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Friday, May 16, 2008

Big Brown's Big Switch: New Shoes, New Heels for Tomorrow's Preakness

This morning, I stumbled out onto the lawn and grabbed the paper before the sea gulls could target it (or me). Once inside, I propped the paper up, set to peruse it with coffee in hand, when I sputtered in amazement: Hey! Hey! Hey!

There on the front page of the Boston Globe was not a photo of the Boston Celtics in their playoff bid for the NBA championship, nor a photo of the Red Sox, but rather a huge photo of Big Brown getting new shoes (and heels) yesterday at Pimlico in Baltimore, in preparation for tomorrow's Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown for three-year old Thoroughbreds.

(Sports, by the way, are front-page news here in Boston.)

I was surprised. Trainer Richard Dutrow obviously made a big change in plans here. Earlier this week, he said that Big Brown would not be re-shod for the Preakness, but that he would have Ian McKinlay work on the horse when he arrived in New York for the Belmont Stakes, the third race in the series.

Following the Kentucky Derby, farrier Tom Curl, who had worked on the horse through the winter in Florida, said that the feet came through the Derby very well and the adhesive wasn't cracked and the Yasha shoes were stable.

Obviously, they decided to give his feet a tuneup. The horse also went out for a light work over the Pimlico surface wearing bell boots to protect his new glue and a mud knot in his tail.

Other news this week was that Big Brown will not race as a four-year-old. He will go to stud sometime later this year. Also, if he does not win the Preakness tomorrow, he will not go on to the Belmont. But will he go on to Saratoga for the Travers and on to Santa Anita in the fall for the 2008 Breeders Cup?

Thanks to sports desk for the following shots from a slide show of hoof repair specialist Ian McKinlay of New Jersey working on the Kentucky Derby winner.

Apparently, Ian drew quite a crowd yesterday, including Tom Hammond and Donna Brothers of NBC, so you may see Ian (or, more likely, the top of his head while he's working) on tomorrow's telecast of the race. Let's hope you see him in the winner's circle!

PS Friday Afternoon Update: Ian checked in and said that Big Brown's feet are "just fantastic", but that they had gotten a bit long. He just trimmed up the feet and reset the Yasha shoes and pads. He said that when he started, there was one guy standing around to watch and by the time he was into the job, the word was out and it "turned into a free-for-all".


hoofhearts said...

I am not surprised that they would haul this horse out of racing right away.
They probably know he will break down anytime. Get him out now, while on a good note to make money off stud fees.

I am appauled that they are going to race this horse on "fake heels" AGAIN, and so soon!
Hard not to tag it as a money sport when they do things like this to the animals.

While I don't mind that they reproduce this horse...(As I don't believe most hoof issues are hereditary like many are led to believe), I do mind that they are racing him under these circumstances.

It is reasons like this, that I choose not to watch horse racing, let alone support it by bidding on it.

Not fair to the horses.

rather rapid said...

Hoofhearts quite obviously knows next to nothing about hoof repair. hence her beliefs. we've been seeing so much of that since eight belles with people making suppositions on false premises. Hoofhearts--that wall is almost all the way grown down. there's zero discomfort to the horse, and that he's able to race and do track work this way indicates the strength of the hoof capsule at the moment.

BB was last shod 4/11. They cut his toes way back, but, looks as if that toe on right front is just a tad long for maximum stride efficiency. is that why they decided to go ahead + would they be worried about the glue weakening. I would. Might they be more comfortable if they drove a couple of nails? Especially for an off track!

Anonymous said...

I know a great deal about hoof repair, and I know that a hoof is NOT a piece to a machine, so to go at it like you are fixing a rusty part on your car is ludicrous!

Beliefs have ZERO to do with it, it is the facts. Facts show that the reason for heel breakage is bad hoof care to begin with. Get that straightened out, and the horse wouldn't have to be pieced togther like a hotrod.

Like Fran said in an earlier post:

"But most of all, horses aren't supposed to race in--let alone win--a Grade I race and the most famous race in the world, at that, with lumps of epoxy both filling cavities where his inside heels used to be and holding on shoes with rubber gaskets between the shoe and hoof wall.

Did he win in spite of his foot injuries or because of his designer shoes?"

Does that not sound like someone working on a machine?

Regardless of "repair" method, the horse is being raced with missing pieces to his anatomy. And being made to work his hardest for the biggest race.

If money wasn't involved, this animal would have been rested until completely healed.

Now what kind of "Beliefs" make you do THAT to an animal?

Fran Jurga said...

Yes, "Anonymous", I did say that.

They also aren't supposed to be competing next week at Devon, or hauling for AQHA halter points, or chasing barrels.

But they do, every weekend.

Tom Curl, who worked on Big Brown, also worked on quarter cracks on two show hunters at the Kentucky show last week who popped quarter cracks, so they can compete at Devon (Devon Horse Show in PA).

So it's not just racing that won't give a horse time to recover. And the pressure is just as bad at lower level shows where there is no prize money. If the owners have the money, they want the horse patched up and in the ring.

It's not an ideal situation but the only way out of it, short of shutting down racing and showing and all horse sports, is to prevent the damage in the first place.

You can file this under "there she goes again..." but I think that new developments like Yasha shoes and the hundreds of new shoes and boots and technical aids in development make the future much brighter. And these new ideas are coming from people working in the field who are sick of patching and lacing and gluing a horse whose career is limited by foot problems.

We need better care for young horses and an increased awareness of what normal looks like. Or should look like. Make that normal as in healthy, not normal as in average.

As far as I know, Big Brown is not on pain medication. From what Ian says, the horse is sound...with the shoes and heel cushions.

CanuckCowgirl said...

Hi, I am a new reader. I am getting to like this blog alot. I am a teen learning to trim hooves. There are very few farriers will to drive out here without a price tag that I can not pay. I find this very educational. My goal is to one day not have to shoe my horse. I am getting there. This is time last year she was sore and needed shoes badly. Now she doing great but the ground is alot softer, and spent alot on various hoof ointments. I am saving up to buy her better minerals. I know many worry about a teen doing a professional's job but I have a mentor, I bought the best tools (Diamond) and study alot. I only want the best for my horse.

Now about Big Brown, I feel sorry for him. He is certianly not able to do work he probably loves without alot of inovative help. I would like to know what makes good hooves besides care. My mentor told me you can change and improve the hoove until a horse is 2 years old. From my experience with dairy cows, I have come to believe good hooves are to some extent genetics and more managment, care and the environment the animal grew up in. Is it ok to apply this to horses as well? If it is how would it affect Big Brown's offspring (the genetic part)?
Thanks, I'm going to keep on reading:)