Congenital Bipartite Navicular

Congenital Bipartite Navicular? Huh? What is that?

If you're wondering what exactly this is, you're not the only person! I'll be describing what limited information I have about it via Digby's diagnosis here. This is NOT to be used as a veterinary diagnosis or for any use other than light reading. I am not a vet, a podiatrist, or an expert of any kind. This is just my very limited knowledge of a condition my horse has.

X-rays were taken June 2011 of Digby's left front hoof, after it was successfully nerve blocked sound by the vet. The x-rays were then looked at by the vet practice and sent out to Mid-Atlantic Equine Clinic and University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for further clarification. All three diagnosis's pointed towards "congenital bipartite navicular."

Now, what exactly IS it? I have no idea. This I do know:

  • Congenital means it's a birth defect
  • Bipartite means it's in two pieces (there is tripartite, as well)
  • It effects the navicular bone
  • It's very rare
  • It does not effect one certain breed (Like HYPP in Quarter Horses, for example)
  • It can be in bilateral hooves or just one, though it is more commonly in both
  • Bipartite and tripartite navicular bones are different on x-rays from fractured navicular bones in that they are symmetrical and have smooth edges
  • It causes a chronic, slow onset lameness
  • It will not fuse like a fracture

How does one go about treating it?
  • No one really knows a treatment because it's so rare
  • It was recommended by both Mid-Atlantic and New Bolton to give 30 days stall rest with Bute or an NSAID given for the first week, inject the coffin joint, give another 30 days stall rest and reintroduce into turnout and work slowly while simultaneously starting the horse on a regular Adqeuan injection program
  • Digby was given stall rest, given Previcoxx (an NSAID, less likely to cause ulcers than bute), injected the coffin joint with Hyluronic acid, a corticosteroid and another drug used to prevent infection and 30 days stall rest
  • He gradually returned to his normal turnout schedule and I began riding on a regimen of 30 minutes walking and trotting once around the ring. This was to be gradually increased by the day to longer and longer. He went lame again within 3 weeks
  • The vet recommended giving him 6 months off in a field board situation based on his current lameness and my budget. He will be going back into work May 2012.
  • In April 2012, Digby went lame (about a 1.5-2 on lameness scale) while being strictly on turnout 24/7 and not in work. After discussion with several vets, farriers and horse people I respect, I made the decision to retire him from work. There was several things involved in my decision but it boiled down to my financial status and wanting to keep Digby as happy and comfortable as possible. He is currently barefoot, living in a field 24/7, on 1/2 gram bute in the AM, and relatively sound again.
  • Just kidding! :) He's been sound since May 2012 and my vet told me to "get off my butt and get to riding!" Digby is back in work officially as of December 1, 2012. No bute needed.
  • In December 2013, after some lameness issues, I tried a new farrier who used bar shoes, a full pad and a wedge pad. This worked fantastic. After some hoof growth, he is the most comfortable he has been since the original lameness back in 2010.
  • In the spring of 2014, we switched Digby into regular steel shoes with a wedge pad because he was pulling his bar shoes off on a regular basis. He is still in that type of shoeing today.
  • Supplements for this? Digby does get supplements. He gets a joint supplement and flax, as omega 3's in flax are found to be "anti-inflammatory." He also gets Adequan shots, generally only once a year in the spring. I give one shot every 4 days for 28 days. It seems to really help him, especially when fed in combination with a feed through joint supplement. Feed through supplements in this area don't have much research but it does seem to help my horse so it's worth it to me. I'd love to save my money and use it on something that does have research but honestly, both my vet and I see a difference when he gets them.

If you have any information on congenital bipartite navicular or any treatments that are from a valid, respected source feel free to contact me! My e-mail is 


  1. Wow - just stumbled across your blog while googling. I have a gelding that was diagnosed with the exact same thing about a year and a half ago. How is your boy doing?

  2. He is currently coming off of the 6 months field board as I listed above. I'm allowed to start riding him again May 1! He's currently barefoot (though the vet recommended we change that when I start riding again) and sound as can be. I've just started him on Pentosan to help with his joints (and hopefully help keep him sound but it's really a shot in the dark with that) and I'm watching his weight like a hawk to keep him from becoming overweight to add less stress on his legs and joints. I was also recommended by my vet to start him on 1/2 a gram on bute daily once I start riding. She only said 1/2 a gram because he's barely 15 hands, very petite and ulcers are a concern for me due to his natural "worrying" temperment. If that doesn't work, we will up the dose.

