In the first months of the young foal’s life, the shape of his feet is somewhat different than by an adult horse. The coronet band is larger than the circumference of the bottom, walls/sole of the hoof, hence the feet/hoofs are narrowing downwards. In about six months the shape of the foot will be getting more like in an adult horse.
It is very important to pay great attention to the newborn foals and to their feet as well. The insufficient care for youngsters feet can demonstrate it self in various ways. It all depends in what terrain the foal is moving and on his living environment.
If the foal is moving on too soft ground, or if he is stall raised, the hoof will not wear off sufficiently and it will grow long. Due to the fact that most foals have irregular stand (conformation) only a certain part of the hoof is stressed. In these areas the soft youngster’s foot will wear off quicker than in the areas with lesser stress/pressure, which will give the beginning to irregular foot, and in time it can become asymmetrical.
In the soft bones and pliable tendons of the foal it can lead to serious deformities. The photo # 1 shows a young foal that was stressed with extreme pain in his left front leg, thus overweighing the opposite leg, which then lead to extreme hyperextension of the pastern and the “hoof” joint. This example shows the extent of abnormalities that can come to young foals as a result of moving apparatus malfunction and irregular strain on their legs. To a similar changes can come due to uneven strain/pressure on the hoofs, even though often not quite apparent in the early stages.
The photo # 2 shows a defective front stand of a young foal caused by overgrown hoofs. The x-ray photos # 3 a. show the abnormal angling of the joints by the same horse.
It is therefore very important to pay a great attention to the horse’s feet already in his early age (about in his fourth week). The overgrown hoof is trimmed and to the foot is given an approximate shape. With proper, but not sudden changes in trimming, there can be often corrected some of the irregularities in the conformation/stand during the early stages of the foal development. However, it is of great importance in such cases that the trimming/correcting is done more frequently (about every three to four weeks). The intervals in trimming are of course influenced by the quality of the youngster’s hoof as well as the terrain on which he is moving and the living environment. On dryer, harder pastures the trimming of the feet is less frequent than on softer and grassy pastures or where there is a lack of turn out.
The trimming of young foals requires certain expertise and it should be entrusted only to an experienced farrier. By no means one should be attempting to do it himself, even though it seems quite easy.
If the foal is moving on a harder ground, the hoof could wear off faster than the new growth. When the sole gets too thin it will get often bruised and the foal will go lame. In such cases there may be a need for special shoes, called “partial shoes/plates”. (see picture 4)
Such shoes should be thin, light, about 1 cm wide. The ends are thinned and rounded. The plate covers only the part of the hoof that has been wearied off. It is not recommended to shoe the foals on the hind legs if they are turned out with other youngsters to prevent injuries when kicking.
This type of shoe should not be on the foot longer than three weeks. After this time the plate should be removed, foot trimmed and the shoe placed back if there is still further need for shoeing.
If the foal wears off the sole completely to the point that he uncovers and damages the laminae, the need for a specialist/farrier will be required. With today technology there are ways to fill in (form) artificial material and create a partial artificial hoof.
A young foal should be already in his early age educated for shoeing/trimming. It is recommended to clean the hoofs daily (at least couple times during the week) and lightly tap on them with hoof pick and such. By all means one must avoid any form of violence as young foals lack the comprehension of reprimand.