Evaluating And Shoeing Foal Limb Deformities

Time is not a friend when a foal is presented with crooked legs.

Growth plates close relatively quickly, which doesn’t leave a farrier and veterinarian much time if intervention is necessary.

“Growth is age and breed dependent, but the ballpark figure is that most of the fetlock growth is finished by 100 days,” Cornell University Equine Hospital veterinarian Norm Ducharme told attendees at the Cornell Farrier Conference in November. “If we’re going to do something, either with a shoe, with surgery or splints, we have to be working before 100 days. That means you have to do it before 99 days.”

Enough time has to be allowed for bone growth or change.

“We tend to deal with fetlocks in the first 3 or 4 weeks of life because there’s not so much growth,” he explains. “As it closes, it’s permanent. It is what it is.”

The hock generally is finished with most growth by 12 months and the growth plates close at 14 months.

“We tend to work later in life if we’re going to intervene,” Ducharme says. “That’s not true in all species. Draft horses grow longer, so big horses will have a longer window. The mini horse doesn’t grow at all, so their window is much shorter. So, depending on the joint, we’ll be more in a hurry or less in a hurry.”

Farrier Takeaways

Examine a foal within 2 weeks of birth to ensure that deformities are identified and plenty of time is allowed for intervention, if…

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Jeff cota 2023

Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 30 years. A native of Maine, he is the Lead Content Editor of American Farriers Journal.

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