    How's your horse? Is there anything you found that worked really well?

  3. Hi! I saw a link to your blog on Adventures with Shyloh's blog. Digby sure is one cute guy! I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out well as you begin to work him in May.

    1. He is very cute :) Thank you so very much! I'm really hoping he stays sound!

  4. Finally some more info about bipartite navicular! I x-rayed my daughter's quarter pony's front feet because of cosmetic damage, only to discover he has bipartite naviculars in both feet. He's five, is ridden 3/4 times per week, plus monthly pony club, and has never been lame. I keep wondering what's going to happen in the future...will he become lame or stay sound? Various experts have told me that it's inevitable that he will go lame, but I researched a couple of cases where horses have stayed sound well into their of them have even been used for jumping. Do you have any knowledge of likely outcomes?

    1. I'm not sure what's going to happen to your pony. I'm not a vet nor do I know your specific case. I can only tell you what has happened to my horse and what I've learned. The following statements are strictly my opinion, because I'm not an expert at all.

      First off, I think it's good that you're not jumping and he's only being used lightly. We weren't aware of my horses problem until he was 12 in which case, he had already been trained to race, evented, shown up to 3' jumpers, jumped up to 4'3" and used 5+ times a week consistently. My horse, even with that schedule, was never off a day in his life (as far as I know) until he was 11. He was just sound for 6 months but is currently lame again.

      The vets I have spoken to are optimistic that my horse will become sound and rideable again. I can only do flatwork and have to be careful from now on. In my personal, unprofessional opinion, I think your horse and my horse are EVENTUALLY going to become lame from it. It's a matter of time. I could be 2 months or 15 years. It's just managing them and being extremely careful with shoeing, weight management, and footing and making them last longer vs jumping them, riding on hard ground, being lazy about their feet and letting them become overweight. Can I ask what you're currently doing for your horse? If your horse is 5 and still sound, I'd keep doing it. You want to keep this pony as sound as long as possible because you need to disclose this fault if you sell her (I'm assuming your daughter will eventually be too tall to ride the pony) and it might scare off a lot of people.

      If I were you, I'd be asking every single person in the horse industry what they thought. That's what I do. I ask barn managers, any vet, any farrier, even ones you don't use. I've asked Digby's massage/chrio lady as well as his dentist. It's a pretty unique thing so people are genuinely interested in it usually. Sometimes they call you back days/weeks/months later and say "I asked Dr. XYZ about your horse and he said that you should try..." and then you go back to your vet or farrier and say "hey what about this?" I pick every person's brain who might have any idea of what could help or might know someone who has an idea. I started this blog as an easy way to keep all my friends "in the loop" about Digby's progress. Since then, I've found a few people who have horses with the same diagnosis. I, of course, always ask them what they're doing with their horses.

      Feel free to comment any time on my posts, on this page or send me an e-mail. It's listed above. I'd love to hear how your daughters pony is doing!

  5. Kellie (Anonymous)April 19, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Thanks for your reply :)
    From the research I've done, I agree with what you've said. I hold a glimmer of hope that he might not go lame (I remember reading an article in which a vet wrote that there are horses out there with this problem that managed to stay completely sound), but also accept that it is highly likely.

    I too have tried to ask people as much as possible, but have found that most people are in the dark, or if they've heard of it, automatically tell me that the prognosis is bad. I have a wonderful, experienced farrier who trims him every 6 weeks (he's not shod at this stage), so I'm hoping the attention he's getting to his feet will continue to help keep him stay sound. He also gets good pasture (thankfully the land we have is grassy and the arena is soft), hard feeds with supplements in winter, and plenty of room to move around...he's generally a no fuss, happy pony.

