Creating a '3-step' plan for treating your horse with Navicular
So who knows this feeling? My horse, my responsibility.
After an early-morning start at the yard you notice your beloved 9 year old thoroughbred Stan is showing signs of lameness and has started to take short, stubby strides whilst pointing his toes like a ballerina to the ground. Someone at the yard walks past and flippantly suggests “it could be navicular”.
After picking yourself up from the stable-floor in horror you begin to pull yourself together and reach for your smartphone - you Google 'Navicular’. Bad move. It’s far worse than you could possibly have imagined! Yesterday he was sound and seemed fine, a few hours later he’s about to live a life of eternal pain and discomfort. You keep reading, getting lost in an overabundance of views and opinions.
“Navicular Disease”…. Oh no, really, a disease?! That sounds really bad. Poor Stan.
The actual ‘Navicular area’ of a horses foot is an extremely complex part of the horses anatomy, like our own feet, consisting of many bones and a variety of ligaments and tendons. The majority of “navicular issues” will result in lameness and high levels of pain but is a widely interpreted term for a large number of actual issues. It is however not a disease - that’s a misinterpreted term - it’s a syndrome. In essence it could be referred to as type of horse arthritis. OK so that's less of a mouthful to swallow, but will I ever be able to ride Stan again?
Due to the complexity of the navicular region of the hoof, high-end technology such as MRI scans, are now used to provide an accurate diagnosis. This sounds like the logical step to take and gives you hope that at least there is something you can do. One thing becomes clear - you need professional veterinary help.
It’s time to call the vet and, with bated breath, your insurance company.
As navicular diagnosis in horses is a widely experienced issue many vets will be well aware of the tell-tale signs of a horse with navicular problems, and your vet is no different. After a quick call out that afternoon it's apparent that your beloved boy Stan needs an MRI scan on both front feet to establish exactly what is going on.
This comes as a blow, following your insurance company confirming that as part of your policy "Navicular disease/syndrome is not covered".... typical!
A couple of days later, after charging £1100 to the Visa card to scan both his front feet, the MRI images show exactly what the issue is. The scans show inflammation within both the deep digital flexor tendons and collateral ligaments on both front legs - Navicular, a commonly reported type of arthritis found in the hoof of the horse - something he’ll now have to deal with forever.
You take a gulp as the diagnosis and repercussions are empathetically explained to you. The science behind the condition is both fascinating and daunting and over-and-over in your thoughts is the looming factor of ‘How much is this going to cost?”
Back to Google. Time to read what others have done to help treat their clinically diagnosed navicular horse.
Thankfully from a research perspective, ‘Navicular in horses’ is a common health condition found amongst all breeds and across every discipline. As such, there is a whole plethora of information, Facebook groups, and others exasperated owners who have been through the same battle. You are not alone.
You decide to join several Facebook groups, soon learning that opinions are vastly different and quickly become entwined in a continual disagreement between owners on whether to go barefoot or not. Your quest for knowledge becomes even more stressful and you find yourself wasting time either peace-keeping between two ‘keyboard warriors’ or scrolling through comment-after-comment in amazement at how rude people can be to each other. No thanks.
What does become clear amongst all the differing opinions is how there seams to be three main topics to focus on; Correct shoeing, Medication and Complementary treatments. People who have adopted all three, and correctly, appear to have achieved the objective you’re hoping for. A sound horse.
First and foremost, It’s worth reminding any reader who believes their horse is showing signs of lameness, pain or discomfort (and in the navicular area in particular) that they should seek professional medical advice immediately. Navicular can be a serious issue that will not disappear through rest and recuperation. Self diagnosis, or medical treatments using information online, is not the route to go.
You need a plan.
With no cure, you immediately recognise the importance of correct shoeing and the impact this can have on your horses healing and recovery stages. You read many opinions and feel the best way forward is to call your farrier.
'Step-1’ - Correct Shoeing, call the Farrier!
You explain the last few days and send them copies of the MRI images. He’s only local and agrees to come out and see you within a couple of hours. He speaks directly with the vet and between them they agree on the best plan of action for Stan.
Corrective shoeing is achieved by trimming the hoof and balancing the foot, attaching a shoe with the correct amount of extension and then focussing on rebalancing the foot. The sole is then packed with an impression material and an anti-concussion hoof pad is fitted over the entire sole of the hoof. He then fits a 'natural balance shoe’ to keep the new pad and cushion in place. A graduated ‘frog plate’ is then pushed into the pad and the hoof cushion, supporting Stan's bodyweight and in turn reducing the pressure on the specific area of concern. The purpose of all this rebalancing work and shoeing is to assist Stan's healing process.
Another invoice, another charge on the credit card, but a big relief knowing you’re doing everything you can.
So, you’ve passed the first-step in your horses treatment and the farrier is now working towards corrective shoeing. Farrier work, tick!
'Step-2' - Painkiller medication, call the Vet!
You receive a prescription for an intravenously-injected drug called Equidronate (once known as Tildr*n). You’re anxious about it, knowing what you’ve read about the really high costs of the medication and potential negative side effects.
The prescribed medication is medically classified as a Bisphosphonate medication - which seems a long word which you've never heard of.
The vet also explains that your horse will need to spend a night in the clinic so they can sedate your horse allowing them to administer the medication safely whilst keeping a close eye on his reaction to the drug. They explain the potential risks in taking bisphosphonates including a potential for colic, abdominal pain, agitation and discomfort.
Bisphosphonates are a class of medication which were originally developed to prevent bone loss in people. Whilst they are not used in this way to treat animals and horses, understanding how they help humans will give you a better understanding of the medication itself and the potential adverse reactions which Stan may potentially experience.
