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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Video: Watch Elastic, Athletic Dutch Dressage Stallion Set a New World Record

by Fran Jurga | 30 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog



Just the other day this blog was quoting the superlatives coming out of the European dressage championships at Windsor Castle in England. Things went from the greatest to the unbelievable last night when, for the first time ever, a score above 90% was awarded in the musical freestyle to Dutch rider Edward Gal and the nine-year-old black stallion Moorlands Totilas.

I don't know what sort of biomechanics study could be done on this horse to figure out how he does what he does. He doesn't seem large. Doesn't look massive in the hind end. He actually looks quite closely coupled, yet his strides in the extended trot and canter look to be ground-gobbling. I can only assume that all his parts are equally massive, equally developed in a harmonious unit and yet...how does he manage to be so light on his feet, so loose at the shoulder?

I know one problem with watching this horse is that the rider is a very tall man, so his frame gives the illusion that the horse is smaller than he probably is.

Maybe a scanning session would show that his tendons and ligaments are bionic, that he has the support system of a warmblood on the feather-light skeleton of a racehorse. Something's up with this horse--something wonderful.

Holland also finished in second and third place. I'm certainly not an expert or a dressage critic and nothing should be taken away from Parzival and Salinero, yet it is interesting to see how differently constructed they are, and how their frames appear larger and especially longer. These horses seem to be exquisitely (and successfully) focused in order to nail the exact movements, like a tennis player at Wimbledon taking exact aim, while the black seems to perform them in a more relaxed mode, a la Tiger Woods.

Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas performed to Celtic-type music, complete with echoing drums and ringing church bells, in the shadow of England's Windsor Castle. And it worked.(FEI photo by Kit Houghton)

With luck, Totilas will stay sound and remain in training for a trip to the USA next September for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. A lot can happen between now and then, including the return of the top Germans who were sidelined for this week's competition.

Share this video, savor this moment, and celebrate this horse. This is what a sound, healthy horse looks like at the peak of condition without a thought of resistance or tension on his mind.

Watching Totilas brings to mind the fleet-footed racing star of this year, filly Rachel Alexandra, who seems to win her races for the joy of running fast because she can. It seems 2009 is a year of at least two great horses at the pinnacle of their respective sports. Enjoy them while they are here with us; we all know that soundness can be fleeting and they are two of the legends we'll remember in the future.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Friday, August 28, 2009

California Statistics Reveal Dangerous Trend in Hind Limb Breakdowns on Artificial Tracks

by Fran Jurga | 28 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Data on racing breakdowns compiled by the University of California at Davis tracks the incidence of injuries, the seasonality of injuries and which limb is affected, among many other data points recorded. A publication of recent statistics presented to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) reveals a disturbing prevalence of hind limb injuries that led to the death of racehorses last year.

While the report is not available at present, the Los Angeles Times today reported that the study presented to the CHRB yesterday reveals that 19 horses died on California tracks from hind limb injuries in 2008, and that those injuries were split pretty evenly between left and right hinds. Only one horse died from a hind limb injury on a dirt track.

Breakdowns on the front limbs were somewhat more comparable between dirt and artificial tracks, but the artificial breakdowns still exceeded the dirt tracks: 74 horses broke down in front on artificial tracks while 59 broke down in front on dirt tracks.

Some people feel that this is an invalid comparison, and that trainers will often work a horse on a synthetic track that they would not work on a dirt track.

UC Davis examined 351 cadavers of breakdowns in its search for new insights into why racehorses are so susceptible to fatal injuries.

California has a 4 mm limit on toe grabs on front shoes and allows horses to run barefoot.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Behind the Scenes with the Farriers at the European Championships

by Fran Jurga | 28 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Say hello to the farriers backstage: Brendan Murray, official show farrier, is on the right and Dieter Kronert, German team farrier, on left are working at Windsor Castle in England this week. Photo by Haydn Price, British dressage team farrier.

As a post script to last night's blog post about the spectacular world record-breaking dressage rides at the Euro championships in England yesterday, here's a first-hand quote from British dressage team farrier Haydn Price after watching Britain win individual bronze behind two Dutch riders who both set new world records:

"We are still pinching ourselves and hoping not to wake up to find that the last 48 hours has all been a dream.

"Yesterday was such a special day and quite emotional. We have waited so long for this and so many individuals have contributed to such an amazing result.

"We also witnessed history in the making with record scores both as a nation and global.
What a privilege it is to be part of it!"

I'm sure that Haydn and all the nations' farriers had a big role in the elevation of these horses to scores that had the judges wondering that a 10 was simply not a good enough measure of the movement the horse had performed.

