Navicular Syndrome
Monday, September 20, 2010 at 12:44PM
Belinda Taylor

Recently I had the opportunity to trim a semi retired Quarter Horse with Navicular Syndrome.  This poor horse is incredibly stiff and sore.  But it led me to thinking about what we see when we look at a horse.  Before I started trimming, when I looked at a horse, all I saw was the overall picture.  Now the first thing I look at are the hooves and how they move.  This little guy had long underrun heels, tiny rotting frogs and a massive toe first landing. 

Navicular Syndrome is the term used to describe "Caudal Heel Pain" in horses.  Or just pain in the back of the hoof.  It is seen when a horse starts to land toe first.  There are many, many possible causes of Navicular Syndrome.  But one of the best ways a horse owner can help to pre-empt a bad case of Navicular is to be aware of how their horse is moving!  For the hoof mechanism to be healthy a horse should land heel first.  Any sign of a toe first landing should indicate that there is a problem brewing and should lead to further investigations.

See the you tube video below, to see a horse moving with a classic toe first landing.  Notice the dust he kicks up in front of every foot fall. 

Sometimes a toe first landing can be caused by something as simple as thrush in the frog.  When treated the horse returns to a heel first landing, with no long term consequences.  However the longer a horse continues to land toe first, the higher the likelihood that the horse will suffer from long term internal damage due to the deep digital flexor tendon snapping onto the navicular bone with each footfall.

So take a pro-active approach to your horse's health and make sure that he has a heel first landing!  If he doesn't, then investigate, investigate, investigate.  Use your farrier and vet to help diagnose a cause and do what you can (via booting, soft footing etc) to return your horse to a heel first landing as soon as possible.

Article originally appeared on Hoof Hearted Hoof Care (
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