Knock Kneed Foals
By Eleanor Blazer
      He was a week early.

      In some ways this was great.  It meant fewer sleepless nights for me and a shorter pregnancy for Babe.

      But for the colt it meant restricted exercise due to knock knees.

      Knock knees (carpus valgus) in newborn foals is common.  Most foals are slightly knock kneed as this allows them to maintain balance (visualize a tripod) and practice grazing with some ease (short neck, long legs).

      In addition to early foaling other causes of carpus valgus are poor nutrition of the mare during gestation, positioning of the foal in the womb and possibly genetics.   

      Most veterinarians recommend a foal with more than a five to eight degree deviation be "managed".  Babe's colt fell within this critical area.

      During the colt's post-foaling check our veterinarian recommended restricted exercise.  This was against our own belief of allowing foals to exercise freely as quickly as possible.  We feel new born foals need exercise to strengthen ligaments, tendons and internal organs. 

      Exercise exerts compression on developing bones which stimulates growth.  But in the knock kneed foal pressure on the concave side of the growth plate causes excessive compression, which can inhibit growth.

      Our vet felt allowing the colt to exercise for about twenty minutes twice a day and keeping the stall not too deeply bedded would be sufficient in limiting damage to the developing joints.  The amount of time we need to follow this schedule depends on how quickly his legs straighten. 

      Because every foal is different, exercise may be limited to hand walking two or three times a day.  Your veterinarian will recommend what is best for your foal.

      Conservative management of the slightly knock kneed foal will also include proper care of the hooves.  One recommendation is slight rasping of the outside half of the hoof weekly to change weight distribution on the physis.  It is important not to remove too much hoof as this can cause accelerated degeneration of the joint cartilage. Another view is to keep the hooves level.  Consult your veterinarian and farrier.
      Foals with more than a 15 degree deviation, with cuboidal bone collapse or who do not respond to conservative management will need more intense treatment.  Your veterinarian will advise you.  Do not put off taking steps to remedy the situation; but don't rush into anything either.

      By the time the dun colt was a week old he was showing improvement.  He was becoming wider in the chest which helped improve his stance.  The tripod look was becoming less noticeable.  And it wasn't coming a moment too soon, as stall rest was not to his liking!

       For information about horse care take the online courses " Stable Management " and " Nutrition for Maximum Performance " taught by Eleanor Blazer.  Earn certification or work toward a Bachelor of Science degree in equine studies.

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