Please scroll down in this blog to read yesterday's story and see one of the horses frozen in a moment of strength and beauty.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Picture Power: Hock Lock in Dressage Drama at Euro Championships

by Fran Jurga | 27 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Whether you call it the plantar plant, the hock lock or the tarsal torque, this photograph is a keeper. Events send me lots of competition photos, all very nice, but this one shows a horse working very, very hard. Double-click on this photo for an enlarged view to see the detail of this movement. You can almost feel the horse holding himself in place on the footing. The FEI rule book stipulates that the right hind would stay in place throughout the movement, although video analysis has shown that horses don't or perhaps can't actually do that. (FEI Photo by Kit Houghton)

The horse is Mistral Hojris, a Danish-bred ridden by Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer today in the Grand Prix Special individual competition at the Alltech FEI European Championships at Windsor Castle in England. Records fell there today as not one but two Dutch riders--Gold medalist Adelinde Cornilessen and silver medalist Edward Gal--broke records for high scores in that event. And Laura and Mistral won the bronze medal for Great Britain, as she finished ahead of Olympic gold medalist Anky Van Grunsven, also of The Netherlands.

The announcer reportedly said when Laura came down the centerline to halt, "You can breathe again." And he didn't just mean Laura, he meant the entire British audience. Chef d'equipe Will Connell even blogged that the farrier had tears in his eyes watching the ride.

If you are one of those who still thinks that dressage is boring, consider this statement from Ground Jury President Stephen Clarke who said "I've judged a few championships in my time but I've never seen sport like this. This was the greatest moment in dressage history - we've never seen riders performing at such a level before and now the sport is wide open - anyone can win. I want to applaud the courage of the riders who rode so brilliantly under pressure - this was an outstanding day," he added. "At times the hair was standing up on the back of my neck! At odd moments, we were saying to each other '10's are just not enough' to reward what we have seen."

Interviewed after the event, silver medalist Edward Gal commented, when asked if there is now a new Dutch school of dressage, "It’s about how we ride. It feels good and it looks good, but it’s not just about training. We just keep the horses happy. You need to adapt your riding to your horse and not the other way around."

The musical freestyle is the next event at the championships, and will be held on Saturday.

This photo in a way reminds me of the nice photo from California of champion Thoroughbred mare Zenyatta bursting from the starting gate on hind legs acting like power thrusters. It was on the blog a few weeks ago. I like photos that show athletic horses fully engaged, working hard; they are something magnificent to behold. Capturing it in a split second with a camera is very difficult.

If you enlarge the photo you will also see that the grooming regimen for Mistral Hojris didn't include close-shaving his muzzle, although it may have been tidied up a bit.


© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rachel and Kensei: Footwear of the Fleet and Famous during Travers Week at Saratoga

by Fran Jurga | 24 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

With legs like these, you can understand why champion racehorse Rachel Alexandra was chosen to model for a portrait in the August issue of Vogue magazine. She posed for fashion photographer (and horse owner) Stephen Klein soon after winning the Preakness Stakes in May. Sarah K. Andrew snapped this shot in Saratoga a few weeks ago, when Rachel was awaiting a visit by horseshoer David Hinton.

Note: the double or bonded shoe on her left front is an optical illusion; it's a reflection in a puddle on the stall mat. Rachel wears flat made-in-the-USA raceplates in front, according to Hinton and is so well mannered that when he accidentally dropped her foot once, she delicately picked her foot back up and placed it right back in his hand.

What's the definition of pressure in horse racing? Hinton knew he might need to shoe Rachel Alexandra after she was purchased in early May. When the decision was made to run her in the Preakness, it meant that she needed to be shod that day. That's right: the morning of the race. Each nail driven into the hoof was a chance to draw blood; one jerk, one rear and a rasp might scrape her coronet. But nothing went wrong. Nothing has gone wrong, that we know of. She just keeps on running.

Comparing this photo to the Vogue shot, I'd say the combination of a Saratoga lifestyle, Asmussen training, Hinton's hoofcare and Jackson ownership are all agreeing with the filly; her hoof walls look much better after a couple of months at the Spa. Maybe Rachel should consider permanent residence!

NEWS FLASH! Trainer Steve Asmussen announced this morning that Rachel Alexandra will run against older horses in the Woodward at Saratoga on September 5th. The Grade 1 Woodward is a 1 1/8 miles and on dirt, of course. Now, if it could just be on television...


Rachel's stablemate Kensei is headed to Saturday's Traves Stakes for three-year-olds, where he will face Quality Road, Summer Bird and Mine That Bird, among others. Kensei made winning the Jim Dandy Stakes look easy; he did it wearing these Burns Polyflex glue-on shoes. They have the square-toe polyurethane design made for another Asmussen trainee, Curlin, when he was training at Saratoga last summer. Kensei is still carrying some of the racetrack around with him as a souvenir.

Athletic footwear is a big deal in other sports, why am I the only one who seems to care about what these horses are wearing? It does make a difference: just like a basketball player prefers a certain brand of shoe or height of shoe, these horses must have preferences. They just can't tell us. But they can tell a good horseshoer, and they do.

A good horseshoer can see in the way the shoe is worn, and where it is worn and not worn, whether the horse is using the shoe and landing in a functional way, and using the shoe to push off. You can read a horseshoe and you can read a foot, and if you're good at it, you can help keep a horse comfortable and safe on its feet. It's an important job. And it matters. Boy, does it matter.

