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Pre-purchase exam - "synovial invaginations"

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  • Pre-purchase exam - "synovial invaginations"

    Hi all! During a pre-purchase exam, my vet found "mild synovial invaginations of the navicular bone" in the 7-yo OTTB I was having vetted. The horse was also a bit choppy in front while trotting on hard ground (but we're also struggling a bit with a shoeing issue). Because of the combination of the x-rays and the short-stridedness, the vet had some hesitations about his future as a low-level eventer.

    Without seeing the X-rays, I know this is hard to evaluate (although I'm happy to send them if anyone has experience with this!). My general question is how worried should I be about this finding? It seems (from a lot of googling) that x-rays aren't very good at predicting future navicular syndrome.

    There's a million great things about this horse, and I don't want to write him off for something that can't be predicted. On the other hand, I don't want to take a giant risk. Any help or advice is much appreciated!
    Lucky Horse Designs - custom horseshoe nail jewelry

  • #2
    Well, it comes down to the amount of risk you are willing to take. Having had to retire a horse at 9 years old due to navicular disease, I personally wouldn't take the risk. Yes, some horses go on to have good careers with therapeutic shoeing or nerving or perhaps never exhibit symptoms at all. But if your vet is already hemming and hawing over this horse's future as a "lower level" horse at 7 years old... I'm sorry, as you seem to like the horse, but you might want to keep looking, unless the owner is willing to give you time to sort out the shoeing issue and see if that improves his trot.

    ETA: Eventing is generally not a great sport for horses with ouchy front feet. It's more manageable for horses in the hunter/pleasure ring. Just something to keep in mind.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks for the response. I definitely know eventing is hard on horses, and I absolutely want to make a decision in his best interest!

      Based on the research I have done, it seems that most horses show SOME navicular irregularities, and am confused as to how well these can be translated to problems later in life. It seems that many horses that have not-so-great x-rays show no navicular symptoms, and many with clean x-rays end up with navicular.
      Lucky Horse Designs - custom horseshoe nail jewelry


      • #4
        Could you send the x-rays to another vet for a second opinion? Another perspective might be useful if you really like the horse.


        • #5
          Personally I would say pass unless you have your own farm and can take the chance he will end up a pasture pet. There are too many horses out there without this type of issue.
          I am on year 4 of dealing with a mysterious old navicular bone damage issue / coffin joint cyst issue and after thousands in treatments still have a horse that many days is 1 to 2 degrees lame. I bred him so have to deal with it ...also have my own farm so can keep him no matter what the outcome. That said....I would never have chosen to do this even though he's competed through Intermediate. ....just my opinion....
          "A little less chit-chat a little more pitter-pat"


          • #6
            What worries me is that he has something on x-ray and the findings on the exam. I think if he had a normal/negative exam, and some findings on x-rays and was sound and in work, I wouldn't be as worried. But that fact that he isn't trotting well on hard ground worries me. No foot, no horse! I'd keep looking.


            • #7
              All I can add is that in my experience with buying and selling horses (sold or bought or both more than 15 last year) none of them had any irregularities in their navicular x-rays...so I am not sure that "most" horses show mild changes. I would pass personally.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Equinophile View Post
                It seems that many horses that have not-so-great x-rays show no navicular symptoms, and many with clean x-rays end up with navicular.
                This is exactly what my vet told me and the reason why we took a chance on our horse. Huge mistake.
                The "slightly off" while lunging on hard ground is your big clue. That is exactly what our horse looked like. Looked better in the soft arena, but hoof issues show up on the hard ground (in my experience).


                • #9
                  As CS said -- how much risk is acceptable to you? The true cost of a horse is not in the purchase price, but in the upkeep.

                  Just curious, but did the seller lower the asking price based on the PPE?
                  Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                  • #10
                    I agree that a second opinion on the xrays is a good idea. If the horse really fits in every other way for you you may ask to negotiate a little on purchase price.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by WishIWereRiding View Post
                      What worries me is that he has something on x-ray and the findings on the exam. I think if he had a normal/negative exam, and some findings on x-rays and was sound and in work, I wouldn't be as worried. But that fact that he isn't trotting well on hard ground worries me. No foot, no horse! I'd keep looking.
                      Agree. Navicular x-rays are often challenging to interpret, but if the horse is showing clinical signs too that is a bigger red flag.


                      • #12
                        I agree

                        x-rays supported by any sensitivity on the clinical--hoof testers or jog are the "clincher" for me to walk away when it comes to navicular. X-rays with a clean on the clinical aspect--I may still consider the horses dependent upon age and history of use.


                        • #13
                          I completely understand your concern, but I would suggest talking with your farrier before making any decisions. My 20 year old TB was diagnosed with "navicular changes" about 6 years ago. At the time, he was off, but we couldn't figure out why until the vet did x-rays. The x-rays showed *mild* navicular changes, and she said that she wouldn't term it "navicular disease" yet because it wasn't that bad. She suggested I try corrective shoeing, which I did (bar shoes), and he's been sound ever since (knock on wood). In fact, I'm about to move him up to training level this year.

                          This is something I would talk to your vet and farrier about. At the very least, you should be able to use this to knock a few thousand dollars off the price!


                          • #14
                            Sore feet will get you during a hot dry summer, even if the horse has clinically and radiographically excellent feet. You are begging for a problem.


                            • #15
                              I think with good digital xrays, it can be pretty rare not to find anything in naviculars. Our vets noted that it's really easy to see potential changes, but use the xrays only as a guide and look more at the overall shape of the feet, the clinical reactions, etc. I've had horses with truly ugly navicular shots whose feet never ever bothered them despite long term competitions - I've had others who are much more touchy.

                              Given that this guy had clinical issues, I'd be more likely to pass. As Dr. Allen once said, they can do a lot at the PPE, but they shouldn't be actually limping.


                              • #16
                                How much work is the horse in?


                                • Original Poster

                                  How much work is the horse in?
                                  He's in regular work, schooling 3-4 days a week for about an hour. Jumping 2'3" to 2'6" once a week.

                                  Just curious, but did the seller lower the asking price based on the PPE?
                                  Unfortunately, no. It's a bit of a strange situation...she was only selling him due to financial problems, and she was very sad to have to sell him at all. She gave him to me on trial for as long as it took me to see if I wanted to buy him. But now her financial situation is better, and she now wants him back if I don't decide to buy him! Since she's so excited about the possibility of having him back, she isn't willing to lower the price.
                                  Lucky Horse Designs - custom horseshoe nail jewelry


                                  • #18
                                    Navicular x-rays are really only useful when compared to a prior set of rads. You can't see "changes" in one static set of films... what you want to see is how they have changed over the time.

                                    However... the horse is off and having shoeing problems. You don't want to buy a problem that you aren't sure you can fix. Walk away.


                                    • #19
                                      I'd pass. Xrays don't necessarily bother me. Lame horses do!

                                      Third Charm Event Team