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Navicular Syndrome... cont’d

Navicular bones in varying states of degeneration. (Photo by Cheryl Henderson) hoof that is responsible for dissipating the impact energy of movement. The front of the hoof has no impact-absorbing structures, they are all fairly rigid. The digital cushion at birth is made up of primarily fat and is filled with nerves. As the foal moves, the pressure and release of the frog causes fibrocartilage to grow from the front of the digital cushion and spread toward the back. By the time the horse has grown to an adult, the digital cushion should have transformed into a mass of fibrocartilage. This fibrocartilage is responsible for protecting and cushioning the nerves as well as dissipating the energy of a heel-first landing. The lateral cartilages at birth are tiny, less than 1/16 of an inch thick, and don’t extend to the underside of the frog and digital cushion yet. As the foal grows, with movement, flexion, and the expansion and contraction of the hoof mechanism, the lateral cartilages grow. They should eventually extend to create a floor underneath the frog and digital cushion and should have developed to about one inch thick. So why are most horses uncomfortable landing heel first? Because in domestication, we tend to keep our foals on soft ground; we deeply bed the stalls which restricts their movement, and keep them on soft terrain when they are turned out. The soft ground inhibits the flexion, expansion and contraction and negates the hoof mechanism as it was designed to work. This results in very commonly, adult horses with lateral cartilages as thin as 1/8 of an inch thick instead of the inch they should be, and with digital cushions that are underdeveloped, thin and weak. Dr. Bowker has also found that bone loss associated with Navicular Syndrome can also be attributed to a lack of natural pressure in the navicular region of the hoof. He specifically blames peripheral loading, i.e. shoeing the hoof to remove sole pressure or allowing the hoof HCBC 2010 BUSINESS OF THE YEAR

wall to grow too long so that the sole, frog, and bars of the hoof cannot share in the weight-bearing pressures of movement as they were designed. When we learn the science behind Navicular Syndrome, and when this information becomes mainstream, only then can we start to prevent these changes from happening. While we cannot heal the bone deterioration once it has happened, we can bring strength back to the digital cushion and lateral cartilages. We must first bring them back into work, by removing the peripheral loading devices, keeping a low heel and allowing the digital cushion to strengthen again. The digital cushion is filled with myoxoid tissue which is similar to stem cell tissue and Dr. Deborah Taylor of Auburn University has published that the digital cushion can regenerate if given the opportunity. And, as discussed previously, horses with bone deterioration to the navicular bone can be made comfortable if the rest of the hoof is allowed to strengthen to support it. If your horse is suffering from Navicular Syndrome or you want to learn more, I would direct you to study the research of Dr. Robert Bowker, Dr. James R. Rooney and Dr. Deborah Taylor. They are leading the research right now, and are coming up with amazing information that is helping horses that would have previously been put down. Kristi Luehr is a natural trimmer and founder of the Okanagan School of Natural Hoof Care (www.oksnhc.com). She holds certification with the Canadian Farrier School as well as the Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care. Her focus is to educate horse owners about hoof anatomy, hoof mechanism, and the importance of a natural trim based on the wild horse model. (See their listing in our Business Services section under FARRIERS & SUPPLIES)

www.saddleup.ca • 11

Profile for Saddle Up magazine

Saddle Up September 2015  

Horse Magazine, Western Canada, English and Western, Club News, Equine

Saddle Up September 2015  

Horse Magazine, Western Canada, English and Western, Club News, Equine

Profile for saddleup
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