Challenges of Understanding Navicular Disease

A farrier identifies five confusing dilemmas about understanding navicular disease

Farrier Takeaways

  • If an increased lever arm causes deep digital flexor tendon tension, why do long-footed horses have fewer incidents of navicular disease than shorter-footed horses?
  • In navicular cases, differential diagnosis techniques must be employed by the practicing veterinarian with the aid of the farrier to separate all of these clinical anomalies or pathologies from each other.

The phrase, “Your horse has navicular disease,” brings disappointment to a horse owner. That statement is nothing they want to hear. It may limit the horse’s performance career and the enjoyment that the client expected from that relationship with their horse. Second only to laminitis, which may be life threatening, navicular disease triggers a continued struggle to maintain soundness at a level that previously existed or is required for performance demands.

There is so much known and unknown about navicular disease, and the mechanics that “cause” it, that this syndrome has been one of the more confusing and frustrating dilemmas in my career. 

Some of Those Dilemmas

I have a short list of some of the items I am talking about with confusion and frustration. Some of what we think is known:

A) An increased lever arm (length of hoof) causes increased deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) tension, resulting in an increased compression force on navicular bone.

B) Low (or negative) palmar angle causes an increase of both DDFT and impar ligament tension, causing compression on navicular and stretching of the impar ligament at the distal border of the navicular bone and inserting…

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Randy luikart 2014

Randy S Luikart

Randy Luikart is a Hall of Fame farrier based in Ashland, Ohio. He has shod horses for more than 50 years and is a past president of the American Farrier’s Association.

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