Assessing youngstock and identifying limb and conformation issues at an early stage can help prevent serious issues from developing later on, says vet Ed Lyall…
- It is important to keep an eye on youngstock as they are developing as yearlings and two- year-olds. Many breeders are very good at looking at foals’ legs when they’re first born and giving them the correct attention in terms of appropriate exercise and farriery. However, they often take their eyes off the limbs after weaning and occasionally the youngsters develop deformities that affect conformation. These deformities are regarded as acquired deformities; the deformities that foals are born with are regarded as congenital.
- Limb conformational problems can seriously affect the value of the young horse that has been produced. If the animal has been bred with the intention of it becoming a stallion it may well fail a grading assessment.
- Many of the problems we see could have been prevented from becoming as severe as they end up with a little attention, but it is important to observe that the problem is developing in the first place.
- At many of the stud farms that we attend the youngstock are evaluated every two months to make sure they are not developing conformational problems.
- This evaluation usually involves the farrier being present, or if that is not possible, notes are made on each yearling and forwarded to the farrier. The farrier is key to maintaining good limb conformation in the developing young horse. Young horses should be presented to the farrier on a regular basis, rather than being left to trims three times per year.
- When evaluating limb conformation I like to see the animal stand up as squarely as possible on a good clean concrete surface, the limbs are observed from the front and the back. They should then be walked up and down, again on a good surface. Often the defects are seen in the flight of the limb, particularly those affecting the fetlock joint.
- As well as looking at conformation I look for joint swelling, as an effused joint may indicate a problem with osteochondrosis desicans OCD, and an x-ray of the swollen joint may be indicated.
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