Let's have a quick look at what those reportedly are: Across three field-based trials using the medication, most commonly experienced negative side effects were witnessed within 90 minutes of the injection. It is expected that between 35-45% of horses will show transient signs of Colic and worth noting that trails were not carried out on any horse under the age of 4 whose skeletons continue to grow. It is also reported that another risk is the potential for increased bone fragility if administered for long periods of time and as such in 2019 seven states in the US banned the use of bisphosphonates in racehorses under the age of 4, one state went further by banning any aged racehorse from being treated with bisphosphonate medications and suspending any vet for 12-months who is found to be administering it. Further negative side effects include a reduction in appetite, increased frequency of urination, sore neck and mild fever. As well as negative side-effects reports from owners since these medications became authorised have also included Renal failure, Polyuria, Polydipsia, Abdominal pain, Anorexia, Lethargy, Recumbency, Hyperthermia, muscle tremors and Urticaria.
Your vet also stresses the importance in not administering NSAID painkiller medication to Stan alongside the bisphosphonate drug and making sure any NSAID medication previously given to Stan is entirely out of his system. You recognise from reading other owners the major issue this often creates people, particularly when supporting older horses who are often administered bute or another form of painkiller as part of their daily management. Luckily for you, Stan is not on painkillers, but your anxiety levels jump-up another notch at the unnatural approach you’re about to take with this medication.
You scroll your eyes to the base of the document. Your heart thumps through your chest as your watery eyes try to focus on the highlighted and underlined total at the bottom of the page. £1050. Ouch.
From a sound and happy horse to a bill of over £2,500 - in just 72 hours.
Think positive. Think of him.
There’s plenty of success stories where horses clinically diagnosed with navicular lead a happy and pain-free life post diagnosis and treatment, and a whole treasure-trove of options available to aid their recovery and wellbeing. That is now your focus for Stan.
You’ve covered two of the three main topics of focus which you learned at the beginning of the process - farrier work and veterinary support. The third stage is no doubt the most important part of what you can do for your horse.
'Step-3' - Recovery and recuperation
It's clear that whilst Stan is dosed-up on this 'navicular medication' he cannot be given any painkillers, yet, he's in pain and could really do with as much help as he can get. Although not clinically approved by the medical authorities (unlike the medication which has been granted FDA approval) there are many very well respected products on the market which are used as more natural approach to painkiller medications.
You ask your vet whether they can recommend any complementary products to support your horses recovery. Some vets work alongside a clinical approach with an holistic approach - and luckily for you your vet is one of these.
They talk to you about the effectiveness of the medication Stan has taken and the potential to use another branded type if that doesn’t work. They explain that he will most likely need another dose of this medication 6-8 weeks from now.
They advise you to look into a joint supplement to support the recovery of the joint itself, and with many options on the market you are recommended to a UK manufacturer Pure Feed. You look up their options and decide on their joint care product.
Next your vet recommends you look at a new advanced magnetic product for horses called EQU StreamZ He suggests that Stan wears these magnetic bands alongside the medication and through his upcoming period of box rest. You search online for the UK manufacturer, StreamZ Global, and begin to read thousands of reviews. You get lost again, but this time with positivity and hope. Your natural scepticism for this type of product is outweighed by the recommendation by your vet and the affordable cost!
The next day, whilst licking the final crumbs off your breakfast plate the outside gate squeaks open and the dogs go ballistic! Amongst the noise in walks your husband with a shoe-sized box under his arm. Rolling his eyes at whatever else you've bought he passes you the box and using your buttery knife you slice apart the tape. The EQU StreamZ magnetic bands have arrived.
You tidy up, sort of, and run out the back door.
The EQU StreamZ bands come in a pair and after checking your horses legs are clean you wrap the velcro bands around the cannon bone on both his front legs and make a little wish to the heavens in hope that they get to work quickly!
As your vet mentioned, the advantage in StreamZ advanced magnetism is how no heat is created. This creates significant advantage over traditional static or pulse magnetic tack products as it allows you to leave them on Stan 24/7 and through his entire box rest period of rehabilitation. He stands there with these two bands on, dosed up on his medication and feeling rather sorry for himself.
Where are you now?
Just over 6 months on and your ‘3-step plan’ (created through anxiety-level research) has really paid off. Your beloved Stan is sound and has been for several weeks.
Stan was feeling sorry for himself for no more than 48 hours after seeing the vet. His corrective shoeing took around 6-8 weeks to pay off but in the meantime he stood in the stable fashioning his new magnetic bands perfectly happy enough. The supplement we were recommended, supported by the magnetic bands, has been the approach we would recommend to take to others who have their horse diagnosed with navicular. Our 3-step plan really paid off! We did whatever we could and were delighted to have come across two British manufactured products in Pure Feed and EQU StreamZ which made such a huge difference to him.
Stan didn’t need a second visit to the vet to have that medication again (saving me a small fortune) and his demeanour and overall mobility is remarkably improved since that dreadful week.
- Jessica-Anne Kinsey
You owe a lot to having the right people and team behind you, but your approach has led to a happy horse and a far better understanding of how to best deal with navicular. It certainly wasn’t cheap, and as science and technology improve so will these treatments - but for now, you have that sound horse you were so hoping to have.
The final question you have to ask yourself is this; do you go back to the Facebook groups you joined and share your story, or not? Whatever you decide, you rock and can be confident that your '3-step' plan worked wonders!
Guest Author: Jessica-Anne Kinsey. Guildford, Surrey, UK.
My story of Navicular diagnosis with Stan and the discovery of EQU StreamZ Magnetic Bands.