Celebrate your new arrival this spring, and give him or her a healthy start with these tips to handle "Foals' Firsts":
Everyone with a new foal wants to know when they should have him checked by the chiropractor.
Chiropractic subluxations are thought to be caused by three major factors: stress, toxins and trauma. Your newborn foal has just experienced two of these in a big way. Birth is very stressful for both mom and baby. The newborn requires a slight period of no oxygen to be able to switch from passive living in the womb to an active life outside. Birth itself is probably the biggest trauma that most living creatures experience.
I recommend that all newborns be examined by a certified animal chiropractor as soon as the owner is able to handle the baby. The most common subluxations I see in newborns occur in the pelvis and in the upper cervical region. These subluxations will definitely affect performance as the foal ages and, if left unchecked, can turn into a real problem when you start riding this horse in a couple of years.
-- Bill Ormston, DVM, www.jubileeac.com
Based on the emergence and subsequent shedding of a foal’s teeth, it is recommended that the first equine dental treatment be scheduled at age 1 year.
A foal’s first teeth, 12 temporary premolars, have erupted at birth or do so within a week, as do the central deciduous incisors. Middle incisors emerge at 4-6 weeks and the corners erupt between the sixth and ninth month of life.
Just as important as the eruption phase is also the shedding/extraction process: Central deciduous incisors should shed (or be extracted) generally at 2 years 6 months. The lateral (middle) incisors should shed at 3 years 6 months. The corners should shed at 4 years 6 months.
Timely shedding and/or extraction will alleviate severe oral pain in horses. When two or more teeth try to erupt in the same position at the same time, damage and decay can occur to the permanent incisors as food and bacteria will be wedged. In more dramatic situations, the permanent incisors will become impacted, erupt through the hard palate, or emerge sideways from the gum.
Wolf teeth should be extracted no later than your foal’s first birthday. Retention of wolf teeth into later years may result in biting problems because of inflammation or the wolf teeth becoming ossified (connected to neighboring teeth), resulting in oral pain and discomfort.
Male horses normally have 4 canine teeth or fighting teeth. The lower canines erupt at 4 years of age, with the uppers erupting at age 5. A majority of the time, the canines pierce through the gums on their own. If this doesn’t happen, inflammation may occur, requiring surgical incisions to relieve pressure pain and drain pus build up.
Female horses do NOT have canines. However, in some instances (possibly because of too much masculine DNA), canines attempt to erupt or are present below the gum level. The exposed teeth should be surgically extracted; the sub-gingival teeth may remain if not sensitive or painful when touched.
After the first complete equine dental treatment (normally around 1 year of age), horses under 10 years old should be treated every 6 months. Regular dental care will ensure timely shedding/extraction and keep your horse free of oral pain, allowing him to grind food properly and perform to his full potential.
-- Dr. Dennis S. Chapman, PhD, EqDT, STABLE 2 STABLE Equine Dental Practice P.C.
When using aromatherapy with foals, I like the idea of allowing the foal to bond with its mother before introducing essential oils. In my practice, I have used essential oils comfortably on foals as young as one week old, both for the scent reaction in their behavioural centres and as physical application to muscle issues from the trauma of birth.
My main rule of thumb if you are applying essential oils to a young horse is: stick strictly to your 2.5% dilution, so as to not irritate their sensitive skin. Also keep in mind they are smaller, so what enters the body will circulate more quickly; you don’t want to give their liver or kidneys any surprises to filter.
If you are not sure if you should apply essential oils to your foal, ask him or her. The foal will likely be more curious about the scent than an older horse would be, usually either breathing more intently or turning away quickly. As foals have a shorter attention span than their elders, make your selection simple, offering no more than 6 essential oils in a session.
-- Catherine Bird, www.happyhorses.com.au
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).
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
-- Bryan Farcus MA, CJF, Farrier-Friendly™ series, www.farrierfriendly.com
Homeopathy can be useful in and around the foaling barn with remedies being administered to both mom and baby. The important thing is to have the remedies available before you need them because homeopathic remedies work best when they are administered as soon as symptoms appear.
Remedies that work well include, but are not limited to:
Aconitum napellus for use any time there is a shock-like condition
Apis mellifica helps the in eliminating edema of inflammation and may help if either mom or baby develops swelling
Arnica montana helps relieve bruising and tissue damage that usually occurs during the birthing process
Belladonna should be used any time there is a fever and full bounding pulse
Carbo vegetabilis may be indicated for the animal who has colic and passes gas
Colocynthis is a reliever of intestinal spasm, relaxes the gut and calms acute pain
Nux Vomica has a beneficial effect on the gastrointestinal system
Podophyllum peltatium is useful for treating diarrhea in young animals
Rescue Remedy may be used to calm the mare during the birthing process and aid newborns in getting a start in life
-- Bill Ormston, DVM, www.jubileeac.com
ALTERNATIVE WEANING for “WORKING MOMS”
Most of the registered Suffolk Punch draft foals at Fair Winds Farm -- a horse-powered, family farm in Vermont -- are born in the early morning hours, just before chore time. The new foal is brought into the barn with momma and settled into their box stall. The mare is taken out of the stall at mid-day (often on the first day, sometimes not until the second) and given some grain in an adjoining tie stall. She is out of the box for only a minute or less, just long enough to grab a few mouthfuls of grain, then she goes back into the stall with her baby. This procedure is repeated every day, gradually increasing in time as the mare relaxes.
Because this routine becomes familiar, and because the mare repeatedly returns to a foal who is safe, the mare accepts the concept and begins to look forward to going out. When the foal is 10 days to 2 weeks old, the mare usually goes out for some light work: a hayride lasting just 1/2 hour, some light cultivating or similar work.
Over the course of the next few weeks, the length of time and amount of work are increased until the mare is out for 2-3 hours at a time. When she comes back into the barn, still in harness, the foal nurses (you should see the milk squirt)! Foals are usually confused by the harness at first; it smells funny and it impedes their access to the udder to some degree, but they quickly adjust. A secondary benefit to letting the mare in the stall while harnessed, is the smell of the leather becomes as familiar as the smell of Momma. Sometimes people ask about the foal getting tangled, but we have never had a problem, as the harness fits the mare well.
When the foal is 3 or 4 months old, we begin separating him more, putting Momma in a tie stall and leaving the foal in the box for the day. So, they are together at night and separate during the day. If we have two foals, we sometimes put them together for company. By 5 months, the foal is separate at night as well, just nursing twice a day. Soon after that we drop back to one nursing per day, followed by complete weaning. During this time the foal is turned out with other adult horses. We do make sure that their companions change periodically so they do not become dependent on any one horse, but enjoy the company of several.
That time when Momma is out of the stall is a great time for us to handle the baby, teaching it to tie, picking up feet, etc. This method means that the foal is used to people from a very young age, and people become figures of safety and security when Mom is gone, not strangers who suddenly appear when the foal is weaned.
-- Bekah Murchison, Fair Winds Farm, www.fairwindsfarm.org