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 46 of 51 | The Horse April 2019 47 you're stimulating the whole foot to grow stronger," he says. While Sligh says having the farrier out every 30 days after the first exam is ad- equate, checks every two weeks are even better, offering the farrier more chances to prevent problems from progressing. In addition to detecting initial prob- lems during that first exam, the farrier helps teach the foal to hold his feet up properly, says Sligh, who prefers to use two handlers with foals. One person leads the foal up beside a wall and holds the foal's head. While the farrier addresses the front feet, Sligh has the second person rest his or her hand on the foal's rump to prevent it from moving away from the wall. When the farrier ad- dresses the rear feet, the second handler simply holds the farrier's tools. "If you do this, you'll make a far better horse out of him as far as cooperation goes," says Sligh. "It makes for a lot easier foal to trim, and you can do a much bet- ter job on them, as well." The Vet-Farrier Partnership O'Grady and Sligh both suggest foal owners find a veterinarian with an inter- est in farriery, especially foal hoof care, and an experienced farrier to coordinate foals' care, even if it is only on a small farm that has a few foals born each year. The veterinarian brings a knowledge of anatomy and physiology, along with the ability to diagnose and medically treat limb abnormalities. Meanwhile, the far- rier's focus is on the hoof's functional and mechanical aspects and how trimming and farriery can affect the limb and foot. Your farrier and veterinarian should strive to develop a collegial relationship in which they communicate well about your concerns and how to address them. "You're helping the animal while helping the client," says O'Grady. He says many of today's veterinary schools don't teach extensive podiatry and farriery to students, so veterinarians often gain experience and expertise by attending continuing education courses and seeking hands-on training working with feet. Sligh says another benefit to having the veterinarian present at the first exam is to take radiographs (X rays) of the limbs and joints as needed. Mistakes to Avoid O'Grady says many owners think their foals' limbs and hooves look fine and turn them and their dams out in a big field right away. However, it's vital to have foal limbs evaluated first. "If you see something wrong with the limbs, you can limit that animal's exer- cise, and this alone often makes a world of difference," says O'Grady. Never skip watching a foal's movement before working on his feet. "How the foal walks and how the foot lands is giving you a prelude of what you're going to do to the animal's feet, if you're going to do anything at all," he says. Overtrimming can also be an issue. "Foals don't grow a lot of foot, and the foot they produce is immature horn and structures, so you don't want to remove too much foot, especially off the ground surface," says O'Grady. "I use nothing more than a wire brush and a rasp when trimming foals." He also advises against sedating a foal for foot care. "If you start sedating a foal, that foal does not receive the experience to understand that they are going to have farriery done every month and it should not be an unpleasant experience," he says, adding that it can lead to having to sedate the foal every month and even into adulthood for hoof care, which should be discouraged. It is also unnecessary for a farrier to be rough with a foal or use a twitch, he says. Sligh says the biggest mistakes he sees include: ■ Not having farriers out frequently enough; ■ Using one handler instead of two; and ■ Farriers being too rough with foals. He says these mistakes can lead to much more difficult horses to handle in the future and into adulthood. Common Foal Hoof & Limb Issues Flexor Tendon Flaccidity Excessive lax- ity (looseness) in the deep digital flexor tendon, which runs down the back of the leg, can cause flexor tendon flaccidity. This results in the foal standing on his heel bulbs, with his toes raised off the ground. O'Grady says veterinarians and farriers most commonly see this in pre- mature foals (born before 320 days of ges- tation); dysmature foals (born 320 days or beyond), which are foals born exception- ally small; or sick foals. However, he says its cause is not completely understood. "You want to treat these foals early and not wait until the animal is a month old (for the first exam), because then you're going to have a deformed foot going forward," says O'Grady. However, Sligh says many foals' weak deep digital flexor tendons will self- correct as their muscles develop and they gain strength. For those that don't self- correct, he uses glue-on shoes to extend the heels for one or two trimming cycles. O'Grady prefers to add heel extensions made of custom-cut plywood. Extensions provide the digit with stability and allow the muscle-tendon unit to shorten and be- come stronger. He says you should restrict these foals' exercise to a small lot or pen with firm footing for one hour twice a day. It usually takes seven to 10 days for this condition to correct if the farrier applies extensions when the foal is around 3 to 4 days old. At this point the toe should be in contact with the ground, and the muscle-tendon unit should continue to gain tension. O'Grady does not use any type of composite (e.g., acrylic glue-on) on a foal's foot before 3 weeks of age. Flexural Deformities "Flexural A foal's hooves are gelatinous and immature at birth. They harden quickly, and the hoof grows down- ward and its ground surface increases as the foal develops. AMY K. DRAGOO

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