Dr. Robert Bowker on Navicular Disease


Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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20 Responses

  1. Jill Mora says:

    Another great article! Thanks so much for sharing this excellent information!

  2. Linda King says:

    Interesting reading. My German Warmblood was noticeably lame the second day after I got him, he was diagnosed with severe advanced navicular disease, that was in 2005, so he will be in your W – Z scale, he is still going strong, so having nav is certainly not the death sentence it used to be. thanks again for your information

  3. Hans Wiza says:

    This is a very well presented article and rationale for the causes of Navicular disease.I been a professional farrier for 45 years. In this time I have rarely had a horse in my clientele diagnosed with Navicular disease. Some of my colleagues have a significantly higher rate of diagnosed Navicular disease. In my opinion the way a hoof is trimmed whether barefoot or shod is the most crucial aspect of the hoof care process. Hoofmakeover.ca has produced tutorial videos that simplify and demystify the trimming process so that anyone can learn how to recognize and attain the necessary target points that enable a horse to remain sound throughout its career. I have shod hundreds of horses that lived and worked well into their thirties very sound and healthy.

    • Joanna says:

      Yes! Angle is everything! My personal belief is that a horse with a straight shoulder who is shot too low in the heel is a prime candidate for navicular. The Deep flexor tendon pushing on the bone from being stretched out too much inhibits blood circulation

  4. pologirl says:

    Though I don’t disagree with some of this insight, I had my horses barefoot for nearly a year. (dressage horses). You couldn’t have asked for a better footing situation as it was varied (nice arena, pebbles, DG, grass), they were on good diets (no processed feed etc.) Though their feet showed some nice changes and Improvement they were unable to stay barefoot for the long haul, too much sole loss, not enough wall led to sore feet. (and booting got old after 9 months) So despite best intentions shoes were the better way to go. Now we just pull several days in advance of new shoeing cycle to encourage foot to stay open and increase circulation etc. So far so good…happy horses.

    • James Marshall says:


      I’m a farrier with 23 years experience of looking at horses feet. Some years ago, we had 3 personal show horses, which we had purchased from the Springhill L.A. area. Nice sandy, soft, lazy horse soil.

      I had an Impressive bred mare with hoof wall so thin, you could not drive a nail without quicking her. I also had two other horses with white socks, white feet, and so much refined Quarter Horse breeding, their feet had lost all functionality.

      After months of my trying to keep shoes on to no avail, I, after reading an article in the American Farriers Journal about farrier Jean Ovineck, and his recomendation to pull shoes of horses with poor hoof wall quality, I did.

      And boy I’m glad I did! That Impressive mare who’s foot you could not drive a nail into… Well in 6 months, her hoof wall went from 0 to 3/8″ wide, and in time, became over 1/2″ thick.

      And every other horse I had, their hoof wall improved, their feet became tougher. I had no more flat feet, but nicely concaved, thick soles. The feet actually pulled up into themselves, becoming more compact, a leaner, meaner hoofing machine.

      I’ve had success with barefooting my horses, but I’ve a secret I used to be really ashamed of, but as the years go by, I’ve come to value. I’ve a very rocky (with capital V) pasture. My horses live in the North West Arkansas Mountians, with rocky terraine similar to desert.

      Also I didn’t boot my horses. I pulled their shoes, threw them into the pasture and told them to live or die. They lived! And became extrememly healthy hoof because of it.

      But I had to watch my horses limp for about 5 months. At about 6 months things turned the corner. The limps went away, and the hoof walls showed up

      What people don’t realize is you’re not just rebuilding a foot, you’re rebuilding a whole horse, anatomically, digestively, and in the blood circulatory sense from the foot up. We cannot just throw the shoes away, and in 6 months think we can ride these animals barefoot. It won’t work!

      You have to recondition your animal to be tough as nails! Create a live or die environment. You have to put the horse into an enviroment (as in the wild) where if he does not heal, he knows he will die. Only then, can we begin to right the wrongs done to our horses by hundreds of years of breeding them to our percieved idea of beauty, at the cost of equine health and function.

