Most horse people are familiar with the term navicular disease and that it indicates pain in the horse's foot. Specifically, it indicates pain in the back or palmar part of the horse's foot. Because we know it is just not related to the navicular bone, a more correct term is palmar foot pain. Many times the bone is not the major source of pain but the ligaments and tendons in the back of the horse's foot are painful and navicular disease does not describe the problem. Dr. Britt Conklin is a veterinarian and certified farrier and he indicates in Remuda magazine that although therapeutic shoeing is commonly used in many cases of foot pain, it is important to realize that when you change the angle of the foot, you may help some problems but you can create other problems. This is a common finding in one of the most common syndromes we see in horses.
Many horses, especially those with thoroughbred breeding, have crushed heels. A common therapy is to raise the heels with a wedge to get the hoof in a more normal conformation and this decreases pressure on the navicular bone, decreases tension of the deep digital flexure tendon, reduces stress on the hoof capsule, and decreases deformation of the hoof capsule. By elevating the heels, many of these horses will respond and initially allow the horse to perform better. However, elevating the heels on horses that have compromised heels will further weaken and damage the heel base. So in the long run, the pain will increase by elevating the heels and will make recovery even more difficult. Realize that shoeing changes can help with certain conditions but any change must be considered carefully so as to not damage other structures.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.