From the November 2006 issue Equine Veterinary Journal, pages 646-651. This study concludes that close to half of foals can develop club-footed tendencies early in life due to their conformation. The full text of the study is available online at the journal’s website with a subscription.
Uneven feet in a foal may develop as a consequence of lateral grazing behaviour induced by conformational traits
M. C. V. VAN HEEL*, A. M. KROEKENSTOEL, M. C. VAN DIERENDONCK, P. R. VAN WEEREN and W. BACK
Derona Equine Performance Laboratory, Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 12,
NL-3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Reasons for performing study: Conformational traits are important in breeding, since they may be indicative for performance ability and susceptibility to injuries.
Objectives: To study whether certain desired conformational traits of foals are related to lateralised behaviour while foraging and to the development of uneven feet.
Methods: Twenty-four Warmblood foals, born and raised at the same location, were studied for a year. Foraging behaviour was observed by means of weekly 10 min scan-sampling for 8 h. A preference test (PT) was developed to serve as a standardised tool to determine laterality. The foals were evaluated at age 3, 15, 27 and 55 weeks. The PT and distal limb conformation were used to study the relation between overall body conformation, laterality and the development of uneven feet. Pressure measurements were used to determine the loading patterns under the feet.
Results: About 50% of the foals developed a significant preference to protract the same limb systematically while grazing, which resulted in uneven feet and subsequently uneven loading patterns. Foals with relatively long limbs and small heads were predisposed to develop laterality and, consequently unevenness.
Conclusions: Conformational traits may stimulate the development of laterality and therefore indirectly cause uneven feet.