Foot and Limb Deformities in Foals

"Don't let the foot become a victim of the disease; don't fix the leg with the foot," advised Bob Hunt, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a surgeon at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky.,. "A lot of time you're already behind the eight ball and the foot is already a casualty. Everything in life should be done in moderation, especially what we do with juvenile horses; very commonly our aggressive measures are to the detriment of the animal."

Hunt discussed several limb and hoof deformities in foals and recommendations for correcting or managing them during the "Putting Science into Farriery" session at the 2008 Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. One of his biggest pieces of advice concerned caution, especially when trying to use hoof trimming/extensions to correct a limb deformity.

He discussed the pros and cons of several treatment options for various deformities, including bandaging to protect skin as needed (such as to protect the rear of fetlocks in foals with fetlock laxity), hoof extensions (only used after the foal is 2 weeks old), splints, tension bands, casts, physical therapy, exercise limitations, pain control, nutritional concerns, surgery, and medication to encourage tendon relaxation for flexural deformities. When multiple deformities are present, he advised treating the lower ones first.

"You've got more time to work with knees (before the growth plates close, at which point bone growth can no longer be altered), so fix fetlocks first," he recommended.

"The number one thing to keep in mind with all problems is to keep the foot balanced, tracking right (foot flight is straight), and breaking over the center," he said. "If the foal is crooked, but tracks properly, I'm not messing with him because if I change him, he'll track badly."

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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