Navicular Problems Can Trap Farriers

Horseshoers can make first assessment of potential navicular problems, but ultimate diagnosis requires veterinary involvement to avoid liability

EXPERIENCE MATTERS. A well-developed touch for using hoof testers and an understanding of a horse’s reactions can be valuable in determining if the horse is suffering from navicular syndrome or some other type of heel pain.

Farriers beware. Avoid diagnosing a horse with navicular disease, a problem that even experienced equine veterinarians using high-technology cannot always determine with absolute certainty.

As equine veterinarian Mike Coker of Carrollton, Ga., says, “I wouldn’t advise any farrier to tell an owner that a horse has navicular disease. That’s terribly dangerous and leaves you wide open to a lawsuit.

“If it’s pre-purchase exam and if you label the horse with navicular, nobody will buy it. In some corners of the horse world, a navicular disease label is a death sentence for a horse in the marketplace. If you get sued, there’s no real science behind you, just a crude guess. I can’t think of any horse that’s worth being sued over,” he adds.

Coker’s warning can’t be attributed to any territorial disputes between vets and farriers. He has worked as a farrier since 1973, and so understands the diagnostic limitations facing horseshoers.

He also advises that vets inexperienced in hoof care team up with knowledgeable farriers to diagnose and treat cases of possible navicular disease.

A Second Opinion

Equine veterinarian Bob Agne of the Rood & Riddle clinic in Lexington, Ky., echoes Coker’s cautions about diagnosing navicular symptoms. “It’s not an easy problem,” he says. “Veterinarians deal with that kind of thing all the…

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Ron perszewski

Ron Perszewski

Ron Perszewski is a freelance writer and former associate editor of Ameri­can Farriers Journal.

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