Foal trimming should begin at ten days old, as that is when that soft hoof begins to harden and the frog begins to have some profile.
Assessment includes observing if the foal has straight legs in front, if the cannon bones are set under the centre of the knees and if the pasterns are in line with the fetlocks.
If at this age the front legs are straight that is great, and hopefully mother and foal are in an area that has some wear factor under their footing and Mother Nature can keep those foals hooves trimmed level to ensure that the good straight legs remain that way.
For foals which at ten days old do not have straight leg conformation, the hoof wall will have already begun to bend either to the inside or the outside to compensate for this condition. This bend or flare in the hoof wall must be removed so that the leg now stands straight; if it is not corrected at this stage, it will cause the hoof capsule and the lower joints to rotate even more out of line. These foals must then be re-checked monthly to ensure that they have a chance of straightening up in front and a chance of staying that way.
A lot of foals’ legs will straighten up naturally as their tendons and ligaments develop strength, however if they are in a soft paddock the bottom of the hoof has to be kept level by us because Nature obviously can’t do it.
Some more severe bent leg problems will need veterinary intervention or orthopedic extensions by the farrier to correct their alignment. (pic 1)
If this ten day inspection is missed, by the time the foal is one month old nearly all of their hoof capsules will have grown forwards and the heel buttresses will have followed, (pic 2) the heel will already be contracted and the tiny hoof will now be narrower at the base than it is at the coronary band. The cause of this is simply that the heels are already too high and the frog has lost its function to expand the heels.
Now the hoof must be trimmed, so lower the heels to six millimetres above the junction of the widest part of the frog (pic 3) and dress any flare at the toe. If the hoof is turning out, trim the outside 2/3 of the hoof, or, if the hoof is turning in, trim the inside 2/3 of the hoof.
Nearly all young foals will have a tendency to stand toed out in the front legs as well as the hinds during their early stages of life, (pic 4) so their tiny hooves will be flaring to the outside, hence the need to correct the outside 2/3 of all hoof capsules to cause them to stand straight.
There is no point in breeding your best mare to the best stallion, waiting 11 months for the foal of your dreams, then not attending to those tiny platforms of performance.