Research Journal

Study Of Forelimb Conformation

A longitudinal study followed the lower limb growth and conformation of 134 Thoroughbred, 162 French Trotter and 98 Selle Francais foals from birth to 5 or 6 months of age. Conformational abnormalities were graded from mild to severe, and conditions recorded included angular, flexural and rotational deformities.

Agreement between observers who graded the foals’ conformation was generally good, and a subjective visual appraisal proved useful. Overall, foals had some conformational deviations during the study, but the prevalence decreased from birth to weaning. Angular limb deformities were the most common abnormality during the first month (64% of all observed limb deviations) and flexural deformities (primarily club feet) were the most common acquired condition between birth and 6 months of age.

The most common abnormalities at birth were carpus valgus (42% of these foals), fetlock valgus (31%), buck knees (31%) and dropped fetlocks (13%). The Thoroughbreds and Trotters were more commonly affected than the Selle Francais foals. During the period of study, the carpus and fetlock conformation became “less valgus.” The most common abnormalities at weaning were fetlock valgus (19%), club feet (13%) and fetlock varus (11%).

Only 24 of these foals received medical, orthopedic or surgical treatment for conformational abnormalities, as most faulty conformation abnormalities self-corrected or improved without intervention. The authors concluded that moderate angular limb deformities may almost be considered normal physiological variations rather than a disease in young horses. Untreated serious carpus valgus cases evolved as favorably as treated cases. These results highlight the…

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Albert Kane

Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

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