Yearling with Bucked Knee
Assuming there are no birth complications, your foal should be ready for his first trim within the second month of his birth.
The goal of this initial trim is to facilitate a more efficient break-over (ease of movement) of his feet so that your foal can have the best chance for developing the healthiest feet and legs possible.
One of the most common errors is to try and over-compensate for “perceived” faults. Though it is true that all young foals do experience a growth phase that is a bit awkward, it is by no means a fault. A suckling foal is lanky in appearance and, due to his nursing and grazing stance, he will possess a degree of functional knock-knee and toeing-out in conformation. This is perfectly normal and should not be over-corrected by aggressively trimming him into a straight-legged appearance.
If he is allowed to develop gradually and your farrier is trimming simply to level (so ground surface lands evenly) and allow (letting the hoof follow the direction of the limb), your foal will develop as he should. However, if an aggressive, over-corrective approach is taken, your baby (as a functional and temporarily toed-out weanling) can actually develop into the opposite (a non-functional toed-in).
CREDIT: Bryan Farcus photos
“Buck knee” or “knee sprung” (left image) and Flexural or Angular deviation on forelimbs (right) have an impact on hoof growth. Farrier visits include routine rebalancing of the hooves to maintain comfort and to allow development of the tendons and ligaments. The goal is to support, not straighten.
Unbalanced levels of essential vitamins and minerals, like calcium, phosphorous, selenium or vitamin E, can quickly alter the proper growth of bones and joints that may result in a variety of angular and/or flexure limb deformities (club feet, contracted tendons, knocked-knees, bowleggedness). These unfortunate foals have the best chance of survival when the vet and farrier work in conjunction with each other to come up with the best possible combination of dietary adjustments and corrective/supportive shoeing options.
References & Recommended Reading
Maximum Hoof Power, Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh CJF
UC Davis Book of Horses, Mordecai Siegal and Jeffrey Barlough DVM, PhD
The Principle of Horseshoeing (P3), Doug Butler PhD, CJF and Jacob Butler CJF
No Foot No Horse Newsletter, Foal Hoof Care (Jan. 2009) www.americanfarriers.org
Utah State University Extension, www.extension.usu.edu