Marquis Farrier Service
Navicular Syndrom

Navicular syndrome is usually diagnosed by x-rays of the navicular bone, anesthesation of the
navicular area and putting the hoof on a wedge with the high end towards the front.
If the horse - besides tiptoeing and lameness - shows x-ray degenerations (bone loss) inside of
the navicular bone (bubbles, ...) or other changes (ossifications), the diagnosis is set to navicular.
These changes are made responsible for the pain in the feet and thought to be incurable.
Medication like Isoxuprine and Tildren are prescribed in order to increase blood supply to the
navicular area and heal the bone.

Dr. Strasser
In the 1990's, Dr. Hiltrud Strasser from Tübingen/Germany discovered that long bars and/or
contraction of the hoof leads to pain in the navicular area. When the contraction is removed,
the navicular symptoms disappear.

Dr. Bowker
In 1999, the research of Dr. Robert Bowker/Michigan State University has found that wild horses
growing up on hard ground and with lots of movement do not develop navicular syndrome.
He attributes it to 2 factors:
- The wild horses develop tougher tissue in the hind part of the foot (digital cushion with tougher
fibers) as well as strong, high bulbs and
- The wild horses do not have high heels, their frog is strong and weightbearing.
Whenever he trimmed navicular horses to his "physiologic trim", the symptoms of navicular
syndrome disappeared.

Many hoof care experts around the world are working according to this research and helping
" incurable" navicular horses by restoring healthy shape, structure and function in the hoof.
The list of reasons for pain in the hind part of the foot and tiptoeing is long, the hoof care expert
has to find out the problem of the individual horse and act accordingly:

- high heels
- long bars
- weak, collapsed heels
- underrun heels
- vertical cracks in the bars 
- heel contraction
- bar contraction
- sole contraction
- axial contraction 
- too full sole
- sole inflammation
- abscess
- weak digital cushion
- weak frog that doesn't bear part of the weight
- fungal infection in the central frog fold 
- long toes

Most of these conditions develop because of unnatural living conditions, shoeing, lack of move-
ment, lack of stimulation to the hoof (improper terrain) or incorrect nutrition. Equine podiatrist
KC LaPierre calls it in general the DHS (Deformed Hoof Syndrome).
So besides hoof trimming, the living conditions of the horse must be improved for stimulating
the development of a healthy hoof.

Trimming a navicular hoof

Some of the horses shown on the Signs of Pain page have been diagnosed with navicular.
Others which show the same symptoms are not, just because their navicular bone does not
show degenerations on x-ray. Trimming a navicular hoof is not different from trimming any other
barefoot horse. The main focus lies on:
- relieving pressure on the corium if contraction is present, but not at the cost of weakening
healthy structure
- encouraging the hoof capsule to regain its natural shape, but not forcing it there
- strenghtening structures that are weak/degenerated, but not at the cost of overloading

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