Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Assess Growing Foal

It is helpful for all horse owners to generally assess the growth of a young foal. A foal’s size and body condition is important. If foals grow too slowly, they may end up stunted. If they grow too fast, they can develop orthopedic diseases.

If you have raised other foals, you may have a baseline of past experience from which to assess this one. If this is your first or only foal, you should ensure that you know what to look for, what is normal and what is not. Talk to your vet if you are unsure whether your foal is developing normally.

Procedure

Start by standing quietly and watching the mare and foal from a distance to assess their body condition and general attitude. Then assess the foal to answer these general questions:

Is the foal a normal size for their age? Are they a normal weight? Are they ribby or pot-bellied? What is the quality of their coat, shiny and sleek or dull?

Look at the foal from behind, then on the left and right sides, and look down the foal's body and legs for anything that looks abnormal or asymmetrical. Then stand for a moment in front of the foal (carefully and with feel) and compare right and left eyes, legs, etc.

Assess the angles of the limbs from front and sides? Are there any deviations from normal? Any swellings above the fetlocks or carpi? Any swellings on or near joints? Pay particular attention to the stifles, hocks and fetlocks. How do their hooves look? Are their feet being maintained on a regular basis?

Trot the mare and foal. Does the foal move easily and symmetrically or do you notice any lameness or lack of coordination?

If the foal is halter trained, look briefly in their mouth. Do their incisor teeth appear to meet properly?

Tips for safety & Success

Always be aware of the mare, noting her attitude as you enter the stall and begin to handle the foal. If she is overly protective or becomes aggressive, you may want to call your vet or another skilled helper, who can halter and hold the mare.

Do not struggle to handle your foal if it appears to cause them (or your mare) excess stress, especially if it appears to unduly interfere with your mare's focus on her foal. If this is the case, leave your mare and foal alone and let your vet conduct an exam.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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