“Doug, I attended your Horse Expo seminar this past March in Lincoln and really enjoyed your lecture. I never thought that I would have to bring out notes from what you talked about in such a short amount of time, but we ended up having a horse go lame on us this spring. We saw some signs around Thanksgiving but the horse seemed to get worse recently.
“After some tests and x-ray’s, the vet diagnosed him with Navicular Disease. The x-ray showed some history of deterioration and such, but the concern that I have is even though the x-ray indicates a historical problem we haven’t noticed it until recently. We bought the horse a year ago and rode him quite a bit with no issues. This brings me to the comment you made about those who may shave off too much of the heel. We have had the hoofs trimmed twice. I’m suspecting the trimming job. Can you tell me what to look for again when looking at the heel? We do have him on Bute which seems to help, and I think when he was shod he was better.”
Answer: When shoeing for navicular disease, the most important thing is the alignment of the axis of the pastern with the axis of the distal phalanx or coffin bone. The front of the upper one-third of the hoof should be parallel to the front of the pastern when viewed from the side. Sometimes it is necessary to use a wedge pad in addition to the shoe to achieve this. When these are in alignment, you will have the least amount of stress on the navicular bone. For more information, see pages 558-566 in The Principles of Horseshoeing (P3).
On April 10th, I did a full-day large group clinic for the New Jersey Equine Veterinary Clinic — among the topics I presented was one on the “Barefoot Experiment,” and the response from veterinarians and farriers alike was very positive! Of the several farriers who visited with me after the clinic about experiences they’ve had rehabilitating lame horses from these incorrect procedures, one farrier in particular said he had conducted a year-long experiment with two of his own horses. Please see his “Comments ” added to this blog post.
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