By Jon Smedley of Trim and Train

There seems to be a lot of discussion surrounding the condition of navicular/heel pain. What exactly is it, and what qualifies as a diagnosis? Regardless of that discussion, the most important, and sometimes challenging assignment is finding a way for the horse to be as comfortable as possible.

Just last year one of our clients affectionately referred to as “Red” received the dreaded “navicular” diagnosis. We set out to find a way to make Red more comfortable, not only for his 5-10 mile daily trail rides in Ojai, California, but also to ensure he was happy in his day-to-day routine. With some trial and error we did make the horse comfortable. At his recent vet check up, his lameness had resolved using a combination of adjustments I made to an Easyboot Glue-On based on ways to treat navicular/heel pain.

Ways to treat Navicular/Heel Pain

  • Improve break over
    This means minimizing material forward of the leading edge of the coffin bone, making it easier for the “toe” to roll forward. The idea behind this is to reduce the stress of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT), impar ligaments, and associated soft tissues in and around the area of the navicular bone.
  • Lift the heels
    Again, this takes stress away from the DDFT and other soft tissues around the navicular bone.
  • Distribute weight across the entire solar area of the hoof
    The idea here is in some cases the pressure of the heels and bars will transfer vertically onto the area in and around the navicular bone.

Some horses with navicular/heel pain will display improvement with one or two of these methods.  In Red’s case we needed to use all three. Often it is trial and error to find what each hoof needs.

While the Easyboot Glue-On is designed for performance, endurance trail riding, dressage and jumping, it can also provide measurable relief for navicular/heel pain with just a few easy modifications. Here are 3 ways to modify the Glue-On.

1. Minimize break over with the Easyboot Glue-On

Step 1: After a balanced trim and after you have removed as much toe length as allowed, heat fit the shell to the hoof. Heat fitting pulls the tread of the Glue-On further back and sets the treads behind the toe. It also provides the best fit to ensure the shell stays in place after gluing. Check out Pete Ramey’s superb blog on heat fitting Glue-Ons.

Step 2: Remove tread at the toe that isn’t needed. I like to use a grinder to taper the toe tread from the front edge of the shell to the second traction line. This brings break over back an additional ½ inch or 13 mm.

2. Lift the heels by adjusting the Easyboot Glue-On

For additional relief, lift the heels by grinding a wedge into the Glue-On. You’ll need to remove more of the tread at the toe tapering toward the heel.

You can also place a wedge pad inside the Glue-On for heel lift.  After I cut the pad, I like to use a little super glue to hold the pad in place while gluing the shell onto the hoof wall.

3. Distribute weight in an Easyboot Glue-On

Lastly there are many different types of sole packing that you can use to minimize heel pain by distributing the weight across the entire solar surface. You may have to experiment to find the right durometer (hardness) that your horse needs. Note: The higher the durometer the harder or greater resistance to indention a material will have. There are quite a few options to explore from Vettec and Glue U.

I hope you’ve found these easy techniques helpful. The Easyboot Glue-On can be an excellent tool for aiding in the treatment of navicular pain symptoms in addition to its many other applications.

– Jon Smedley

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