Baby horse hooves : Interesting Facts and FAQs

Image Credit: Baby brown horse by mahendrakolekar from Pixabay

What is a newborn foal?

Image Credit: Foal new-born cub by Pezibear from Pixabay

It always feels fascinating to see baby horses. Horses have different names based on the stage of their development. A newborn baby horse is called a foal.

A foal, regardless of its gender, is called newborn or said to be in the neonatal stage, from the day of its birth until 1st week. A newborn foal receives nourishment from the mare’s milk, much like human infants. New-born female foals are called fillies, whereas male newborn foals are called colts. 

Some of the typical features of a new-born foal include:

  •  Open eyes
  • Normal breathing mechanisms
  • Normal, light pink, colored mouth, and tongue membranes, once the normal   breathing pattern is established
  •  Respiratory rate- nearly 60 breaths/ per minute
  • Heart rate around 80 – 100/beats per minute
  • Ability to stand within 40 minutes to 1 hour of being born
  • Can nurse within 2 hours from the time of birth 

The newborn foal stops weanling around 4-6 months, a stage that is followed by yearling at the age of 1 year. 

What are newborn foal hooves called?

Foals or baby equines are born with unique hooves covered with a rubbery layer. The soft hooves of a foal protect the utero of the mare from any sharp edges during pregnancy and birth.

A newborn foal’s hooves are called an eponychium. More informally, they are also known as “golden slippers,” “‘foal slippers’”, or “fairy fingers”. Although the foal’s hooves remain soft at birth, once the air hits its feet the hooves start to dry out quickly. It is interesting to note that a foal is born with fully formed hooves.

At birth, the hooves remain in a conical shape and are protected with a protective layer, called the deciduous hoof capsule. The hooves of a newborn foal are made of eponychium and horn tubule, which get worn off within 2- 3 days of its birth, as it starts walking.

Baby horse feathers || horse eponychium

Baby foals are fascinating and exhibit many unique features. One of the most interesting features that newborn hooves display are rubbery capsules covering their hooves.

Baby horse feathers, or horse eponychium, in the veterinary literature, are called the deciduous hoof capsule of fetuses and foals. Baby horse feathers protect both the foal and the mare from getting hurt during the pregnancy and at the time of giving birth.

It is often said that the eponychium feels soft and squishy at the time of the foal’s birth, which starts getting hard as the foal starts walking.

Foal hoof capsule

By now you know that foals are born with fully formed hooves. However, their hooves differ from the more matured foals and horses in terms of rigidity and shape.

New-born foal hooves tend to be soft and remain covered with a layer called the foal hoof capsule or deciduous hoof capsule. The foal hoop capsule is a deciduous structure, which disappears as the animal ages and matures. Although, the rate of disappearance may vary depending upon factors like health conditions, weather, etc.

The foal hoof capsules are composed of the hoof wall, sole, frog, and bulbs of the heels. When the baby foal hits the ground to walk the soft hoof capsules are worn down to meet the level sole, revealing the real hooves. 

Hoof capsules are susceptible to injuries if the horse legs are pushed to bear abnormal weight distribution. These injuries may develop over time as the horse matures. 

How long does it take for foal hooves to harden?

Image credit: Hardened horse hooves by No-longer-here from Pixabay

Foals are born with soft hooves that are covered with a rubbery layer. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that the strong and hard hooves of foals and adult horses were once a soft squishy matter.

That being said, hooves’ growth and hardening process start from the time the newborn’s feet are touched by air. However, the speed of the process will vary, as the foal ages. Speaking in general terms, a foal’s hooves grow faster than an adult horse’s hooves. 

A nursing foal will usually have a growth rate of 0.6 inches per month, and as it matures the growth rate drops to about 0.48 inches per month.

The hooves have a dynamic structure and undergo changes throughout the lifetime of a horse. That being said, if you want your foal to have a healthier hoof growth, you can follow the tips below:

–          Provide it as much exercise as you can

–          Provide it proper nutrition

–          Consider biotin supplement

Foal hoof development

Foals are born with perfectly symmetrical hooves that are paired left and right. And they continue to regenerate their hooves even after they get fully matured, throughout their life. 

So, it is not wrong to state that the development of hooves in foals and horses is a continuous process. A young foal replaces, on average, its hoof capsules in about 145 days, or 4.5 months, from its birth. Whereas, a foal in its weaning/ yearling period takes around 283 days to regenerate its hooves. 

Other aspects of hoof development in foals include the hardening of the hoof walls, which take place as the foal matures or ages. A foal has the ability to develop its hooves at a much faster rate than a matured horse, as it needs to walk to follow its dam and other members of the herd.  

The hoof growth rate in horses, based on their age is:

Foals0.43 millimeters per day
Weanlings0.28 millimeters per day
Matured Horses0.2 millimeters per day

A healthy developed hoof generally has:

–          A natural gloss

–          Elastic coronary band

–          No cracks, flares, or chips

–          Wide base at the ground

–          Thick and round shape

–          Well-developed bars

–          Concave sole shape, etc.

What is the youngest age a horse should be shod, and why?

Image credit: Horseshoes by secarter from Pixabay

It is believed that a foal’s hooves must be taken care of from an early stage of its life. But there are many ifs and whens when it comes to shoeing it- “to shoe, or not to shoe”?

Experts are equivocal when it comes to determining the age of shoeing a foal or horse. It is often believed that if the foal is not working hard or has worn off hooves, owners can delay its shoeing. Nonetheless, it can see a farrier from as early as 2-4 weeks of age and undergo a regular trimming process. 

That being said, horses with deformed legs or hooves may need to be shod as early as 1 week of age. However, some may never have wears that exceed growth or work on rough and hard surfaces and thus may never need shoeing at all. 

It is, thus, important for the horse owners to understand the difference rather than focusing on the horses’ age when it comes to shoeing them. 

When should I trim my foal’s hooves?

Image credit: Recently trimmed white hoof by Montanabw CC BY-SA 3.0

Horse owners often wonder when to trim their foals’ hooves for the first time. There are different views towards taking care of a foal’s hooves, including the trimming process.

Nonetheless, experts believe and stress the fact that to maintain the welfare of the foal, it is essential to trim its hooves before it is 1 year old. In simpler terms,  a foal must have its first trimming by 3-4 weeks of age, provided it doesn’t have any leg-related issues. 

With age, the bones harden and joints formalize making it impossible for any corrections. So, to maintain the correct formation of the leg, hooves should be trimmed when the bones are still soft. Trimming the hoof wall length, only flaky sole and excess bar can help achieve a balanced hoof.

What is the sound of horse hooves called?

Image credit: Running horse by christels from Pixabay

Hooves can be called the most important part of a horse’s body and existence and it is rightly said “no hooves, no horse”. That is why the hooves are taken care of meticulously. 

Strong and well-trimmed hooves make a beating sound when a foal or horse walks or runs, and it is called clop. Traditionally, hooves sound is also described by words like clip-clop (while walking) and clippity-clop (while throttling). These sounds are also associated with any animal wearing hooves.

The sound of the hooves can be heard from far away and they can easily tell you what gait they are at. Horse hooves make different sounds depending on the way they walk, trot, and canter.

Walk1–2–3–4; 1–2–3–4
Canter1–2–3; 1–2–3

It is interesting to note that horse hooves make clop sounds only when they hit a hard surface like concrete. When horses trot, walk or canter on softer surfaces like mud or grass, their hooves tend to make a stomping sound.

Recent Posts