Beating Navicular: Spice Girl’s Story
For the month of August, I’m featuring an APHA mare named Spice Girl who was diagnosed with navicular, but has since made a remarkable recovery. In fact, even at age nineteen now, she is still going strong! Spice Girl is fortunate to have not one, but two caring women who kept seeking answers and have helped her to recover from a condition which is often a ‘death sentence’ for many horses.
Ten years ago, Carol Wentworth purchased Spice Girl through her uncle, who had bred and raised the mare before she was bought by a friend. It wasn’t long until Carol began noticing problems with her new horse though.
“Spice developed intermittent lameness and soreness. After x-rays, she was diagnosed with a navicular. Spice had also begun to exhibit weakness and a twisting motion in her hind, stifle area,” said Carol.
Carol did what many people might do. She listened to her vet and farrier and put corrective shoes with pads on Spice Girl. But things did not get better–in fact they got worse. Carol became disheartened and frustrated, but in time, she found a new trainer, Angelica Harwell, who wanted to try something different with Spice Girl.
The first time Angelica lunged Spice Girl in the round corral, she said the mare “was literally airborne half the time and head-bobbing lame once she did trot.”
Even though a former trainer had described her as “too crazy to train”, Angelica was certain that Spice Girl’s problem was discomfort and not just a bad attitude. Angelica also knew that she wanted the opportunity to work with this horse and have a chance to help her.
“I just knew she was smart, kind, and bold and needed a trainer that could respect and guide her,” said Angelica.
So Angelica started by doing ground work for weeks. After that, she began to ride the mare in a rope halter. Even though Spice Girl had only been ridden in a bit previously, Angelica felt that the mare did not need or want one.
Spice Girl began to make some progress, but she was still having lameness issues. At that point, Carol was bringing the mare to Angelica’s facility for training several times a week. Since Carol had a hectic work schedule as a flight attendant, Angelica made the suggestion that Spice Girl should come live with her.
Carol also allowed Angelica to remove the corrective shoes and pads and try the barefoot route. Angelica noticed that Spice had high, pinched heels in front and flares on the hind feet, which seemed to be stressing her stifles. A chiropractic assessment would later confirm this notion about the stifles.
“Once the shoes came off, her comfort level increased immediately. Her body needed to adjust. It was very uneven and she had tightness in shoulders and stifles. The riding helped that. . . I rode her throughout her transition, in nice footing, without boots. I did use Back on Track bell boots which I like and would leave them on for therapy,” said Angelica.
At Angelica’s place, Spice Girl was first turned out into a large sand paddock and her diet was modified to include: bermuda hay, Harmonize pre/probiotic, MSM, Diatamaceous Earth, garlic, chia seeds, and a pinch of turmeric. She also gave Spice Girl the Horse Clear herbal detox.
Angelica started by doing ‘mini trims’ and as Spice Girl continued to improve, she was soon turned out into a larger pen with varied footing.
Even at her age and after struggling for so many years, Spice Girl is now active and ridden on a regular basis. Angelica often rides her bitless and bareback and she is currently training Spice Girl for dressage, working on lengthening and collections, open loose swinging gaits, and some laterals. Carol is also getting back to riding Spice Girl after many years off.
“Spice Girl is a brave, smart, and spirited girl. She has a wonderful work ethic and always wants to please. Even during our struggles to help her through her foot and leg issues, she always wanted to work and have a job. I love this girl!” said Carol.