Why Do Some Yearlings Become Overly Upright/Topple Forward During Sales Prep?

It’s a relatively common yet unfortunate occurrence, the yearling that becomes ‘very upright’ and in the latter stages ‘topples over at the knee’. This occurs when there is a straightening of the angle of the fetlock joints, leading to bending forward at the knees.As with most health challenges in the horse, there are usually several contributing founders (as opposed to one single cause!). It tends to happen in the heavier-set horse (remembering that approximately 60% of a horse’s body weight is carried in their front legs).

Spending more time in stables and less time turned out is a significant risk factor, as is feeding diets excessively high in energy (both overall energy and starch), compounded by diets too low in fibre and roughage. High blood insulin levels are likely to play a major role in the progression of the condition. A horse’s natural conformation can also play a part in many cases.If the condition is left unaddressed, without rectifying the contributing factors- the horse is at risk of deleterious effects on cartilage and joint health- with the potential to have repercussions on soundness long-term. Simply giving high dose anti-inflammatories doesn’t address the causative factors.

Through strategic dietary, management and exercise practices, the problem can be largely avoided (and in the case that it has already occurred- can be managed). Addressing the issue should encompass a multifaceted approach: Ensuring that the diet still contains sufficient minerals and protein to promote optimal bone and joint health and integrity, turnout and exercise to help stabilise blood glucose levels and herbal and/or nutraceutical intervention to help reduce excessive inflammation and insulin levels, whilst still promoting optimal gut flora and nutritional status.

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