“If the horse stops limping after the palmar digital nerve block desensitizes the caudal half and bottom of the foot, the first step is to take X-rays,” Dr. Dabareiner says. “X-rays can tell you the condition of the navicular bone.” They’ll show if the bone has cavities or abnormal new bone growth, for example.
Clinical signs of navicular disease include a short, choppy stride with lameness that worsens when the horse is worked in a circle, as when longeing. Frequent stumbling may occur at all gaits, even the walk, or when horses are asked to step over short obstacles such as ground poles.
What is Navicular Syndrome? So-called navicular or caudal heel syndrome is one cause of lameness that can appear in horses of any breed or discipline. It can be limited to one limb; however, it most commonly affects both front hooves, causing bilateral lameness.
Nonsurgical treatment of navicular syndrome consists of rest, hoof balance and corrective trimming/shoeing, and medical therapy, including administration of systemic antiinflammatories, hemorheologic medications, and intraarticular medications.
Navicular disease can be treated but rarely cured. Corrective trimming and shoeing is important to ensure level foot fall and foot balance. Often a rolled toe egg bar shoe is used to encourage early break over at the toe and good heel support.
Navicular disease can be managed—but only if you catch it early before too much damage has been done—and unfortunately it was clearly too late for poor Delight. No animal should live in chronic pain just because its owner lacks the moral fiber to make the difficult but compassionate decision to humanely euthanize it.
Navicular disease in horses is also known as Navicular syndrome. The result is the inflammation or degeneration of the navicular bone and its surrounding tissues, typically in the front feet of the horse. This disease can lead to significant or disabling lameness of a horse.
A horse with navicular syndrome feels pain in the heels of the front feet, and its movements reflect attempts to keep pressure off this area. At rest, the more painful foot is often “pointed,” or held slightly in front of the other forefoot, thus bearing little or no weight.
Poor hoof shape is usually inherited, although poor shoeing and trimming can contribute to these shapes. With the long toe, low heel conformation can come contracted heels (narrowing of the heel) which further compresses the navicular bone along with sheared heels adding more stress to the tendons and navicular bones.
Horses that develop navicular syndrome can often be maintained with this sort of treatment. It is not a death sentence for the horse. The classic stance of a horse with navicular syndrome is to point the foot that hurts the most. This puts the weight more on the toe and off of the heel.
The navicular bone has the physical shape of a small canoe, which led to the name “navicular” bone; the prefix “navicu” means “small boat” in Latin. The navicular bone is also known as the distal sesamoid bone (the commonly known sesamoid bones behind the fetlock joint are the proximal sesamoid bones).
There is no need for nerve blocking or special metal shoes that may help for a little while. Learn how going barefoot is used to rehabilitate navicular horses successfully all over the world. Until recently, most unidentified heel pain/caudal foot pain was diagnosed as navicular syndrome.
The biggest problem with the surgery is that they nerves will often regrow with 2-3 years, with a much worse lameness present when sensation returns. Navicular syndrome is a lifelong condition, however, many horse can return to athletic function and soundness for long periods of time.