      But this requires dedication, and a tough heart. I’m a farrier, and I’m a pretty good observer of horse owners. Many owners see their horse limp, and hurt more than their horse does. We horse people have to come to understand pain is good! Pain means you’re alive. Pain also means the body is operating in a normal sense, sending nerve signals from brain to limb and back, all body parts communicating, the need for care, nutrients, and the need for suvival.

      Had my horses not hurt physically, they never would have grown a better hoof wall. They never would have been able to go barefoot without shoes.

      We humans in this last century, have forgotten what it means to gut it out until we’re tough enough. We tend to live our lives through our horses, treating them, like we would treat ourselves. With drugs, painkillers, Nyquil, cough syrup, and lot’s of pillows.

      You do that to a horse, and his feet will be as soft as Downy, and his immunity to pain, infection, and hardship will be non existent.

      It’s time we treat the horse as God intended. Treat the horse like he really is! The horse is a battle tank, and always has been.

      A tough, rough, powerful animal which should be respected!

      Instead of soft bedding and a stall, give that horse 30 below 0 and a hard northwest wind! And that horse will prosper!

      • Christine says:

        This was fantastic to read, and I have to completely agree. I have seen many horses with the most rubbish feet make a complete turn around when given the right environment and diet. They adjust, mostly it just takes time and very little meddling.

      • Carla townsend says:

        This should be our bible, you are right, right and right.
        What a fantastic read.

  5. melva thomas says:

    My horses are barefoot, compete in dressage, jumping and sport horse under saddle. I have not any lameness and they do very well in the ring. I had a mare develop laminitis 8 years ago & after that struggle to get her well and a lot of research in hoof and equine care I arrived at the understanding that iron shoes did not need to be nailed to my horses feet. My horses have regular, proper trims, controlled NSC diets, lot of exercise, pea gravel in the dry lot & turned out in pasture every day. They are rode 4 days a week and compete barefoot at a couple shows a month during show season.

  6. kim says:

    Hello! My 7 year old horse was just diagnosed with the starts of Navicular. My Vet- farrier is recommending shoes. She has never been in shoes always barefooted and is never stalled living out side on 45 acre pasture. He is recommending to put her on Cosequine. Any other suggestion for early prevention…or treatment with supplements. Thank you, Kim

  7. Tammy HALDEMAN says:

    Look into Hoof cinches

  8. MJ says:

    I am wondering about the vibration part deteriortating hoof tissue. I am demoing a Theraplate. I’ve read that that can be beneficial to hoof and all body by creating more circulation. Comments please.

  9. lisa says:

    my horse that is 9 years old was diagonosed with ring bone, I am sooo sad and upset. I changed his shoeing and put him on equiflex and adequan. He is doing well with that but I cannot lunge him or put him in the bull pen. he gets super sore if he is lunged. I love my guy and dont want him to hurt. I am scared about what the future holds for us. I dont hink I will ride him anymore. He will be our pet and be turned out. any advise or knowledge and or experience with ring bone would help. He also has bone spurs on his navicular. this has has barley been ridden his entire life! It must be the hard ground! or heridetory.

  10. Carla townsend says:

    Caudel heal syndrome is not the end.

    A big shout out to Marg Richardson for her support and the bare foot trimming to get smoochs feet right without this wonderful lady smooch may have been unsound for life, marg has been my rock.

    To SCOOT BOOTS FOR YOUR HELP IN SUPPLYING BOOTS TO GET SMOOCH BACK TO HER SENSATIONAL BEST. You guys are awesome your professional help and support have been awesome. I can’t speak highly enough of you guys.
    Anyone out there looking at boots honestly you cant beat these they are amazing my girl atm is wearing them 24/7 and it has made such a difference i really couldn’t be happier.
    If you have any questions i am happy to speak with you.

    I would also like to say thank you Judy Peel for sending me down the bare foot track thumbs up to you hun xxx

    To say i am over the moon to be back on my girl is an understatement i am bloody ecstatic.

    Today i took smooch to the NW 7 mile beach it was windy as hell but i diddnt care 🙂
    Cheers carla xxxx

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