Turnout Time for Warmblood Foals

Q. I am being told by "professionals" that warmblood foals should be turned out a limited amount of time. The "professionals" were a farrier (who shoes Olympic-quality horses) and a respected veterinarian. Their reasoning is that warmblood babies grow too fast and this would slow his growth down. This colt is trying to canter in a 12-foot by 12-foot stall with his 17.2-hand mom--he's chewing wood and extremely hard to handle after being in. Any suggestions?


A. I do not agree with the concept that confining this foal "will slow his growth down." Moderate exercise is essential to proper growth and development of the skeletal system. Some stress and loading is necessary for the development of proper bone density. Excessive exercise could traumatize undeveloped joints and growth plates, so I'm not advocating any kind of forced exercise--that's going to the opposite extreme.

Too many calories encourage too much growth. A balanced diet, particularly with respect to mineral content, no over-feeding, and moderate exercise (i.e., turnout) should provide what this foal needs (exercise consumes some calories). There is no doubt there is some genetic predisposition to grow fast, but confining the foal will just allow him to become fat, unfit, and have poor bone development, in my opinion.

About the Author

Richard D. Mitchell, DVM

Richard D. Mitchell, DVM, has served many times as official veterinarian for the US Equestrian Team in multiple disciplines, and he has a keen interest in lameness and advanced imaging. He also maintains an international clientele that keeps him traveling a great deal.

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