The Horse

APR 2019

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 45 of 51

46 April 2019 The Horse | STEP BY STEP SARAH EVERS CONRAD C aring for a foal requires specialized knowledge, especially in one area: hoof care. Early care of the feet can greatly affect a foal's monetary value, athletic prospects, and overall soundness, say our sources. Some aspects of foot care can even impact a foal's limb anatomy for life. "A lot of what you do (to the horse) as a foal is going to affect the animal as an adult," says Stephen O'Grady, DVM, of Virginia Therapeutic Farriery, in Keswick. What's Normal in Newborns? When a foal is born, he has all the hoof structures he'll have for life, but they are immature, of course. Initially, in the uterus, the hoof is soft to reduce the risk of trauma to the mare's reproductive tract. After birth it quickly hardens as the protective gelatinous perioplic membrane, or eponychium, retracts and dries out. At birth, the hoof has a conical shape that tapers from the wider coronet to a narrow, pointed toe at the ground, says O'Grady. Much of the weight-bearing is at the toe until around one month of age. As the foal grows and the hoof develops, the hoof grows downward (distally) and its ground surface increases. O'Grady says exercise and trimming increase the foot's ground surface area, and the trim moves that ground surface in a palmar/plantar (toe to heel) direction. The First Exam "I think all foals should have an exami- nation performed by a veterinarian and a farrier within the first two weeks of life to assess limb conformation, examine their feet, and watch them walk," says O'Grady. Deviations can be normal for the foal initially; a veterinarian and farrier can determine whether any of these are problematic. "When babies are born, they are generally a little bit toed-out, and that's normal," says John Sligh, CJF, a now- retired farrier in Alaska who worked with foals on Thoroughbred breeding farms in Ocala, Florida. "I don't usually try to cor- rect that because as the baby grows and his chest widens, those legs straighten right up." The hoof care team's actions during an early exam are what can potentially affect the foal's future limb and foot conforma- tion. "As many limb abnormalities involve the joints, there is a small window of opportunity from birth to four months or so to correct many problems, after which it becomes more difficult," says O'Grady. "You have a better chance to correct an animal if a limb deformity or foot problem is noticed early and addressed appropriately." For example, O'Grady says early diag- nosis and conservative care can improve many angular limb deformities (see page 48), such as carpal valgus ("knock knees"). Here, something as simple as controlling the foal's exercise and later placing an acrylic extension on the hoof can be effective. At the first trim, usually at a month of age, O'Grady says all that might be necessary is squaring the toe in the front with the rasp to remove the point so the foot can break over (the moment the heels leave the ground during movement) in the middle of the toe. On subsequent trims he recommends keeping the length of the foot's ground surface trimmed to the base of the frog and not letting the heels grow forward. "You're putting weight on a larger surface area; therefore, AMY K. DRAGOO Small Feet, Big Responsibility A youngster's hoof care lays the foundation for his future Have your farrier and veterinarian examine your foal's feet and limb conformation and watch him walk within the first two weeks of life.

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