Poynton Farriery Clinic
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Early diagnosis of limb deformities
By ANDREW POYNTON FWCF
WHILST the seasons won’t be rushed
and the mare’s gestation takes its
allotted time, there seems to be
constant pressure on the stud
manager to deliver more each year.
The annual Bloodstock sales dictate
what stage of development each foal
should be at, although they are not
all born on the same day and growth
varies form foal to foal.
It is rare to see poor stock at a
thoroughbred stud, rather glowing
examples of fine physique and health
nurtured by just ‘the right feed’ and
Despite all this attention being
lavished, it is a fine balancing act to
avoid over doing it; you’ll seldom see
a poor doer with ‘ballerina
The foal could be compared to a
glasshouse plant, rapidly growing
but vulnerable to subtle
Flexural and angular limb:
Many perfectly normal foals will
arrive and experienced hands will
give them a few days to find their
feet, which they will do without any
It is when limb deviation or
abnormal flexural posture is
prolonged without improvement,
that the veterinary surgeon and
farrier are required to intervene.
Flaccid flexor tendons:
A foal born with flaccid flexors, toes
in the air and pasterns low to the
ground, which does not improve
within a week, can be treated with a
heel extension cast to the hoof to
facilitate more correct posture, whilst
the physique of the limb gains
Flaccid flexors before treatment
Flaccid flexors treatment, with caudel extension
shoe fitted, hoof and pastern in alignment
There are a variety of materials and methods available to achieve this; some may
use a shoe glued on with the appropriate extension, others may prefer adhesive, plastic
casting or aluminium.
Whatever method is used, factors to consider are ease of use and application, and
effectiveness with minimal negative influence on the rapidly developing foot.
If not resolved in one treatment over two to three weeks, two will restore the majority.
Dependent upon age; the younger foal will require more frequent attention due to
the need to allow the foot to grow expansively without undue constraint and distortion.
Acquired Flexural Deformity:
A foal may present a tendon/muscle contracture which untreated would lead to a club
foot or worse knuckling over at the toe rendering the limb crippled.
Physiotherapy and a muscle relaxant drug administered by the vet such as Oxytetracycline
may be effective prior to farriery intervention, particularly in the very young foal.
As the foal is rapidly developing the first sign of AFD may be that it appears ‘footsore’
and the hoof is broken at the toe.
For an effective result the feed management of the mare and foal are crucial for
recovery along with hoof trimming and a protective toe extension.
Experience has shown that treating this as a purely mechanical problem is both naive
and ineffective. Each case will vary in severity but a typical case will benefit
from the following:
for mare and foal.
reinstate correct hoof pastern
alignment on the effected limb.
on a hard surface to ensure
mechanical benefit from the extension.
prescribed by the veterinary surgeon.
trimming of the heels and extension
adjustment/replacement at two to
‘A foal may present a tendon/ muscle contracture which untreated would lead to a
club foot or worse knuckling over at the toe rendering the limb crippled’
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Provided the condition in the foal is recognised early enough and these guidelines
are implemented, the need for surgical intervention is avoided as is the potential
The prognosis is usually good with such cases, unlike the overlooked or mismanaged
ones which are likely to suffer lasting conformational deformity, typically a club
often back at the knee.