Trimming foals and weanlings is an too-often overlooked
part of caring for horses, yet could make THE biggest impact on the future soundness of the horse as an adult. Starting when
the foal is young not only helps prevent poor hoof health, but starts them down the road to cooperating for farriers for the
rest of their lives. The foal grows very fast the first year of life, and this is when his structures are laying
down their permanent foundations. In fact, the best thing for a foal to experience is turnout on a rocky pasture among
other horses to interact with. This teaches them social skills and promotes good coordination and tough, sound hooves.
foals need more balancing between the toe and heels more than from side to side. It may only take a few strokes with
a rasp, but is well worth the effort and any money invested. Many times your farrier will do it cheaper with the trim of the
broodmare, to promote a healthy, trained foal. The farrier needs to make sure the heels are low enough to develop
the digital cushion and cartilage in the hoof. Lack of development will cause more lameness than anything else
in the adult horse. If the cartilage and digital cushion is not built up at an early stage, it's permanently weaker,
allowing for more tenderness which promotes a toe first landing, that could lead to navicular issues. So, it's
much easier to have the farrier rasp a little every few weeks and turn that foal out to romp than to "fix"
problems later. And FYI, even you don't plan to keep them barefoot forever, keeping the shoes off a horse until
after age 4 can prevent many problems as well. Shoes restrict the growth of the foot and could cause a permanently
smaller coffin bone. If you've ever heard of the Asian women binding their feet to keep them small and dainty,
then you know what I'm describing.
fixing limb deviations is easier in the first year of life than later, and after a certain point, can't be fixed at all. Trying
to straighten a crooked leg on a mature horse will only cause joint problems such as arthritis and shorten the usability of
Trimming the foal so he can
use the back of his foot and develop it, also helps him become more sure footed. His hoof circulation will be better,
but there are also nerve endings to be developed in the frog that helps the horse feel where his feet are and adjust his stride.
Having tall heels or shoes that take the frog off the ground will not stimulate this part of his foot, and stumbling may be
more common (not to mention the foot being out of balance makes it harder to avoid stumbling anyways).
Exercise, again, is very important. Each step stimulates
growth of nerves, tissues and blood supply. The foal learns to handle his own body better now, and will be more coordinated
with a rider in the future. Social skills learned in the herd, no matter how small, will help him understand training in the
With foals and weanlings, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth more than a pound of cure. I never did understand why
breeders would skimp on taking care of the foals, since a foal with more correct looking legs and sounder hooves will do more
to promote the usefulness of the breed, and sell for more than a neglected one, but I guess like most things, it becomes a
business and bottom lines become more important than the individuals. If you're reading this, you probably are looking
for more than just a bottom line.
Just remember that foals need care, too, and a small pen with soft dirt and shavings is no place to grow a healthy, sound
horse. Let them out. If they learn about fences when they are young, they won't have to learn the hard way when they
are older and can do more damage. Have their feet checked every couple of months, and just enjoy the antics of a healthy,
sure footed colt.