Many, many thanks to Sarah K. Andrew for her patience and effort in getting these photos and allowing The Hoof Blog to post them here. Sarah became intrigued with her own horse's shoeing and started to notice the feet of horses at the track, much to my delight. Most photographers don't even think to aim the camera at a horse's feet and legs, but there's a lot of information there that a good photograph can convey, as well as the beauty of one of nature's most amazing structures.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Born-Again Walking Horse Celebration Begins This Week Under New Inspection, Attitude

by Fran Jurga | 23 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Trainer Chad Williams trains The Lineman for the upcoming Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee. (Photo from The Tennessean newspaper)

Here we go. Every year about this time I wonder if should go to Tennessee. I have never been to the Walking Horse Celebration. In fact, I have never been to a walking horse show. As a result, I don't mouth off about soring and training techniques because other than a few horses I have seen while traveling in the South, I've still not seen these wonderful horses compete in an exclusive walking horse show.

Around here, walking horses are one of the most popular trail horses and far removed from the show culture in the south that gets the breed so much bad press...and yet maintains such a stalwart following. I imagine the atmosphere at a walking horse show is sort of like the lobster boat races in Maine or the oxen pulls in Vermont. If you're from there, you get it.

Except for the presence of inspectors. And the state police. Just a few years ago, the Celebration was stopped and public safety was an issue. That's how mad people were when USDA inspectors actually inspected the horses for soring evidence. The trainers said that the inspectors didn't use valid criteria and wanted their own inspectors back.

When USDA inspectors pulled up at a show, the trainers loaded up and pulled out, even when it was--as often was the case--a charity show to benefit a hospital or community organization's fundraising efforts.

In the past year, there has been massive restructuring and reorganization that might make this year's Celebration peaceful and profitable and a showcase for sound, safe horses. Let's hope.

The Tennessean newspaper published a lengthy article today that gives the background leading up to this year's new-rules show. It doesn't pull any punches or sugar-coat the issue.

Among the facts: abuse allegations by federal inspectors have sky-rocketed this year, even leading to the first lifetime bans. But pair that with this fact: 150,000 tickets have already been sold for this year's Celebration. How many people buy tickets to attend other breed horse shows, do you think? Or a dressage show? Even the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event attracts only about 20,000 people on its final day.

Walking horses remain the most publicized enigma of the American horse industry. The show horses and their culture are a lightning rod: Some shun them, some embrace them. Some say the trainers and owners are misunderstood, some say they are criminals.

And they've been saying that for more than 30 years now, since the Horse Protection Act was passed to prevent soring and abusive shoeing. And I'm still writing these articles. Still wondering how and why this continues to be a raw, open wound in horse showing's hide.

Read that article, but don't believe everything you hear. Like so many things these days, there's no easy solution to an old wound like this.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friends at Work: Ray Amato Intrigues the Press at Saratoga

by Fran Jurga | 21 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

"It's gotta be the shoes."

Todd Pletcher has broken nearly all the records for Thoroughbred racehorse trainers in the United States and what will he tell you is one key factor in his success? His horseshoer.

Approach Pletcher's Oklahoma training stable at Saratoga and you see what might be a little shrine, if you know where to look. Thick stall mats form a makeshift shoeing floor and big lights on stands are tucked away at the end of the shedrow during the day, but they come out so that the stable's horseshoer can get to work before the sun comes up.

That horseshoer would be Ray Amato, the 77-year-old secret weapon of Team Pletcher, and this week's darling of the New York media.

As Quality Road preps for the Mid-Summer Derby, The Travers Stakes, at Saratoga next Saturday, Ray is sure to attract a lot of attention. Quality Road missed the Triple Crown races while he recovered from front and hind quarter cracks, but he's come roaring back with a track record-setting prep race and is the favorite of many for next week's big race, though he will face Mine That Bird, Summer Bird, Kensai and perhaps even Rachel Alexandra.

Everyone wants to know how Quality Road's feet are...and they'll get a good story from Ray Amato.

Click here to go to the Albany Channel 9 television station to see the first of two interviews with Ray conducted by sports reporter Joe Calderone. Actually, Joe just let the camera roll and Ray just was himself.

And that's something pretty special.

Poem for a Summer's Night: The Two-Headed Calf

I'm not sure that I've ever put a poem on this blog before but this little verse has been on my mind these recent hot summer nights. It's one of my favorites, a gift by chance when listening to the radio one day. It sounded much longer when read aloud.

The poet is Laura Gilpin, who is no longer with us. She was a nurse and an advocate for humanizing hospital care for the terminally ill and she wrote a lot about animals, people, life and death in a way that seems very authentic to me.

So here you have one of my favorite poems, an ode to a summer's night and all its infinite possibilities and tragedies, depending on how you look at things:

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass.
And as he stares into the sky, there
are twice as many stars as usual.

