The Magazine January 2019


Posted 13th November 2018

Navicular disease has caused many horse owners heartache over the years, but vets have discovered that it may not be all it seems. Vet Lucy Meehan, from Langford Vets, explains

Horse being trotted up for navicular assessment

Over 90% of forelimb lamenesses in horses are located in the foot and, in the past, navicular disease was a common diagnosis, which filled horse owners with dread. The condition was career limiting at best and devastating at worst.

Because the navicular bone is small, buried deep inside the hoof and covered by a rigid hoof wall, it’s not the easiest structure for vets to investigate. However, now they have access to much better diagnostic equipment, it’s shed a whole new light on navicular disease.

The navicular bone

The navicular bone acts as a pivot for the deep digital flexor tendon where it attaches to the pedal bone, and the navicular bone and deep digital flexor tendon are separated by a small pocket of fluid known as the navicular bursa. The deep digital flexor tendon extends from above the knee, passing down the cannon bone to the foot. It’s responsible for flexing your horse’s foot and exerts pressure on the navicular bone with every stride.

Hoof conformation can change the forces exerted by the deep digital flexor tendon on the navicular bone and plays a part in the development of pain in this area. For example, navicular bone pressure will be greater in a horse who has long toes.

Pinpointing the problem

It’s difficult to localise pain specifically to the navicular bone, as there are many structures closely related to it that can cause pain in this area. A diagnosis can usually be made following an examination and a combination of diagnostic techniques, including nerve blocks, X-rays and advanced imaging.

The road to recovery

Specific treatment options will depend on the cause of the pain in the navicular area, but there are common themes to treatment for most of the conditions

  • remedial farriery
  • rest
  • medication

Pick up a copy of January Horse&Rider to find out more about navicular and its treatment options, on sale 15 November

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