Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Foal or Newborn, Crooked Limbs or Legs, Viewed from Front

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

    Crooked limbs may be present at birth (congenital) or develop later (acquired). Newborn foals may be born with legs that appear very crooked when viewed from the front. In most cases, these will straighten rapidly with a little time and no treatment.

    Importantly, however, certain types and degrees of deviation may not resolve on their own and veterinary treatment may be necessary. It is vitally important to recognize the difference between these groups early because there is a limited window of time to correct certain defects.

    WHAT TO DO

    If you notice that a newborn or growing foal has a crooked limb, contact your vet promptly. Try to stand the foal on a hard, flat surface and as squarely as possible and take a photo of the affected limb(s). Send the photo to your vet along with the foal’s birth date and any other pertinent history.

    Place the mare and foal in a small stall (24′ x 12′ or smaller) until your vet examines the foal. Confinement in a small stall reduces the load placed on a questionable limb and will favor straightening compared to unrestricted exercise in a larger area.

    I find it extremely discouraging when I am notified of a problem too late to help the animal, and this is common with these foals. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that all foal’s limbs will straighten on their own. Yes, a “windswept foal” with two very crooked front limbs may straighten beautifully and miraculously in a few days.

    On the other hand, a mildly pigeon toed front limb in a two week old foal may only worsen. By the time the owner realizes that it is not improving on its own (several months later) the bones have fused, making treatment impossible or impractical.

    WHAT YOUR VET DOES

    Your vet understands the anatomy, function and development of the foal’s limbs. They will assess a particular abnormal limb conformation using physical exam and x-ray. Taking into account the foal’s age, and the specific abnormality and its severity, they will be able to define options for treatment.

    What Not To Do

    Do not take a "wait and see" approach. Talk to your vet immediately, even if the angulations appear mild.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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