“What on earth……. Did I mistakenly breed my mare to Big Bird from Sesame Street?! The first time I witnessed a foal enter the world I was not prepared for the shock of the appearance of the its front feet. The hooves appeared to be covered with “feathers”. As mares typically give birth in the middle of the night when all is calm and quiet, many horsepeople never see what I consider one of Mother Nature’s most clever designs – the protective armour covering the newborn’s hooves. Eponychium, also known as “foals pillow”, is the fingernail-like, soft tissue covering the sharp hoof wall and sole pads pf the newborn . Toward the end of pregnancy, unborn foals often squirm about violently, with the eponychium working like a barrier, protecting the dam from internal injuries. At birth, the eponychium prevents injuries to the mare’s birth canal.
After the birth, the spongy textured eponychium dries with exposure to air, gradually flakes and falls off. NEVER file or attempt to remove the eponychium as it has a second, but equally important purpose. Apart from protecting mom, it protects the underlying tissue of the foal’s hoof, quite soft and pliable until it hardens after a few days.
I feel blessed to continue to learn the incredible mysteries of nature and am grateful for every day at our beloved farm, Dreamcatcher Meadows.