Reasons for performing study: There is little information available about conformational changes in the forelimbs of growing foals.
Objectives: To describe the conformation of the carpus and fetlock of Thoroughbred foals from birth to yearling sale age.
Methods: Subjective assessments of the fetlock and carpal conformation of 119 Thoroughbred foals were made within the first month of life and then at 30 day intervals until at least age 120 days. At least 70 subjects were examined further at 60 day intervals until September of their second year. Conformation grades are reported for 5 age groups: first 7 days and at a mean of 46, 176, 362 and 525 days. The conformation of all available sires and dams of subjects was also graded.
Results: All subjects demonstrated carpal deviations, such as valgus, outward rotation and offset, and approximately 30% had fetlock deviations. Heavier birth weights were associated with carpal offset and fetlock inward conformation at most ages, and heavier yearlings were more likely to be carpal valgus. The carpal conformation of the sire (offset and outward rotation) was associated with similar yearling carpal conformation. During the study period, the carpal conformation of Thoroughbred foals became less valgus and more offset. Fetlock conformation became more inwardly deviated during the first 6 months of the study.
Conclusions: Carpal and fetlock conformation change greatly in Thoroughbred foals up to age 18 months. The phenotype of the sire can be associated with yearling carpal conformation and bodyweight, particularly at birth and as yearlings, is associated with yearling fetlock and carpal conformation.
Potential relevance: New factors associated with forelimb conformational deviations have been identified that may help breeders better to manage young racing stock.