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I am always shocked when I get horses I bred back from the track and look at what their feet have become. These are horses that had good quality hooves and appropriate angles as yearlings. If the horse can go barefoot and be appropriately managed, all the better. But for those horses that need shod, I have never seen such horrible farrier work as some of the horses returning from the track. I know there are some great track farriers, but they must be a rare commodity. I believe Ric Reddon once said "that some of the most expensive horses on the planet are getting shod by some of the worst farriers".
I totally agree. Years back I was the assistant trainer at a thoroughbred farm. One time, we had a pretty good client who decided their farrier was the best, and wanted all their horses only done by him. Only problem was, he was 600 miles away. So they flew him in. He did 4 shoes on 4 horses in about 30 minutes. And spent that entire 30 minutes telling us how good he was. He was getting paid about 30% more than other farriers. When he was done, and he was saying "wow, look at those feet, don't they look great?", all I could do was stare in shock. He'd left the toes way out long, cut the heels down, and the shoes weren't even on straight! I mean, the toe of the shoe was off to the side by a good inch on one hoof, the heel of another shoe was pressing into the frog with the heel on the other side hanging off the outside of the wall...it was a disaster. We had to have a different farrier come out a couple days later to fix them, and one horse had to be laid off for 2 months to get enough growth to travel correctly again without severe strain on his tendons. We usually rode all our 2 and 3 year olds barefoot, and most had decent feet. They got shod to go to the track though, and generally came back with totally different feet than they left with:(
Four horses in 30 minutes? Maybe just a little exaggeration here!
Sadly, no. There was a run of the rasp around the hoof, a few seconds worth, and the shoe was slapped on, no shaping at all, nails clinched, and on to the next one. I've never seen anything like it before or since.
The sad truth is that very few "horsemen" know decent shoeing when they see it. Even in vet school, the tutorial is remedial and short, according to a farrier-turned-vet I know.
Yep. One would think that they could figure it out. How many quarter cracks does it take?
Ditto....however I tried keeping them barefoot when training on a dirt track (Bowie, Md) and eventually had to put shoes on when they were fit enough to begin breezing because the toes were worn down extremely short. I'm a person who wants them as short as the correct angle allows, but they do need some toe. Training just on turf, no problem, as long as feet are rasped a bit regularly to keep them exactly balanced.
It is not fair to judge how a hoof looked as a yearling standing in a field to a horse that is pounding the track with a 150 pound rider on its back daily. The hoof changes to the workload and to simply blame the farrier is just wrong. We train many horses without hind shoes and they do well, however, we find most horses will require front shoes on a dirt track. We did train horses without front shoes when we had Poly tracks in California with success.
Totally agree barefoot is healthier for the hoof. I do agree there are situations where shoes are necessary, however. I've carried this saying with me for many years - "If horses were meant to wear shoes God would have them born with them."
I too am a small breeder and run a race horse rest farm for the past 40 years. I'm amazed some horses remain sound enough to run with the lack of heel and length of toe when we receive them. Just looking at the angle makes it terribly clear the tendons are going to be compromised. I never understood the huge "breakover" that obviously is going cause unsoundness down the line. I pull the shoes on these layups as soon as they can handle bare feet. We gently rasp when we get some growth to send them back with a better foot.
Happy Alter says "Yes!".
