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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48 April 2019 The Horse | deformities have been traditionally referred to as 'contracted tendons,' " says O'Grady. "The primary defect is a shorten- ing of the deep digital flexor musculoten- dinous unit, rather than a shortening of just the tendon portion, making 'flexural deformity' the preferred term." Treatments for flexural deformities, which can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (usually by 2 to 4 months), depend on the severity and structures in- volved. Therapy can range from restricted exercise, medication, and bandaging and splints to diet changes, physical therapy, trimming, and, in severe cases that won't resolve with other treatments, surgery. "This is definitely a problem for which you need to involve a veterinarian, because nobody can take a contracted tendon and stretch it," says Sligh. While the vet might treat with medi- cation (such as tetracycline to relax the muscles and tendons) or by cutting the check ligaments (which attach to the deep digital flexor tendon just below the carpus, or knee, and prevent excessive lengthening of it), Sligh says he typically places an extension in the toe of the shoe to help the foal stay flat on his foot. "Most of those babies I would put a tip shoe on if they were older, 6 or 7 months old, and they had a contraction, because they're going to wear their toe off when they're like that," he says. "If you put a tip shoe on, it will at least prevent them from wearing their toe off." Angular Limb Deformities An angu- lar limb deformity is a deviation of the limb at a joint away from or toward the midline. The deformity is caused by one side of the growth plate above the joint growing faster than the other. A varus deformity generally involves the fetlock, with the digit moving inward (medially) toward the midline. A valgus deformity usually involves the carpus, with the limb deviating outward (laterally) away from the midline. A rotational deformity oc- curs when the limb is straight yet rotated laterally. This is more prevalent in foals with narrow chests. You and your foal care team must determine whether a toe-in or toe-out conformation originates from the limb or the foot. O'Grady cautions against lowering one side of the hoof to correct a rotational deformity, despite published recommen- dations in veterinary literature. "I believe in level feet," he says. "I've never felt that you could lower one side relative to the other side where it was going to be helpful or make a difference. By lowering one side of the foot, all you're doing is changing the plane of the foot from lateral to medial, which can be det- rimental, as it may affect the limb above the foot." Sligh works to correct toeing out or toeing in a little at a time on each visit by balancing the hoof capsule, but he doesn't stress too much because it's impossible to get the leg completely straight. "Sometimes people try to overcorrect them the first one to two months of their life, and you can just create a nightmare doing that," he says. "You have very soft bones at that point, and you can actu- ally create a crooked horse that wouldn't normally be crooked." Take-Home Message The bottom line of foal hoof care is to take it seriously and have it done often— preferably with a coordinated effort between a knowledgeable veterinarian and an experienced farrier. "It's the most important time of a horse's life as far as its feet go," says Sligh. h STEP BY STEP During farrier exams have one handler lead the foal up against a wall and another stand at his rump to keep him from moving around. ELLEN PONS

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