This time of year is filled with excitement for broodmare owners across North America as the 2015 foal crop is being born.
In Manitoba, the foaling season is coming into full swing as most mares are bred to foal in this milder time of year. Some unexpected complications can come with these new arrivals, such as the development of crooked legs at birth.
When foals are developing in the womb, their limbs must adjust to the space provided and, in some cases, that space is not quite big enough to accommodate those long, gangly legs.
Despite our best practises of managing foal size by breeding appropriate-sized mares to stallions, sometimes we get it wrong or aberrant genetics take over. When this occurs, the fetus becomes too large for the womb.
In these situations, foals develop problems, primarily with their legs. One of the problems is the development of angular limb deformities (crooked legs). This is an issue that arises at the fetlocks or carpi/tarsi.The limb may become bent inward (usually at the level of the fetlock) or bent outward (usually at the level of the carpus or tarsus/hock).
Crooked-legged foals will have a visually bent limb and the condition often occurs in both limbs (front and hind).
There are several treatment options for these foals but the easiest is to stall-confine the foals with the mares for a period of three to four weeks.
Take pictures along the way to evaluate the straightening of the leg(s). Some limbs take
longer to straighten but it is important to recognize some particular time frames when dealing with crooked legs.
For the fetlock, if surgical straightening is necessary, it must occur by four to six weeks
of age. Therefore, if you have a foal with an angulation at the fetlock, contact your vet as soon
as you notice it, otherwise getting it straight may become out of reach.
If the foal has an angulation at the carpus/knee or tarsus/hock, then you have until four months to correct it surgically.
In either case, if surgical correction is needed, it is often successful if applied in time.
Surgery usually involves placement of a screwor screws and wires to slow down one side of the growth plate and allow the other side to catch up, enabling the leg to straighten.
If you have questions about a foal with a crooked leg, contact your veterinarian or an equine specialist veterinarian to discuss the condition and knowthe options before time runs out.
Chris Bell is an equine veterinarian and surgical specialist who operates Elders Equine Veterinary Service, with clinics in Cartier and Winnipeg. See www.eldersequineclinic.com.