Longitudinal development of hoof balance in the foal focusing on the center of pressure pattern of the hoof.
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Horses are precocial animals, which means their foals are able to stand and walk after birth, but their balance still needs to develop more during the first months. The aim of this study was to obtain more knowledge on the development of hoof balance of foals and the development of the center of pressure (COP) at the stance phase during the first 6 months after birth. Pressure plate measurements from 11 Dutch warmblood foals during walk and trot were used during the first 24 weeks of their lives. This was used to calculate an asymmetry index(ASI) to determine the center of pressure(COP) during the entire stance phase. It was found that dynamic hoof balance of foals at birth is not the same as the hoof balance of an adult horse, but some patterns can already be seen from this young age. During the first weeks the landing is already lateral but develops further towards a lateral landing over time. Landing is also a bit more on the toe. COP at midstance variates a bit over time but stays close to the center. Balance during the hoof-off is entirely on the toe and mostly lateral. Additional research is required to confirm these findings. Knowledge on development of hoof balance could be helpful for veterinarians to manage any problems and early intervention when needed.