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Conformation and uneven weight distribution can have major effects on limb structure and foot shape in mature horses. But it can have far-reaching consequences in foals.
Young limbs and immature bones are vulnerable to deformity from uneven stresses. Good foot balance and limb conformation are established for life within the first few crucial months, so regular trimming of foals should be regarded as an important routine from an early age.
Sadly, it is often neglected, as there’s usually little overgrowth to cut or rasp away.
The bones of unborn foals’ limbs are composed of cartilage. By birth, most of the cartilage forming the shafts of the bones has ossified and soon the ends of the bones (epiphysis) also ossify, leaving a section of cartilage between the shaft of the bone and each epiphysis. These are the epiphyseal cartilages or growth plates.
The bones grow longer when extra cartilage cells proliferate in the growth plates then ossify, adding to the length of the bone shaft. Uneven stresses on the bone plate result in restricted growth of the compressed area causing angular deviation.
When the bone reaches its maximum length, the growth process stops and the growth plates completely ossify, fusing the shaft of the bone and the epiphysis together.
Closure of each growth plate takes place at a specific age and once a bone has fused conformation is established and cannot be altered. So it is crucial that any correction is made early.
As young foals…