Navicular disease is a term that all farriers are familiar with. But what is it? I’d argue that it is better defined as a syndrome than a disease. A dictionary definition of disease is an impairment of the normal state of the living animal … or one of its parts that interrupts or modifies the performance of the vital functions and is a response to environmental factors, to specific infective agents, to inherent defects of the organism or to combinations of these factors.
Syndrome is defined as a collection of signs and symptoms that frequently appear together, but without a known cause. So in that vein, our typical diagnosis of navicular disease is more correctly described as navicular syndrome, rather than disease.
The other part of the name, navicular, is also misleading, in that it places the pathology solely in the navicular bone, bursa or related ligaments. I think we would all agree that other pathologies are clearly present and must be considered for successful management. Many in Europe are adopting the more accurate term of Podotrochlear Syndrome.
I briefly touched on this pathology during the 2008 International Hoof-Care Summit and seem to have left many of those in attendance with questions. Many wondered what I meant when I said that it was necessary to decrease ground reaction forces with “navicular” horses that had skeletal lesions.
This is an attempt to explain my approach more clearly and answer some of those questions.
The pathogenesis or progression of this particular syndrome…