--Laura Gilpin
from her anthology The Hocus Pocus of the Universe

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When Upset Defeated Man o' War, A Future Governor's Family Didn't Look a Gift House in the Mouth

by Fran Jurga | 13 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

The horseshoer's great-grandson in the clubhouse at Saratoga earlier this month. Did Mr. Gibbs ever even set foot in that building, I wonder? Click here to read the New York Daily News account of Mr. Paterson's day at the races and why one of the current-day Whitney racehorses has a tongue-in-cheek link to the New York State House.

It happened 90 years ago today. Some call it the most monumental footnote in American horse racing history. Some call it the biggest mistake in the record books. Call it what you will: On August 13, 1919, a horse with the apt name of Upset scored a win against the mighty Man o’ War in the Sanford Memorial Stakes at Saratoga Racecourse. The defeat was Man o’ War's only career loss in 21 starts.

The historians love to dissect the race, partly because of its legendary botched start--was Man 'o War really facing the wrong way?--and partly because of it took place during the golden age of millionaires' racing stables. But there's more to this story. As so often is the case, there are some horseshoes buried in this legendary horse race.

From what we have learned in the past two years, it seems that the wealthy Mr. Whitney, the owner of Upset, was so pleased with his horse's victory that he rewarded his racing stable employees with real estate in some of the new housing he was building in the boroughs of New York. The crew would need to be close to his main center of operations at Belmont Park on Long Island and it would be in his interest to give them permanent homes nearby.

Among the beneficiaries was Mr. Gibbs, the blacksmith to the Whitney racing empire. He was given a home in Brooklyn, which stayed in his family for generations. And I hope he tacked a horseshoe over the door!

Someone who went in and out of that house was the great-grandson of Mr. Gibbs. Nowadays, the great-grandson goes in and out of another house, the State House of New York, where he serves as governor.

Governor David Paterson told the story of Upset, the horseshoe, and the gift house when he presented the trophy at the 2008 Belmont Stakes. He said that the gift house made a huge difference in his family's middle-class status and improved his chances for realizing education and career goals, in spite of his impaired vision.

And all because a horse named Upset needed horseshoes.

I tried to get through to Governor Paterson this week for a quote for this article about this auspicious anniversary but his aides said he was too busy. I hope he knew what day it was. He might be Upset to have missed it.

Click here to read more about Governor Paterson's link to Man o' War, and about the horseshoers who served both horses 90 years ago today. An African-American and an Irish immigrant held the all-important hooves of those two horses in their hands, and made sure they were well shod and sound to run the race of their lives--a race we're still talking about, and learning about, 90 years later!

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Monmouth Park Loosens Track Shoeing Rules to Allow 4mm Toe Grab

by Fran Jurga | 14 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Monmouth Park in New Jersey is the latest track in the Mid Atlantic region to take advantage of the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee’s memorandum to allow toe grabs up to four millimeters in height on front shoes on dirt racing surfaces only. The Safety Committee's loosening of the 2mm height restriction was recommended to allow racetracks the option if their trainers and horseshoers felt that their track surfaces might call for a taller grab.

Monmouth's new rule will go into effect for all dirt races at the track – including graded stakes – on Wednesday, August 19, 2009.

The previous rule allowed for toe grabs up to two millimeters, but the adjustment was made when it was reported that an unusually high number of horses were stumbling at the start of races, according to a press release issued today by Monmouth.

The rule applies to toe grabs on front shoes only, and in no cases is a height greater than four millimeters allowable. No traction devices of any kind are allowed on shoes worn in grass races.

Delaware Park made a similar change.

Click here to read the text of the Jockey Club's recent statement on toe grab regulation relaxation. The rule changes, if desired, must be done track by track and only allow the option of a higher grab on front shoes. State-wide rules may also be relaxed or may stay at 2 mm but that is a more involved process. It's not known how many trainers will take advantage of the option or what effect the change might have.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Mine That Bird's Hooves Experience One of Saratoga's Most Famous Traditions

Saratoga is a star-studded place this summer. While the grandstand seemed a little empty this afternoon, and Broadway clears out much earlier at night than in years gone by, it's clear to see that the celebs on the backside are getting all the press and are the center of all the gossip. When and where will Rachel run next? Is Kensai the real deal? What giant slayers is Jerkens hiding? Will Quality Road's feet hold up?

And everyone is curious about Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who pulled into town last week and set up camp. Yes, trainer Chip Woolley is still on crutches.

Mine That Bird's hooves hadn't hit the shady Saratoga dirt for long before our friend and ace photographer Sarah K. Andrew hunkered down for a hoofcare-eye view while the champ enjoyed a bath. She knew you'd want to see his feet, which are pretty long by New York racetrack fashion but he just might like them that way.

With luck, Mine That Bird will start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 29, where he would meet (potentially) Summer Bird, Quality Road, Kensai, and maybe even Rachel Alexandra, among others. Birdstone, sire of Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, won the Travers in 2004 for his owner and Saratoga resident, Mrs. Marylou Whitney.

Mine That Bird is usually shod by Mike Johnson in New Mexico.