I’ve been running barefoot for over 10 years on all surfaces. I’ve always said I'll shoe a horse if it tells me it needs it. I’ve yet to come across that horse. I’ve not had a horse in which hoof quality and growth did not improve once barefoot. All horses have run at the same or higher level once barefoot. Contrarily, horses that started their career running barefoot all run worst once shod. However the main point I want to make is that running barefoot is more than just pulling the shoes off; it’s a way of life. It is putting the horses’ welfare as the priority and many things need to change. The trim is different than that of a shod horse. Very hard to tack on a shoe after what I consider a proper barefoot trim. You need a balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients and promotes proper blood flow. You need the right environment which is dry and clean. Most importantly, you need proper stimulation which is consistent movement on a coarse terrain. This stimulation generates the necessary blood flow and physical stress for the hoofs to adapt. Hoof quality does not adapt properly if standing still and especially in manure and urine. Hands will callus only after being exposed to prolonged physical stress in a dry environment and without gloves. To me, shoes are like gloves. Yes they protect, but unfortunately in doing so also shield against the necessary stimulation needed for toughing-up. The equine hoof is one of the organs with the greatest capacity to adapt to its environment. My horses are turn out 6 to 8 hours a day. The harder the ground the better my hoof quality and growth. Once toughen-up maybe they can be maintain in a track environment but I am not sure if every horse will be able to toughen-up strictly from the minimal stimulation of a track environment. It is remarkable to see the changes as the hoof adapts: it toughens-up, heels come up, never a quarter crack, solid hard walls no cracks, no flat sole. It is amazing the sole will actually cup-up. When the hoof cups-up is when I know for sure that the horse can run barefoot without discomfort. I believe the sole needs room to drop for proper shock absorption. It’s this new enhanced shock absorbing capacity of the hoof that helps with soundness. Ankles and knees will take the brunt of the shock if the hoof does not do its role in shock absorption correctly.
One mare in particular made me a strong believer. When I got the mare I actually assumed she would never run barefoot. She had a dreadful way of travelling and horrible feet and ankles because of it. She continually lost shoes, had run down heels, flat sole, she had nine nails holes just on the inside of her left front hoof. She would wear the heel of a aluminum shoe down to the thickness of a sheet of paper within 4 to 5 weeks. But to my surprise, using glue on shoes as a transition phase, her hoofs eventually toughen up and she was able to go barefoot. That heel grew so quickly and hard that I had to rasp it every two weeks. Her soles cupped-up and she developed strong and perfectly functional hoofs. The best part is she got sounder and happier. Went from a $10,000 claimer with an average speed index (Equibase) of 49.2 to a $25,000 claimer with an average speed index of 78.4 (2 wins, 2 thirds and a fourth). The amazing part was her ankles got better without any joint injections or anti-inflammatory drugs. My wish is if someone is not sure if running barefoot will work, and after reading this they will at least try. Take the human criticism, which will be abundant, with a grain of salt, and do it for the well-being of your horses, and if they are like mine they will praise you for it.
So nice to hear from hoof care experts on the matter, who factor in the still-developing horse. There are so many factors that must be considered when racing a baby horse so as not to destroy the animal during its racing career. Great article!
Most race horses are shod with a low heel in an attempt to lengthen their stride. John Q Public may not be aware of how many stone bruises racehorses suffer. Once the horses hoof is drained it is ready to race in a month or so. Trainers do not mention the stone bruise. Trainers just say the horse needed a few weeks of rest, he looked tired.
Stones on the groomed, manicured track?
Great to see so many positive responses. I used to ride competitive dressage in addition to racing and when I got busy and let my dressage horse's toes get too long my scores on the extended trot were a point lower. Stride length is from conformation, conditioning and proper trimming.
A bad break over with a long toe does actually make horse reach farther, but the geniuses don't take into consideration that the detriment out weighs any gain and is dangerous to keeping a sound horse.
Some hooves are genetically more blessed than others , but one notoriously overlooked factor, by many traditional hoof care providers , veterinarians and horse owners alike, is how the DIET affects hoof health. If you feed the hooves right, chances are high that they will be much healthier!If you feed hooves like this, you WILL get healthier hooves!http://www.hoofrehab.com/Di...
90% of all trainers do it the way they saw it done when they first learned. Original thinking is rare. Formula training (every horse gets the same treatment) is common. It is rare for a trainer to specifically "tell" a farrier what is expected (angles, heels).
30 years of experience? Or one year of experience repeated 30 times? It is human nature, and not just in horse training.
I once had a mare come off the track with two sets of rear shoes: front and back. She was a mess.
Rear shoes on the front feet is not a big deal. The only difference between a front and rear aluminum race plate is the full swedge on the front. Steel training shoes are fully swedged on both the front and hind shoes and they cause no issues, why would a front shoe that is not swedged cause a problem?
Perhaps the horse had Kerckhaert Synergy shoes on both the front and hind feet, these shoes are not fully swedged and you likely would not be able to tell the difference from the front and hind shoes.