Balanced breeding, balanced feeding and balanced feet are formula for success
Helping your foal get off to a good start or "on the right foot" can be summarized with some fundamental facts.
Balance x 3 = healthy
The combination of (1) balanced breeding, (2) balanced feeding, and (3) balanced feet is extremely important. When you strike such a balance, you?ll be offering your foal the best chance for a happy and healthy future.
Generally, it is best to resist any breeding practices that have a tendency toward selecting mares and stallions based exclusively on aesthetics rather than considering athletics. For instance, knowingly matching horses with HYPP issues that may pass two copies of the gene (homozygotes) to the foal, for the sole benefit of achieving a particular body type or color, while ignoring other characteristics such as hoof quality and/or functional limb conformation, can result in an extremely dysfunctional or unbalanced foal.
It is critical to provide a balanced diet for your mare while she is in foal. Extreme feeding programs, whether overzealous or negligent, can permanently damage or result in a non-functional conformation of a foal.
To achieve balanced feet in any equine, but especially in foals, I have developed these mottos:
Even-up, don't attempt to straighten-up
This refers to a hoof balance that is "level" according to the conformation of the individual and one that will allow for a foal's foot and limb to naturally develop. Most often, overcompensation by employing quick trim tactics, that are intended to produce an immediate "straightening" of foal's limbs, will produce the extreme opposite effect.
The foal's bone formation process depends entirely on the efficacy of a gradual rearrangement of compact tissue within each bone. This rearrangement, often referred to as ?remodeling?, takes place in three forms:
- an increase in growth (physis)
- a change of soft tissue to hard (ossification)
- a growth decline or degeneration (rarefaction)
A normal, developing foal has approximately 205 bones, of which the majority mature in density and length through cartilage located at bone ends, referred to as epiphyseal plates. At approximately 2 years of age these plates are closed and the limb conformation is set.
Every week is like a month
Too often, developmental issues in foals are associated with a slowing of growth. Though this may hold true in some situations, it's much more common to witness developmental complications due to accelerated growth.
When skeletal growth exceeds muscular capability, many developmental complications can arise. Developmental orthopedic diseases (DODs) such as club footedness, tendon contracture, and/or epiphysitis rank among the highest in growth disorders. These conditions usually have narrow windows of intervention, which can range from the first few weeks to a month of a foal?s life, due to the various epiphyseal plate maturity stages.
In conjunction with all this is the amazing development of the youngster's hoof. In a normal situation, the neonatal hoof 'shell' will shed within hours or a day after birth. Almost instantly, the foal is able to support his weight and navigate on various footing. If, within the first couple of months, there are signs of complication and you notice some hoof wall distortion, it may be necessary for your farrier to touch-up his hooves with a 'light trim.
The sooner you observe any abnormalities in your foal's conformation, the more likely it will be that you can successfully help him. If excessive swelling of his limb joints (epiphysitis) suddenly occurs, a visit by your veterinarian may be warranted. For a developing foal, time is truly of the essence.
Prepare 'em, don't scare 'em
Remember, hoof care is a lifetime endeavor. Humane horse handling techniques rather than temporary tactics will yield lasting results.
Bryan S. Farcus, MA, CJF, is a Certified Journeyman Farrier who also holds a certification in Equine Massage Therapy. He is the creator of a select line of ?Farrier-FriendlyTM? products and currently authors a series of "Farrier-FriendlyTM" articles that appear in horse magazines throughout the US. Bryan can be reached at FARRIER-FRIENDLYTM Services, Athens OH, www.farrierfriendly.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
UC Davis Book of Horses, Diseases of Dietary Origin, C.A. Tony Buffington.
The Principles of Horseshoeing (P3), Dr. Doug Butler, FWCF and Jacob Butler, CJF.
Maximum Hoof Power, Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh, CJF.
American Horse Council, Washington DC, www.horsecouncil.org
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh School of Agriculture, Scotland, , www.sac.ac.uk
DougButler Farrier School, www.butlerprofessionalfarrierschool.com
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