From birth to six months of age, what should you expect to see in a healthy growing foal?

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The stall smells warm, sweet, and metallic. The straw rustles as the mare turns to lick the damp, lanky creature curled in the corner. Overwhelmed with euphoria–and in need of coffee–you speed-dial your horsey friends. As the phone rings you wonder, how will this spindly thing transform into the athlete of your dreams? What can or should you do to ensure he develops into a healthy young horse?

Setting the Stage

Development begins before conception; the blueprint for the foal–what genetic disorders and developmental problems he might be prone to–lies in his DNA. According to Gary Magdesian, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVECC, ACVCP, associate professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, owners sometimes overlook genetics, tending to "select one desired trait and to focus on that and not on the bigger picture." While the recent sequencing of the equine genome will continue to impact breeding selection, "at present it is important that people realize genetics do play a very big role in growth and development," he says.

Tom Yarbrough, DVM, PhD, an equine veterinary surgeon from Northern California, concurs, noting that clinically he sees higher