Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

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Navicular Knowledge
Q. Two years ago my 13 year old cob x gelding went suddenly and severely lame.

Veterinary investigation revealed that he had navicular syndrome and I followed the advice I was given for his treatment. He was put on a course of Navilox and bute.

Two years on, he is still on bute and is as lame as he was when we first embarked on this course of treatment. Due to his restricted movement (because of the pain) he has also started to lose muscle tone.

He lives out all year round, rugged in winter and with access to stables for shelter. He is fed a concentrate feed as necessary with plenty of good quality haylage.

I am at a loss as to what to try next but have heard that homoeopathy could help?

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A. Navicular disease is caused by a degeneration of the bone and cartilage of the navicular bone in the foot. When the cartilage surrounding the bone gets damaged it causes soreness in the joint. No one really knows why this happens but drugs are given to improve the blood supply and to relieve the pain. None of the drugs really help the root cause.

My approach to these problems is mainly herbal. I think it is important to lessen discomfort with plants such as ginger, frankinsense and devil's claw, while ensuring that the body is absorbing enough calcium and other minerals to ensure proper development and regeneration of cartilage and bone.

Nutritional chemicals such as glucosmaine and herbs such as picrorhiza can help a great deal to improve nutrition to the joint surface. Over a prolonged period it is possible for such damaged navicular bones to regenerate, although this is controversial.

In summary, ensure you give balanced diet with a good mineral mix. Use herbs to help mineral uptake, such as comfrey. Provide some herbal help for the discomfort and use a good joint formula to help support the navicular bone


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