Treating Navicular in Horses

Treating navicular disease in horses is quite difficult and relies on the horse owner making decisions on the type of life they wish their horse to lead.

Any recommended treatment will follow one of two paths; the conventional methods or alternative methods, (ie; Equine Podiatry, Posterior Digital Neurectomy).

You as the horse owner are the only person capable of determining which type of treatment is best for your horse and which treatment will fit in within your budget.


Treating Navicular in Horses

Conventional treatment, whether the diagnosis is equine navicular disease or equine navicular syndrome, your veterinarian will almost certainly recommend corrective shoeing.

Most commonly, this means an egg-bar shoe (said to give added support to the heel), accompanied by a rolled or rocker toe, wedge pads when needed to correct hoof pastern angle, and impression material for cushioning. But other shoeing protocols are used too.

Treating Navicular in Horses

Conventionally speaking, corrective shoeing regardless of the shoe used, is dependent on the horse’s hoof-pastern angle.

If the horse already has a well formed foot, little will be achieved with corrective shoeing in the advanced stages of the disease.

In addition, your vet may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to control foot pain, as well as phenylbutazone (bute), but not all horses with navicular pain respond to phenylbutazone.

Medications to increase blood supply have also been prescribed.

And as a last resort your vet may perform a surgical procedure known as a neurectomy. This procedure severs the nerve supplying the back of the foot, but the results are often temporary.


Conventional options in treating navicular in horses …

The Navicular Bone

Many horse owners believe that, in time the condition will correct itself, while others try every type of navicular syndrome treatment available.

The method chosen depends on the demands put upon the horse and the severity of the condition.

Navicular syndrome should not shorten the life of a horse and there are many ways to relieve the pain of navicular disease. The horse should be able to continue living a reasonably normal life.

Options for treating navicular include:
  • Trimming your horses feet

    Currently, the most effective treatment for navicular syndrome appears to be good foot care. Numerous styles of shoes have been developed to help relieve pressure of the deep flexor tendon, therefore relieving pain in a horse with the condition. Horses showing signs of navicular disease should be shod more frequently than other horses (every six to eight weeks). Each horse should be trimmed according to the particular conformation that needs correction.

  • Remember …
    Navicular syndrome will not directly shorten the length of the life of your horse.

    There are many ways to relieve the pain of navicular disease so that your horse can still live a relatively pain free existence and be able to continue on as normal.

  • Raising your horses heel

    One recommendation for shoeing a horse with navicular syndrome is to raise the heel. By raising the heel, less pressure is exerted by the deep flexor tendon when the horse lifts his foot to walk. Although raising the heel can relieve the pain of navicular disease, the rest of the foot is strained due to the new, steeper angle. Wedge shoes and wedge pads will both raise the horse’s heel.

  • Rounding your horses toe

    Another recommendation for shoeing a horse with navicular syndrome is to round the toe. By doing this, pressure is taken away from the deep flexor tendon as the horse attempts to walk. The shoe allows the horse to roll or rock up off the heels instead of having to forceably pick up the foot. A rolled toe shoe or rocker toe shoe allows for rocking or rolling.

  • Setting your horses shoe under

    Another common practice in shoeing a horse with navicular syndrome is setting the shoe under. This entails leaving the hoof beyond the edge of the shoe and then rounding it, so that it acts as a rocker. When the hoof is rounded it takes less effort for the horse to pick up their foot and to move.