and stalling. If a young horse is diagnosed with navicular syndrome, it is very possible to cure the horse in one correct trim. That is because the bars are usually the culpret of heel pain and if contraction is not terrible, the hoof capsule can be reshaped by trimming and rehab (soaking walking) But when there has been long term shoeing and contraction the hoof shrinks onto all the soft structures (blood vessels, corium, ligaments and tendons) the foot dies. It is very often the impossible job left to the hoofcare specialist to try to bring the dead back to life. The best you can do is try to learn all you can about how a hoof is supposed to look and function so that you can keep your next horse from suffering a similar fate. BTW most conventional vets and farriers will not be interested in any holistic methods of returning your horse to health. They are only interested in relieving pain. Euthansia is the ultimate pain reliever.
I won't add any more information since I could only repeat what has been said but I will say that Loosie gives some of the best hoof advice ever. I just wanted to chime in and mention that Navicular is not a death sentence. Once the initial inflammation and pain is taken care of, she should be able to get back to nearly 100% with proper care (of course that depends on how much damage has been done and what kind of treatment you get her on). My old horse Flash was diagnosed with Navicular as a 5 year old due to improper shoeing. Since he was lame, he was given to my brother as a gift. With some very intensive hoof care, he ended up being sound for heavy using again and even continued on to have a successful show career in roping and reining. He survived raising both me and my brother and ended up being a babysitter in his later years for children and my Step-mom. He was finally retired at 23 or 24 when work just got to be too hard on him. He is still out in the pasture and though he isn't sound for riding, he is pasture sound and continues to play and try to run with the other horses (though he is slowing down now at 27).
I just wanted to give you a bit of hope and encourage you to realize that this isn't the end of the world, it is just another challenge that comes with having horses.
I would be a little afraid of letting her run around bare foot. There was a time where I had her in a turn out in 6 inches of sand barefoot, and she still managed to get bruised. Being a thoroughbred she's not very hardy.
Wow! She probably has ultra thin soles to get bruised so easily! But whether or not she has ultra thin soles, I definitely DON'T suggest you just turn her out bare, for now at least. She desperately needs protection & support for her weak feet.
As mentioned, if she's always been conventionally managed - eg lived on soft footing, under exercised, shod, etc. - it is likely that she never developed strong digital cushions & lateral cartilages in the first place. So regardless of how she's trimmed, she will be unwilling to land on her sensitive heels.Padded hoof boots or such should hopefully provide her with the support to begin landing heel first. No promises of course, but with the right care it is likely she'll develop her dc's well enough to be able to go bare for turnout & ridden on yielding surfaces at least.
It's not by breed that TBs often aren't so 'hardy', but by management. Altho of course this type of horse(not just TBs) tend to have feet that go 'splat' when not well managed/fed, while other types, such as ponies, QHs for eg tend to grow higher, more contracted heels when in the same type of situation.
Obviously the problem's become too acute for shoes to mask the problem any longer, so wedges are now (hopefully) providing some comfort to her. But as explained, this type of palliative treatment actually worsens the basic problem, so she will continue to deteriorate and need gradually more intense measures until such time as nothing works. If she were an old horse, palliative measures may get her through the rest of her life in comfort, but being young, this is likely to greatly reduce quality as well as quantity of life.
She proposed a rocker shoe, that allows her to decide how much weight she wants to put on her heel, which hopefully will be more and more
If a horse is to be shod, I think rocker toes or such are a good move generally, as they help the horse move more naturally. As treatment for heel pain, I just can't see the point tho. Prior to wedges, the horse already had that choice, and due to weak sensitive heels, chose to walk on her toes. Why would she change her mind about that if her heels weren't protected & supported in such a way as to allow her to do it comfortably? Especially if she has now become so sore that regular shoes cease to provide relief?
the drug was a vasodialator and was thought to improve circulation to the affected area.
Yes, it may well improve it a bit, but it is hoof function that appears to be the biggest aid to circulation, and if the horse is not using her heels, there will be little circulation, regardless how dilated the vessels. On that note, further to explaining domestic horse's lack of dc development, it seems that to a large degree, the blood vessels aren't even there to be dilated anyway.
