Poynton Farriery Clinic


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Early diagnosis of limb deformities


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

professional management.

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

environmental changes.


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

external intervention.

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

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

three weeks.

‘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 of a

compromised limb.

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 foot and

often back at the knee.