Bowker: Navicular Issues Begin Earlier Than We Think

Initiating rehab methods earlier might promote healthier foot structures and reverse tissue degeneration.
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Bowker: Navicular Problems Result From Hoof Care and Management
Figure 1: Foot section of navicular-syndrome-affected horse showing an adhesion between the navicular bone and the deep digital flexor tendon. Damage is also present within the tendon, impar ligament, and frog and digital cushion. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Robert Bowker

“To me, navicular (syndrome) is a man-made thing,” said Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD, longtime podiatry researcher and former professor and head of the Equine Foot Laboratory at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in East Lansing. He believes incorrect trimming and shoeing methods, along with other environmental factors, lead to early damage to the frog and digital cushion in the rear of horses’ feet, both of which are designed to protect this area of the foot and the navicular bone therein.

Bowker spoke to veterinarians and farriers about his perspectives on and solutions to navicular problems at the 11th annual Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners (NEAEP) symposium, held Sept. 25-28 in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Veterinarians usually diagnose navicular syndrome (also known as podotrochlosis) based on bilateral forelimb lameness confirmed with digital nerve blocks and/or with radiographic evidence of damage to the navicular apparatus. But in these horses Bowker believes damage occurs in different areas of the foot long before it’s apparent on radiographs

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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