- May 14, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
Recently, someone posted some photos on a social media site that showed a “windswept” foal. The legs were bent out at the knees and hocks, and the foals right front foot was out so far that the foal was practically standing on it’s pastern instead of the hoof. It’s a serious situation and stall rest is the remedy, along with a quality mineral that is balanced for calcium and phosphorous that the foal can eat readily. Preventing damage to the growth plates is essential, thus the stall rest, with deep bedding so the foal will lay down and let those legs heal.
As bad as the foal in the picture was, I’ve seen one that was worse by far. It was born on our place from a first time mare. He was so bent and twisted that he had difficulty walking through a stall door that was nearly four feet wide. He looked as though he’d been laying in a 55 gallon drum. We had to be gone the weekend this all unfolded. Our neighbors were going to do our bit of barn
chores and check the mares, as we had a couple that we getting fairly close, though not due for at least another week. On the Sunday we were to start home, we had a message on the motel phone to call the neighbors. I did and they reported that the big Thoroughbred mare, Holly, had foaled and things were very wrong.
It was cold and raining, so they had gone out to get the mare and foal in and that is when they saw how twisted the foal was. He was huge, with the longest legs I’ve ever seen on a foal, but they went every direction. They had packed and dragged this cold foal into a barn with bedding, and fortunately, Holly had tolerated them doing so. Since Holly was early, she hadn’t bagged up yet. I had a nanny goat that I was raising a calf on, so they robbed a little milk off of her, though she’d already been drained by the calf, and gave it to the foal to get something warm in him.
We packed up and headed home in a hurry. It was about a four hour drive, so by the time we’d arrived, this wonderful couple had risked life and limb and milked that big, snorty mare and gave the dribble of colostrum to the foal. He was perky and trying to stand up but his legs were just everywhere. They happily turned the mess over to us and we called our favorite horse vet. He told us it sounded like a “windswept” foal and gave us instructions on what to do. Against all odds, the colt, who we had named LeRoy (after our neighbor) had figured out how to stand up and his persistent nursing had brought Holly into her milk. Holly didn’t know but that every foal happened just like hers had, so she was a good sport about it all.
Our vet told us that the syndrome was caused, usually, by uterine positioning, and since he was so big, LeRoy hadn’t been able to move around right in utero. We moved Holly and LeRoy to the horse barn where we could keep LeRoy in deep bedding and he
wouldn’t be able to run around. We kept the bedding clean and dry and rotated Holly and the colt around through the four stalls in the barn. When he would come out of the stall, he’d hit several of his legs, one shoulder and a hip on the opening every time. We put out a good quality loose, high phosphorus mineral and LeRoy ate it like candy some days. He was absolutely bursting with energy, but we couldn’t let him out to move around. He’d jump up and down in the stall, rear up on his mother, and try to play in place. Holly begged to be let out, but we had to ignore her. I regret that I never took any pictures of him from when he was first born until he was weaned. The transformation was just incredible. I think I was afraid he was going to die and just couldn’t let myself take the pictures. But, for whatever reason, there are no photos.
At birth he was waist high on me and I’m a taller than the average woman and he grew like a weed. My farrier husband kept working on LeRoy’s feet to keep them growing correctly. LeRoy was such a character and took everything in stride. By the time Holly needed to go back to the farm for breeding , LeRoy was about a month old and his legs had changed a great deal. He no long banged his feet on the stall doors going through and his spine and neck, even his ears, which were also twisted at birth, were straight. He was a magnificent specimen of a Thoroughbred colt. But, he wasn’t out of the woods yet and still had to be in a stall. The stallion farm owners had raised Holly so had a vested interest in her and her colt and took good care of them while they were there about 10 days. Stall rest continued on their return home.
By late summer, LeRoy’s legs were finally straight and he was able to go out on grass. He ran miles once he was turned out and made a nuisance of himself with the other mares and foals. By weaning time he was as tall as my chest and absolutely a stunning chestnut colt. He kept growing and by the time he was a three year old, he was a strapping 17 hands tall and one would never have guessed how he had looked starting out. His legs were straight and sound, and he moved like silk.
Following the vet’s orders, in spite of how bad he wanted to be out and moving, is what got LeRoy straightened out. The mineral helped his bones and growth plates, along with his mother’s good milk. They didn’t get grained, just quality hay and water. Incidentally, Holly had five or six more foals after LeRoy and never had another windswept foal.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....