The way a horse is shod & the type of shoe he wears, can make a difference on how well and how safely he can run. Shoeing racehorses in this country has never really taken into account the track surface or conditions of the turf, take the week while i write this blog we I had horses racing in many different venues from extremely wet track in the central districts, a wet Forbury, perfect Addington, Heavy 11 at Marlborough and hard & fast Rangiora, all these venues featured very different track surfaces.

The proper amount of traction is crucial, but how much is detrimental or helpful in various situations.

I think the safety factor is paramount but I wonder if more attention is needed when we are shoeing racehorses for different track surfaces, whether we are hindering or helping horses the way they are shod at present. Basically there will be a winner in every race but I know a lot of horses racing would be improved with a little more attention in what they are wearing on their feet, I’m not suggesting traction devices or calked heels just finding a happy medium.

In watching slow motion video help us better understand how horses move & help to see the difference in movement on all-weather vs grass. It is interesting in watching the difference in what happens during the sliding phase of the stride, it is not just as simple as just putting shoes on & getting on to the next horse.

The tracks in Canterbury are all well maintained but there is no way they can be equal.

At race speeds reaching 40 kmh the hoof hits the track approximately 150 times a minute. The hoof remains on the ground for a sixth of a second each time in what is known as mid stance phase, at the mid stance phase there are several stages that have potential for causing injury.

Certain track properties influence the force of the hoof & potential cause for injury to bones & soft tissues in the whole leg.

We know the sliding phase is important as long as the hoof is balanced correctly a hoof can slide up to 4 inches but it does depend on track surface. This is the problem we endeavour most of the horse I shoe are shod as a result of the trainer deciding on a style and sticking with it.

For example a horse will get down on its bumpers out of the blue and immediately it has 3 degree raised aluminium I will rather find out why it got down rather than add a band aid to solve the problem. Most of the time I imagine it has a lot to do with track surfaces and the various gait changes that come with it. Most of the time the horses getting down on their bumpers are at the end of the shoeing cycle and more than 99% are fixed by rebalancing the hoof to a 50/50 balance from the centre of articulation. But there seems to be a factor that keeps me coming back to different track surfaces.

I also wonder if the toe grab is really helping, I use a lot of aluminium outer rims which are produced with a 3mm toe grab a traction devise. I often grind it off, but when is the right time to remove it, as it is normally 3-4 weeks before I see that horse again and it could have raced on many different surfaces in that time.

I am looking to starting to adding borium to steel shoes, borium is a generic name for tungsten carbide crystals heated and added to sections of the shoe. This will make steel pacing shoes last longer and could be used for grip when as I’m discussing above without being too much traction.

I think it could also help in limiting the twisting of the capsule on a knee knocking horse at mid stance also.

All in all the shoeing of harness racing horses is proceeding in massive amounts so with new ideas every week are you keeping up.

Adam White