    As he's used for pony club he does a small amount of jumping, which I know doesn't help, but my daughter's only a beginner, so most of the jumps he basically trots over. The highest he's been over would have been around 60cm, and that's the highest I'll allow. He'll still be with us once she outgrows him....I doubt anyone would want him with his navicular problems, plus I can't be sure that any prospective buyer would do the right thing by him, which would be heartbreaking. I'm thinking that he could teach another young child to ride, or he could be quiet enough for RDA to take on.

    I'm sorry to hear that you're having ups and downs with Digby. I appreciate how frustrating and emotionally draining it can be trying to help a lame horse. I wish you and Digby all the best and hope he returns to soundness very soon. Cheers :)

  6. Just a thought - can I ask whether it was difficult to get the MA Clinic and UP's Bolton Center to look at your x-rays? I have very clear digital x-rays, but haven't been able to obtain a definitive diagnosis. My vet thinks Dibble could have two navicular fractures, but our University Equine hospital couldn't determine whether he had fractures or bipartites, though they felt bipartites was more likely.

    I'm in Australia. Perhaps your professionals have more extensive and comprehensive knowledge of these issues?

    1. I think you're on the right track! I also applaud your commitment to this pony and am thrilled to hear you won't be selling him once your daughter is done. I plan on keeping Digby forever for the same reasons. It's just too easy for a horse like this to be in a bad situation with someone who doesn't understand. I wish you the best of luck with your pony! Keep me updated :)

      I'm not sure about soundness long term but keep in mind that my horse is currently 13 and worked pretty darn hard up until the age of 12 when we did x-rays on his feet. He did a lot more in 12 years than what your pony is ever going to do. Maybe it's possible your pony will stay sound even longer than my horse did.

      It was not hard to get either clinic to look at the x-rays but it was my own vet that sent them over. I did not contact either clinic myself. It's possible we have more knowledge over here. Would it be an option for you to send either clinic (Nothing against Mid-Atlantic but I recommend UP's New Bolton) and get their opinion? I'm not sure if they would do it... but it might be worth investigating?

  7. I had been searching for a knowledgable US specialist to look at the x-rays, but didn't know who to go with, and wasn't sure whether they would help me out. But, you're right, worth a try! Thanks!

  8. I'm so glad I found this. My daughters pony was just diagnosed with this. We have had the pony for 4 years. My daughter is now 10 and is cantering coursed and of course, now that the work is hard, the pony went lame. X-rays and bam. Sadly her pony is 15, so I can't see any cantering or jumping in her future. The hard part is she hates walk trot, and not really happy with small kids grooming her. So what to do. We just put her in pour in pads to try to make her sound and I guess will go from there. We will keep her till the end, even though we are paying board and now have to have a second horse.

  9. Yay another person! It's a small group of us that's for sure :) I'm sorry to hear about your pony. I hope some of my horses experiences help you! Let me know if you have any questions!

  10. I'm also glad I found this site.
    My horse is born in 2013, and this fall we found out that he was born with bipartite navicular bone.
    He's not lame in this foot. We found it out with luck.
    He was lame in other foot, and took x-ray of both feet to compare.
    Then we saw that has bipartite navicular in the "healthy foot"
    Wonder how long he has remained healthy. If we have not found this out now.

  11. Wow, I'm amazed that there are other people going thru what I'm going thru. I bought my paint 6 months ago. He is 9 yrs. old and hasn't been sound since the day I got him. We thought originally it was that the farrier of the guy I bought him from trimmed him too short (which he did), but even after grow out still lame. Then thought it was shoulder. After time off, still lame. Because of the way he moved (placing his feet toe first) I was told to get x-rays. My vet thought he had two fractured navicular bones and the bones looked very moth-eaten. She called later and thought because both front feet looked the same it was probably bipartite. So far only thing she has given me to try is the isoxiprine and shoes with 2 percent wedge pads and bute. I'm not sure what to try next. I had a horse chiropractor out to work on him because he is so stiff and he suggested Helka Lava. It's holistic and for the bones. Might try that. I also read about a product called Equi-bone. Anyone know about it? My boy is only 9 and the sweetest boy on earth. I can't imagine that he has been in pain for years. It breaks my heart that he'll be in pain for many more. I'm thinking about "nerving" him but that scares me too. I only trail ride and some arena work but our trails are hard and rocky. Would love to know what other people have tried. I just want to cry!