Articles & Information
FROM THE HOOFCARE & LAMENESS ARCHIVES
feet in foals
image that you remember is always the one that shocks. At the
Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium in January, Dr. Ric Redden of Kentucky
shared one of his unusual cases, a foal born with no second pastern
and no sesamoids.
more common problem with foals is the still-prevalent club foot
syndrome. Speaking to the American Farrier's Association's Convention
in Florida in February, Dr. Larry Bramlage of Kentucky quipped
"If you don't know where you're going, any approach will get you
there." He said that farriers around the country are still in
disagreement about whether to raise or lower the heels of a clubfooted
foal. "There are reasons why you do both," Dr. Bramlage said
provocatively early in his slide lecture. "When you lower the
heels of some clubfooted foals they get worse. Why? When do you raise
and when do you lower?"
sites for pain in the foal are the foot and the physis (growth
plate)," said Dr. Bramlage. "When it first happens, the foal
may have pain in the lower limb--fetlock, pastern joints, for
instance. When in pain, the muscle contracts and over time pulls the
foot up onto its toe. The muscle pulls the tendon up, so the check
ligament shortens to re-establish tension."
by the time a clubfooted foal is examined, the original source of pain
is gone, but the check ligament cannot re-lengthen. That can only be
done surgically. "Early contracture is reversible," Dr.
Bramlage said. "Find the cause of the pain before the damage is
done. If contraction of the check has occurred, the change is
permanent. The initial approach to a foal on its toes should be to use
hoof testers. Check for heat in the foot. Is the blood flow the same
to both feet?"
pain is in the laminae," he continued, "pulling on the
laminae will only make the pain worse. Lifting the heel rests the
laminae, but it doesn't treat the contraction. If you lower the heel
and extend the toe, the foal will get pain in its foot and contract
more. Treat the pain!"
Bramlage recommended surgery if the foal is older or if the condition
is chronic after shoeing has been tried, or if the hoof has become
deformed or radiographic change is seen. "If the pain isn't
eliminated, surgery will not help a foal," he stated.
"Cutting the check opens a window
where tendon/muscle stretch can occur. But hoofcare must stretch the
tendon muscle unit before healing occurs."
recommendations from Dr. Bramlage for clubfooted foals included:
Don't use clips. It's harder for the laminae to hold on.
Don't go a long time before re-shoeing.
Don't wait for permanent damage caused by mechanical laminitis and
Do extend toe leverage.
Do pull down on the heel.
Do support the anterior hoof wall and protect the toe.
Don't make a horse more sore.
Bramlage showed slides using Technovit on the toe to help the foot and
comfortably support the toe and the entire hoof wall of the foot, not
just the laminae.
on the topic of angular limb deformities, Dr. Bramlage said that the
developing trend is to focus on fetlocks instead of knees. "Toed
in stallions don't make it as racehorses," he said. "They
can't get around the turns. A toed out horse, though, is
compression stops growth," he emphasized. "Static
compression causes cells to stop. This is the theory behind staple
surgery. On and off, or what we call Dynamic Physiologic Compression,
to Bramlage, a normal foal should be valgus at the knee and toed out
in proportion. (See FYI BABY BOOM, special report on foals for more on
Dr. Bramlage's theories.) Limbs need not be totally straight until the
foal is eight to ten months old. "If a foal returns from a day's
exercise worse than when he went out, he's getting too much
exercise," he warned.
the debate of "exercisers vs. stallers" for crooked foal
therapy, Bramlage feels that he is a "paddocker". "If a
foal's knees interfere, he getting too much exercise," he added.
Bramlage's suggestions for shoeing treatment of crooked foals included
. External support does nothing to alter growth response.
. Hoofcare should preserve, not distort, the normal hoof capsule.
Hoofcare should stabilize the base of support and augment the foal's
own normal corrective mechanism.
The coronary band should always be parallel to the ground.
Do anticipatory trimming if the foal has worn its medial wall.
at the AFA Convention, Florida veterinarian Dr. Michael Lokai of Ocala
mentioned his successful use of tetracycline for flexural problems in
foals. (For more on this inexpensive therapy see BABY BOOM special
edition.) He studied 125 foals treated with the drug. Foals not
showing 80 percent correction within 48 hours were reinjected. All
foals were less than two weeks old, most were Thoroughbreds, and only
those foals that could put part of their foot on the ground were
Lokai suggests that tetracycline is a successful therapy because it
chelates calcium, which is believed to be the activator of the
contraction mechanism in the muscle.
This article originally appeared in Hoofcare & Lameness: The Journal of Equine Foot Science and is available for your personal use only. Re-publication is prohibited without the express written permission of Hoofcare & Lameness.
Detailed information on this and many other hoofcare topics can be found in Hoofcare & Lameness publisher Fran Jurga's award-winning guide to hoofcare, "Understanding the Equine Foot".
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