Horse & Rider
The Latest in Navicular
Navicular may need removal from the bad-word list. Find out why.
Navicular is one of those words that can make even the toughest horse owner’s heart leap. For years it has also spelled the end for a horse’s career.
Fortunately, while navicular disease can certainly complicate your riding goals, these days the diagnosis isn’t nearly as dismal.
In recent years, vets have moved away from the term navicular syndrome, as it’s not specific enough to describe what’s often going on in a case of lower-limb lameness. Now, you’re more likely to hear heel pain or caudal heel syndrome until the root cause can be narrowed down.
Navicular syndrome is classified by its degenerative impact to the navicular bone itself. Again, too specific to describe the many number of reasons for lameness in the navicular area. There can be pathology in the navicular bursa, just below the navicular bone or soft tissue around the area such as the deep digital flexor tendon and the articulation point of the coffin, pastern, and navicular bones for example. (Find “Soft Tissue Trouble” at Horseand Rider.com.)
just shouldn’t be the only approach.
Nerve blocks have become almost standard as diagnostic approaches. A palmar digital nerve block can show the extent of the lameness, with the vet applying local anesthetic to the nerve of the lower pastern area in one leg. You’ll be able to see the difference between the sound and blocked leg due to the lack of sensation—this is assuming that unsoundness is experienced in two legs, which is most common. A peri-neural or intra-articular anesthesia also may be applied locally. Your vet will work their way up your horse’s leg, and when your horse trots off soundly, you’ve found the culprit, or at least the region of concern.