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Wrangling on the Range #131

Water needs - Shoeing for Navicular desease?



Water; Shoeing Needsdrink more water. Plus will special shoes
help a horse diagnosed with navicular disease?


I have a 12-year-old Appaloosa I ride year-round and show in the
summer. He doesn't always drink well at horse shows and has
sometimes developed impaction colic during the cold winter
months. How can I encourage him to drink-and how much water
should he drink? 



The old adage "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make
him drink" is true, but there are things you can do to encourage
water consumption. An average 1,000 to 1,200 - pound horse should
drink approximately five to six gallons of water daily. That
increases if he exercises and/or the weather is hot and humid.
For example, a horse competing in an endurance ride for three
hours at 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 80-percent humidity may lose
12 to 15 gallons of sweat; these fluids must be replenished by
Horses and people drinkwhen thirsty, and thirst results when the
concentration of salt in the blood increases. Horses will
therefore drink more if you add one to two tablespoons of salt to
their food each day. This is a useful thing to do when traveling
with your horse to competitions or during winter when horses
naturally tend to drink less.
Also, be sure your horse always has access to clean water that's
not too cold. Horses, like people, are sensitive to changes in
the taste and temperature of water. Interestingly, horses will
drink more tepid water than very cold water. This is because
horses (and humans) have receptors in the mouth that respond to
cold and signal "quenching" of thirst.
Horses will drink more water yearround and will continue to drink
water away from home if the water always tastes the same. When
traveling, you can take your own water with you, which is
cumbersome, or routinely flavor your horse's water with a little
molasses, peppermint syrup, or Gatorade, then provide the same
flavoring to water at events.
Be aware that horses will drink less water if they're eating
mostly grass (pasture), because grass contains a lot of water.
You can monitor the amount of water your horse drinks by keeping
track of how often you fill his water bucket. Make sure the
manure your horse passes is moist, with normal-size fecal balls.
If the manure becomes dry and/or the size of the fecal balls
decreases, your horse's water intake may be low.

SUSAN J. HOLCOMBE, VMD, MS, Ph.D. Department of Large Animal
Clinical Sciences Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

To learn how to build a heated water tank for your horse's
pasture, search the phrase at


My horse was diagnosed with navicular disease a year ago. At that
time we pulled his shoes, and he's been barefoot since.
Surprisingly, he's improved. As I hope to compete on him again,
my farrier, who has 30-plus years' experience, has suggested we
try Natural Balance shoes, but is it better to leave him

JAMES KIDD, Colorado


It's common that once shoes are removed, some measure of
soundness returns. Most researchers agree that navicu lar disease
(and other lower-limb lameness) results from inappropriate
leverage against the front part of the coffin bone (often
referred to as P3), including the coffin joint and associated
soft tissue. Genetic predisposition can contribute to lowerlimb
lameness, but the most common outside influence is undue leverage
on the front of the foot due to hoof growth.
As the hoof horn grows, the increasing length and width of the
toe can create leverage that works against the coffin joint's
equilibrium. This delays breakover (the foot's pivot point for
forward movement) and stresses the coffin joint and the navicular
bone's ligaments. It seems that by removing your horse's
ordinary, perimeter-fit shoes, placed full to the toe, you
reduced this leverage effect and thereby improved the joint's
Front vs. back balance ratios around the coffin joint play an
important role, especially for diagnosed navicular horses. These
ratios of the sole of the foot are easy to evaluate by drawing a
line across the foot's widest part, approximately one inch behind
the apex (point) of the frog. Ideally, we'd see more
weight-bearing mass behind this line, and less ahead of this
line, toward the toe. Healthy balance ratios can be challenging
to meet through a barefoot trim alone and easier to attain
through a properly applied shoe designed to help meet these
Because you hope to compete on your horse again, your farrier's
suggestion of Natural Balance shoes is a good one. The NB shoe,
like many similar styles, is designed to improve the joint's
equilibrium through a built-in breakover advantage.
Skilled farriers can modify all types of shoes to improve
equilibrium and attain better overall front/back balance.
However, many manufacturers have developed shoes with a more
"centered" approach, allowing ease of proper shoe placement for
better overall lower-limb health.
So, why not just leave your horse barefoot? Depending on
performance expectations, his living and working environments,
and his hoof conformation, going barefoot may actually delay
breakover and may not provide enough protection for the tip of
the coffin bone. The appropriate shoe properly applied actually
improves breakover without invading the sole, reducing the
leverage on the front of the foot better than going barefoot.
With a wide-web toe to protect the tip of the coffin bone, and a
higher inner rim to ease breakover, brands such as Center Fit,
Elite Hind, Performance Leverage Reduction, and Natural Balance
shoes are all good choices to help reduce lower-limb joint

MARK J. PLUMLEE, CJF, RJF, CNBF, CLS Owner and Instructor of
Mission Farrier School Snohomish, Washington

For more information on the causes of and treatments for
novicular disease, search the phrase at
Send horse health and behavior questions to
Include horse's age, breed, gender.


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