Saratoga is famed for its naturally mineral-rich spring waters. There are springs downtown and even one in the "backyard" of the racetrack. Mineral springs helped make Saratoga one of the first resorts in America. For 150 years or more, the public has come to Saratoga to take a bath in the waters, which are believed to have therapeutic effects. Horse races were started in the town as entertainment for the bathers; they couldn't spend all their time in the water.

Mine That Bird certainly seemed to be enjoying his bathtime, in the Saratoga tradition. In a few weeks he'll put those hooves to work and do his partt to entertain and possibly enrich the modern-day bathers and betters.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Industry News: Arenus Acquires Sore No More Liniment and Equilite

by Fran Jurga | 10 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Last year Sore No More launched an herbal poultice

One of the sport and racehorse world's most popular products has a new parent company.

St. Louis-based Arenus announced today that it recently acquired the intellectual property, technology and product lines of Equilite, Inc., makers of Sore No More liniment and the Equilite family of supplements and botanical products.

In a press release, Arenus stated that it acquired Equilite’s three product lines: the Sore No-More® Liniment Product Line, Herbal Supplement line and Botanical Animal® Flower Essence line, totaling 39 individual products. Other Equilite products include bathing, fly control, general health, behavioral training, relaxation, liniment and legs, as well as natural pasture seed.

“Arenus’s philosophy is to provide unique health products that holistically address specific issues and Equilite™ products do just that,” said Celeste Mohatt, Arenus Marketing Manager. “The market trend is toward a more holistic, natural approach to horse care and Equilite fulfills this need.”

“Arenus brings to the table an unprecedented level of experience in animal health research and product development,” said Stacey Palmer Small, Founder and President of Equilite™. “The Arenus team is committed more than ever in bringing to market products that will continue to improve the lives of the equine and companion animals we all love and care for.”

The product Sore No-More® was originally designed to meet the needs of race horses that are faced with extremely stressful situations. Track veterinarians were looking for an alternative way to help support their traditional methods of treatment, so they asked Small to research herbs as a possible adjunctive route. She started with a two-year course in Chinese Medicine and continued her studies which lead to the creation of the first two products, Sore No-More® and the Garli+C™ Blend.

Sore No-More® was named Product of the Year by
Horse Journal in 2000 and 2007.

Like Arenus, Equilite is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council, which enforces good animal health supplement manufacturing, labeling and marketing practice standards.

Other ARENUS® product lines include STEADFAST®, a joint health supplement and ASSURE®, a digestive aid family. For more information about Equilite products visit www.equilite.com or www.arenus.com.

ARENUS® is owned by Novus Nutrition Brands, LLC (a Novus International company) and is specifically dedicated to improving the health, performance, and longevity of all horses and dogs.


photo © Fran Jurga. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Curlin's Horseshoe Beat Him to the Hall of Fame

by Fran Jurga | 10 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

The square-toe glue-on Polyflex horseshoe design dictated by Curlin's 2008 campaign needs

A highlight of last week's Hoofcare and Lameness/Hoofcare@Saratoga reception for the Ride On! exhibit at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was a little piece of plastic with a big story to tell.

Oklahoma horseshoer David Hinton had been scheduled to be with us but had to change his plans; he will be with us this week at the Parting Glass at 7 pm (August 11) instead.

David shoes for the Asmussen Racing Stable and flies all over the country. Last year, he was working on Curlin when the champion colt was stabled at Saratoga and training for the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup as part of his campaign toward the 2008 Breeders Cup and becoming North America's richest-ever racehorse.

Trainer Steve Asmussen had success with the Polyflex shoe developed by Saratoga horseshoer Curtis Burns on other horses but he only wanted a square-toed "Silver Queen" type glue on for Curlin. The problem: the Polyflex shoe had a round toe.

Changing the mold for one horse in the middle of the busiest time of the year was a tall order for the Polyflex team but somehow, but mid-summer, a prototype was made and put in Hinton's hands to try on Curlin. Not only did it work, the company soon added the design as an alternate model and it is selling well.

Curlin went on to wear the shoes for the rest of his career. Asmussen starter Kensai wore Polyflex glue shoes a week ago when he won the Jim Dandy, although I don't know if they were square toes or round toes.

One of the square-toe shoes that Curlin wore in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when he passed the $10 million earning mark, was presented with documentation to the National Museum of Racing last Tuesday, on behalf of Stonestreet Farms, owner of Curlin. Burns and Hinton worked behind the scenes with Hoofcare and Lameness to make this happen for the night of the reception, which was sponsored by Life Data Labs.

The shoe was presented to curator Beth Sheffer, who was thrilled to receive it. She said it was the first glue-on shoe the museum would have in its permanent collection, although they currently have on display Big Brown's Kentucky Derby Yasha shoe on loan from Ian McKinlay.

Sheffer revealed that the museum had received the extensive shoe collection of Calumet Farm in Kentucky and its late trainer Jimmie Jones. The collection is in storage.

