What Causes Navicular Disease?

It is not clear what causes the gradual deteriation of the navicular bone in the heel of the foot which is known as Navicular disease. What is clear though is that it typically affects horses that have been worked hard, where persistent pressure has been placed on their feet. It is also more common in certain breeds.

Can Your Horse Be Cured?

Although a horse that has navucular disease can't be cured, it can be relieved of the discomfort and pain (at least to some extent). Because the condition is degenerative, all horses that have it will eventually succumb to lameness. Early intervention is therefore important for prolonging the performance of the horse. About 75 percent of horses with navicular disease will improve if treated within the first eight months of the onset of the condition.

How Can Shoeing and Trimming Help?

The source of pain is typically felt in the heel of the foot. So shoeing and trimming can be used to relieve pressure at the rear of the hoof.

The aim of horse shoeing is to achieve good hoof shape and angle. Navicular horses often have longer toes and low heels. They often also have thinner hoof wall thickness. Trimming is used to achieve the best possible shape and angle.

Not all horses will benefit from horse shoeing in the same way. For some it will provide significant relief and for others the benefits will be minor. Poor shoeing can actually cause or exacerbate the problem, so it is important to seek expert help.

Your vet and farrier should work together to devise a plan for the individual needs of each horse. Some will devise a shoe to lift the heels and provide them with extra support. A common approach is to use a bar shaped shoe. Another is to create a rounded toe to allow the foot to roll more easily.

Some farriers use wedge pads to help raise the heel. You may wish to discuss your options with your vet and farrier.

Learn How To Provide Sound Hoof Care

It is important to understand that poor shoeing can make the situation worse. Good trimming and shoeing can make a positive difference. So learn about your options and ask the right questions because there is no doubt that hoof care is an important part of treatment.

For more information on hoof problems and horse shoeing, consider the books listed on the right. They are good sources of knowledge that might prove invaluable for you and your horse.