When I first started learning about all this and dissected & examined a heap of knackery hooves, I got used to seeing the soft, fatty white lump of dc & of the hooves I chose to keep for 'show & tell' items, I would cut out the dc, because there was nothing much to it, it didn't dry well and you could better see the nav. Bone & ddft without it. Apparently this is extremely normal, for domestic dc's to be like that.
It wasn't until I started to really study Pete Ramey's stuff and get a couple of 'outback' brumby hooves(the ones from cushier climes are more similar to most domestics), and was also lucky to examine a barefoot endurance horse's dc, that I realised the 'norm' was not what they were meant to be like. Well developed dc's are actually relatively hard & fibrous, a lot thicker than others I'd seen and, to the point of circulation, were choc-full of tiny blood vessels! Most domestics don't just lack strength, but they lack these blood vessels too.
Some horses do continue limited competitive careers after a navicular diagnosis; it depends on how managable it is. I'd say jumping's probably out of the question. Dressage training is a double edged sword
Of course it depends on the level of damage - namely it seems, how badly damaged P3 & joints may be due to the toe-first landings - but it is entirely feasible that the horse can return to UNlimited competition or other 'work'. Including jumping & tight turns, etc. If it is possible to get her dc's into a healthy state, she may even become a 'rock crunching' barefoot trail horse even!
Management over hoofcare plays such a huge part in this tho, & f/t stalling is one thing going against her. If paddock life is out of the question where you are(in which horses are often still rather sedentary & live on soft ground anyway), perhaps a maze of pens is possible, or some manner of 'paddock paradise' setup(google it for info) on a track around your house or such? Or failing that, perhaps you can employ someone who wants to get fit & walk her....?
And what causes contraction is shoes and stalling. If a young horse is diagnosed with navicular syndrome, it is very possible to cure the horse in one correct trim. That is because the bars are usually the culpret of heel pain.... But when there has been long term shoeing and contraction the hoof shrinks onto all the soft structures (blood vessels, corium, ligaments and tendons) the foot dies. ....The best you can do is try to learn all you can....so that you can keep your next horse from suffering a similar fate. BTW most conventional vets and farriers will not be interested in any holistic methods of returning your horse to health. They are only interested in relieving pain.
Of course differences of opinion are a way for us to learn, and as such, I'm interested in learning where yours come from hoss. But I'm inclined to disagree with most of what you say above.
I agree that stalling, or otherwise lack of exercise with good hoof function(eg using heels) is the main cause of contraction, and shoeing can worsen the effects. I don't see shoeing as a cause tho. I agree that it is possible to 'cure' a horse just with correct trimming, but not probable, as I disagree that overgrown bars are much of a 'culprit' of heel pain, and it is, as explained, commonly lack of development of dc's & lateral cartilages (BTW, grammar buffs, writing dc's is irritating me too, but I feel it's clearer than dcs!)
I have never heard the theory of the foot shrinking around the 'soft structures' & dying as a regular occurance, but I've heard of rare stories of 'navicular' horses' feet just dropping off due to gangrene(don't ask for proof tho). Altho as explained, lack of circulation, therefore lack of growth is a symptom. Perhaps that's what you mean? If the foot hasn't died, there is always hope, and I speak from experience in saying that older, long term 'navicular' horses can indeed be returned to full soundness(of course no promises tho). Therefore I definitely disagree with your 'best you can do' statement, altho IMO whether a horse has hoof probs or not, owners educating themselves & not just trusting blindly to 'experts' and tradition is vitally important.
I also thoroughly disagree with vets not being *interested* in returning the horse to health. I think this is unfair. I think the problem is in many people believing things aren't 'real' or worth trying unless there's scientific proof, so they disregard methods that don't have this. Much research and examples of the theories & rehab I speak of is quite recent, so there is little 'proof' on many specifics(tho this is changing). Most older research and treatment has indicated that the problem is mysterious and without 'cure', so in many vet's & farrier's opinions, palliative pain management is indeed the best they can hope to achieve.
Blah, now that I've spent too long on my soapbox yet again, I'd better get off & go do some housework & hopefully get in a little time for my own beasties!