The Ride On exhibit contains examples of horseshoes, hoof boots, and pads used to overcome different lameness problems, especially laminitis, in horses. Included in the exhibit are two handmade shoes by Michael Wildenstein FWCF (Hons), adjunct professor of farrier science at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and a selection of rail and roller motion shoes by Dr. Scott Morrison of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital's Podiatry Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. Also included is the Soft-Ride hoof boot, which Dr Morrison helped to develop for laminitic horses.

Dr. Morrison will speak on Tuesday, August 11 in the Hoofcare@Saratoga series at the Parting Glass, 40 Lake Avenue, Saratoga Springs, at 7 p.m.; Michael Wildenstein will speak on August 18 at 7 p.m., with a farrier-only session in the afternoon. Admission to both lectures is free; seating is limited.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Zenyatta in Hind Hoof Drive


Embrace the Power of Zenyatta, originally uploaded by alydar_1978.

For people who just can't seem to understand why horses need different shoes on their hind feet than on their front feet, here's your answer.

Charles Pravata shot this most amazing anatomical study of the hind quarters and limbs of the great race mare Zenyatta springing from the starting gate at Del Mar last month in the Vanity. She was carrying a whopping 129 pounds. (Needless to say, she still won.)

The track surface at Del Mar is Polytrack; Zenyatta is a real California girl and prefers Designer Dirt over Real Dirt.

Thanks to Charles Pravata for probably risking his life to take this photo and to Raceday360 for bringing it to my attention and to Zenyatta for being Zenyatta. She has nice feet, too.

Video: Thoro'Bred Racing Plates Are Born and Bred in California. See How They're Made!

by Fran Jurga | 6 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog



On Tuesday night, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York celebrated the addition of a new case of shoes to its "Ride On!" exhibit on advances in racehorse health and safety. As part of the Hoofcare@Saratoga series for 2009, Hoofcare & Lameness hosted a little reception, sponsored by Life Data Labs, and I pointed out some of the innovative shoes and boots and hoofcare products that the museum had selected to display.

My point was that horseshoes are much like mousetraps: people keep trying to invent a better one, a more ideal one. Of better materials: stronger, lighter, more supportive, longer laster, more colorful, more healing, or sometimes just more complicated.

There were two companies I didn't mention but you will certaily see their shoes in that museum and all over the backside at Saratoga. They are the Victory Race Plate Company of Baltimore, Maryland and the Thoro'Bred Racing Plate Company of Anaheim, California.

Their shoes may not be in the exhibit of therapeutic shoes and braces and boots, but you will find them all over the museum in the cases of the trophy shoes of the champion racehorses like Secretariat.

The Orange County Register in California made a trip to Anaheim recently to see how raceplates are made and say hello to Thoro'Bred's Ed Kinney on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of his company. I hope you will enjoy this video.

Ed and Thoro'Bred were supporters of Hoofcare@Saratoga last year and we appreciate their support. We have it from an inside source that Thoro'Bred shoes are the equivalent of the Jimmie Chooz faves of the top three-year-old filly in the USA; she wore them when she modeled for her fashion portrait, shot by Steven Klein, in this month's issue of Vogue Magazine. Check it out the next time you're near a newsstand!

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Google Ocean and the Animated MRI of a Horse's Foot

by Fran Jurga | 4 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

This blog post is comprised of three "aha!" moments.

It began back in February when I was intrigued by the launch of Google Oceans, an enhancement of Google Earth that allows us to look at the ocean floor, go inside the hull of a sunken ship, or explore the base of an iceberg in Antarctica. I imagine one day soon that the lobstermen around here won't have to go out and check their traps anymore; they will simply get on Google Ocean, type in the GPS coordinates of each trap, and see what they've caught. Then they would have to haul only those traps.

The image (above) that Google Ocean served up to promote its new program made me think of the horse's hoof, of course. The hoof has a lot in common with an iceberg. Everything is going on where we can't see it. Things are larger than they appear on the surface. And there's more to it than meets the eye. And as the history of the Titanic will tell you, a problem with an iceberg can ruin your day, or even end it. The same goes for a hoof.

Fast forward a couple of months and I'm lying inside an MRI unit in Massachusetts General Hospital. I'm determined to understand and appreciate this uncomfortable and deafening experience and use whatever I can get out of it to enhance my comprehension of magnetic imaging of the horse's foot.

Except no one on the staff wants to talk to me and the noise is too loud for conversation anyway.
I appreciate MRI images of the horse's foot because it is a new way to see inside the foot but I'm never sure what I'm looking at because I am trying to keep in mind that that is just a slice, unlike a radiograph. The MRI is like a strip of film negatives of a sequence of images in an old-fashioned filmstrip (albeit in 3D). When the radiologist looks at the MRI, he or she views the series mounted together on a sheet, not a single isolated image. Together, they make up the whole, but the isolated view reveals the injury.

MRI should be a collective noun, not a singular. That's what I brought out of that clanging tube that day at the hospital.

Fast forward again. Now it's the end of July and I'm in Columbus, Ohio, sitting in the back row at the AAEP's Focus on the Foot summer meeting. I'm really enjoying the speakers, taking notes like mad, and regretting missing the first day.

