Navicular Problems

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Q: I have read several of your articles on egg bar shoes. My horse came up lame and the vet recommended having him shoed at 58 deg with a rocked toe. Well, the guy that shoed my horse did not do what he was told to. Anyway it has caused some problems in the Navicular area. I was told by the vet to have him shoed with a wedge egg bar and do not put pads on him but my farrier insisted to put pads on him. I took him back to the vet and he said to pull the pads out because he did not want pressure on the frog area. My farrier said the first thing to hit the ground should be the frog.  Does the frog need pressure applied to relieve the frog or not?

A: Ahh! The age-old question of frog pressure--necessary or not? As with most things equine, there is no set or easy answer, but I can give you some rules of thumb that hopefully will help you sort out your best course of action.
 
Generally speaking, yes, frog pressure is good. It aids in circulation, traction and in keeping the heels of the foot from contracting.
 
The answer becomes less clear when you are dealing with an existing problem of the foot. For laminitis, frog pressure is absolutely necessary and can prevent (and sometimes even correct) coffin bone rotation or sinking, thereby saving the horse's usefulness and even its life.
 
You didn't say what diagnosis your vet has made, only that you have "problems in the navicular area". For navicular disease or bruised deep flexor tendon you do not want frog pressure. Relieving the soreness in the area and the damage already done to these structures is more important than the general benefits of frog pressure. For these conditions you will probably want a bar shoe with negative frog pressure (space between the frog and the ground or bar). A piece of old hoof rasp welded between the branches of the shoe so that it protects the frog and navicular area from being struck from below works wonders on many horses with navicular problems. See the shoeing description in http://www.americanblacksmith.com/blacksmithstable/navicular-small_feet.htm .
 
If I am interpreting what you have told me correctly, I'm afraid I'd have to agree with your vet. You need to avoid frog pressure. If the problem is one of bruising and will clear up in time, you will be able to return your horse to positive frog pressure when he is pain and inflammation free. If he actually has navicular disease you may need to protect the frog and avoid pressure on it permanently, and live with the consequences.
 
Your farrier can buy wedged egg bar shoes if he doesn't want to or can't make them himself. You could also consider the dropped down egg bar shoe which is pictured in several places on the web site, including http://www.americanblacksmith.com/blacksmithstable/bowed_tendon_on_hind_leg.htm . If you decide to go with the rasp piece as the bar so it can protect the frog, a normal wedge shoe will suffice.
 
In deciding which shoe to use, you should consider that the egg bar helps relieve tendon stress by offering support further back. The best shoe will depend, of course, on the individual horse's problems.
 
Rocking the toes on most horses is a good idea. It eases breakover, and thus lessens tendon strain, and is helpful for many conditions, minor and major.
 
Sincerely,
 

Mary Bayard

 
The American Blacksmith
Murphys, California 
 

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.