A change in the schedule brings North Carolina State University's Dr Rich Redding to the stage; he had been the victim of media glitches the day before, so his lecture was rescheduled. What a bonus for me! His lecture offers a hybrid approach to examining the foot and selecting the imaging modality for an injury diagnosis. All his images of the foot are lovely and explained very clearly but it all comes together for me when he compares four cases of foot injuries--puncture wound, two collateral ligament strains, and navicular zone pain by showing their MRIs.

The first thing that caught my attention was the should-be standard technique of showing a dissected foot cut at a specific point, and positioning an MRI "slice" at the same point next to it. That helped visualize the level in the foot where the injury was, and all the structures seen in the MRI, since the navicular bone can be viewed on so many different slices through the coffin joint.

Then, instead of showing an isolated MRI slice that showed the lesion site, he animated the slices into a fly-through of the entire MRI series.


Dr. Redding writes: "This was a horse that had a puncture to the navicular bone that damaged the Deep Digital Flexor (DDF) Tendon with a flap of tendinous tissue on the dorsal tendon proximal to the navicular bone. There is hemosiderin in the digital cushion where the nail penetrated the frog into the DDF and navicular bone." (Rough translation: the nail was in the back part of the foot so it grazed the upper surface of the navicular bone, which is at the level of the short pastern bone in the coffin joint. Watch the video and when the black square of P2 appears, you will see the injured area very briefly.)

It was Google Ocean all over again. You're beneath the surface, flying through; stop where you like and have a look around.

When they decide to do Google Hoof, I'm ready. Or maybe we're already doing it.

Thanks to Dr. Redding for the loan of this animation.


© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Quality Road Recovers from Quarter Cracks and Smashes Track Record at Saratoga!

A quick news flash from Saratoga: You may remember the name of Quality Road, a three-year-old who was a top contender for the Triple Crown this spring until he popped a quarter crack in a hind foot while setting a new track record at Gulfstream.

While recovering from that crack, he popped one in his front foot on the same side. The colt has been laid up since March, trained lightly, and switched trainers from Jimmie Jerkens to Todd Pletcher.

Quality Road had his first start today since Gulfstream and he won the Amsterdam Stakes on while setting a new track record for six and a half furlongs on the dirt at New York's Saratoga track.

And he set that record in spite of stumbling out of the gate.

It looks like Quality Road is back on all four feet again. That's the kind of hoofcare success story we like to report.

Seamus Brady: US Equestrian Team Tribute to a Farrier



Gladstone, NJ - August 3, 2009 - The USET Foundation remembers today Seamus Brady of Whitehouse Station, NJ. Brady passed away on Monday, July 27, at the age of 77. Brady, who was born in County Cavin, Ireland, and trained at the Irish Army Equitation School in Dublin. He immigrated to the United States more than 50 years ago and became one of the most respected farriers in the world. Brady was the official farrier for the U.S. Equestrian Team for many years and was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame in 2002.

Seamus came to the United States and worked for USET Director Arthur McCashin at his Four Furlongs Farm in Pluckemin, NJ. Seamus was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was a chauffeur to a general. His time in the Army gave Seamus the chance to learn more about welding and metalworking. Arthur’s son, Dr. Fred McCashin VMD, remembers, “When he came out (of the Army), he came back to see dad, who gave him some tools to start shoeing on his own. The rest is history.”

Seamus made a name for himself by working for some of the largest show barns in the country, by pioneering techniques, by teaching a number of up-and-coming farriers, and by being a consummate horseman.

Farrier Tom Ciannello apprenticed with Seamus in 1975, and they were close friends for the next three decades. “Shoeing was his life; it was the center of his life,” he stated. “If something ‘couldn’t be done,’ he would strive even harder to accomplish it. Seamus really put his heart and soul into every shoeing job. Our favorite saying was that you gotta love it, and he really did. He just really cared. That was one thing that he instilled in everybody that worked with him. Don’t worry about how long it takes, but just be proud of what you did. Everybody is going to miss him.”

In addition to his work with the USET, where Seamus was the team farrier for all three disciplines and was the team farrier at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, he was the farrier at a number of show barns, from Ronnie Mutch’s Nimrod Farm to the Leone family’s Ri-Arm Farm. He was also the farrier for George Morris’ Hunterdon Farm for 34 years. “He was a great asset to the USET and really part of the USET in a way. He was one of the pillars of Hunterdon,” said Morris, who is now the U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe. “He was famous as a great guy and a great friend. He was a very good friend of mine.”

Carol Hoffman Thompson rode for the USET from 1963 to 1973 and remembers Seamus as a “master of shoeing.” She noted, “He was the very best. He had a great sense of humor, and I had a lot of respect for him.”

Morris agreed, “He was a real old-fashioned Irish horseman. He was a horseman first. He was innovative, very imaginative. As he went along, he kept being innovative. I would often listen to him and after conferring with him and the vets, sometimes use his advice and opinion over the vets’. He was the guru teacher, and subsequent generations will owe him. He brought people in as working students, he shared with other blacksmiths, and in a sense, he is a father of American blacksmith technology. That goes across North America and to Europe too. He was one of the greats that I ever had anything to do with. I can’t say enough about him.”

Ciannello felt the same about Seamus as Morris. “People know him from all over. He was quite an ambassador for the USET and the horse business. Everybody wanted to talk to him, and he was just a really nice guy. If you knew Seamus and he knew you, and there was a mutual respect there, he was the best friend you could have.”

Surviving are his beloved children, son, Douglas Brady and wife, Loriann of Flemington, NJ; his daughters, Linda Colleen Deutsch and husband, Adam of Whitehouse Station, NJ, and Laura Jean Brady of Summerfield, NC; Ruth Moyer Brady, the cherished mother of his children; his beloved grandchildren, Casey Ann and Douglas Brian; eight brothers and sisters in Ireland; along with many other loving relatives and friends who will miss Seamus dearly.

Prayer Service for Seamus was held on Saturday, August 1, at the Branchburg Funeral Home, in Branchburg, NJ. For more information or to send condolences, please visit, BranchburgFuneralHome.com.

Photo Credit: Former USET official farrier Seamus Brady, 1932-2009. Photo courtesy of Maureen Pethick.

AQHA Laminitis Download Link for Steward Clog Information

by Fran Jurga | 3 August 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Dr. Mike Steward of Shawnee, Oklahoma developed a simple, inexpensive and effective shoeing treatment for laminitis by making a "Steward Clog" out of plywood. Photo by Andrew Knittle, The Shawnee News-Star.

Tomorrow night the town of Saratoga Springs, New York is going to hear all about clog shoes for laminitis. And have a good time doing it. The Hoofcare@Saratoga series will welcome Dr Michael Steward to be the first speaker of 2009, as we kickoff the year at the National Museum of Racing.

Whether you are planning to come or not, here's a chance to download a great article. "Going Dutch" by Holly Clanahan won second place in the American Horse Publications Awards last month for articles published in 2008. The article is about Dr. Michael Steward of Shawnee, Oklahoma and his clog shoe for laminitis.

AQHA graciously timed the first-ever release of a free download of the article to coincide with Dr. Steward's trip to speak in Saratoga. But this article can and will benefit plenty of horses, owners, veterinarians, and farriers who have never heard of Saratoga or Shawnee.

Click here to initiate the download process on the AQHA web site. Thanks to the AQHA for their help with this, and for the exposure they have given to Dr. Steward and his simple, cost-effective treatment. Yes, many of his cases are Quarter horses but this treatment has now been adopted and adapted (for better or worse) by many levels of farriers and veterinarians and is being used on all sorts of cases.

Tomorrow night we will be celebrating the shoes and boots that are on display in the National Museum of Racing lobby exhibit this summer. Among them is what looks like a stray piece of plywood that the exhibit fabricator left behind. That's the Steward Clog. It will be a pleasure to show Dr Steward his shoe in the Museum's collection.

The right foot of this horse is wearing a Steward Clog held in place with deck screws. Casting tape will stabilize the hoof wall and the appliance.

I think it is important to remember that this shoe was originally a simple design that Dr. Steward's clients could afford. Necessity was the mother of invention. For many people, laminitis was not a case of could their horse be helped but could they afford the help? The Steward Clog was an alternative. Now it seems to be in danger of becoming another high-priced boutique shoeing treatment.

The original way--the simple clog--still works and would be a great, cost-effective technique for equine rescue farms to master. I hope they'll be in the audience Tuesday night, along with everyone who cares about real-world laminitis.

I hope we can work toward a day when "lack of funds" will no longer have to be written as the cause of death on a foundered horse's medical record. And I thank Dr Steward and everyone else who is trying to help work toward that day.


© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

Jersey Girl! Rachel Alexandra Doesn't Mind Getting Her Feet Wet As She Scorches the Colts in the Haskell

In Kentucky, they play "My Old Kentucky Home" before the Derby. Before the Preakness in Baltimore, it's "Maryland, My Maryland." The Belmont swings to the tune of "New York, New York."

And when Rachel Alexandra stepped out on the Monmouth Park racetrack on the Jersey Shore today, what song did they play to introduce the field of the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational?

Think about it.

Sure enough. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run". If that song couldn't get a filly in the mood to fly, what song could? And off she went, toying two or three wide until midway around the turn for home and then whooosssh.

If you enlarge this photo, or go to YouTube and watch the race, you will see that this filly is so particular about her feet that jockey Calvin Borel finished the race with pretty much a clean set of silks. The same cannot be said of the other jockeys.

It was a miserable day with driving rain, lightning, flooding, and (unfortunately), horses down in the early races. I wondered if they wouldn't just load Rachel up and take her home to Saratoga but the weather improved and Rachel gave everyone something to talk about about.

She'll always have a soft spot for Springsteen now. And he'll be in Saratoga to play a concert the week of her (probably, hopefully) next start, the Travers Stakes on August 29.

Thanks to Sarah K. Andrew for this stunning capture of the finish line, where no one but Rachel was in sight.