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Friday, July 18, 2008

Another Word About Toe Grabs

Unless you are embedded in the world of horseshoes, you might not know what a toe grab is. It is cleat, basically, that protrudes from the toe area of a horse shoe. Many people believe that horses need something to push off from, particularly when leaving the gate, and the toe grab was designed to do that.

Toe grabs come in many lengths. The most extreme are Louisiana and Quarter horse toe grabs. Most racehorses wear regular or low-toe shoes if they have toe grabs, and most of them are on the hind feet.

Toe grabs are an adaptation of toe calks used on draft and driving horses that had to go over ice and snow in the old days. Part of a horse's maintenance in the winter included sharpening the calks. One of the major advances in horseshoeing in the late 19th century was the invention of the removable heel calk, which caused such a stir in American industry that federal intervention was needed! (But that's another story...)

Shoes are available with traction devices on the heels and they can also be added to the shoes if the track is slick or wet. Calks can also be forged or the tip of the heel of a race plate can be bent at an angle.

It is often said that the United States is the only country that allows toe grabs, and that is untrue. First of all, most racing around the world is on grass courses, especially Europe and Australia. Horsemen and horseshoers in those country are pretty horrified by the idea of toe grabs, but they also do not race on dirt.

Dave Erb of Victory Racing Plates shared with me a good rule of thumb. I asked him what countries allowed toe grabs. He said, "Anyplace with the word 'America' in it: North America, South America, Central America."

I've never forgotten that.

I think that the shoe manufacturers are a wealth of information about what works and what doesn't. I hope they will get involved in these discussions about shoeing rule changes and join us in Saratoga next month.

Note: "Hoofcare@Saratoga" will host two sessions specifically on racehorse shoes in the news. On August 5th, members of the Grayson Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit's Shoeing Committee will present new research and answer questions from 7 p.m. on at the Parting Pub in Saratoga Springs, NY. On August 12, a double session at both the National Museum of Racing (in the afternoon) and the Parting Glass (in the evening) will cover racing surfaces and hoof injuries.

Please see these other posts for more on toe grab rules; please note that most of the activity has occurred within 30 days of the recommendation from the Jockey Club:

(today)Hoofcare@Saratoga Event Series topics, week by week by 2008

Keeneland and Turfway ban toe grabs and traction on front and hind shoes

(July 16, 2008)Penn National Gaming Tracks to Ban Toe Grabs and Traction on Front Shoes

(July 14, 2008)Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Announces Plan to Ban Traction and Grabs on Front Shoes

(June 18, 2008) Jockey Club Calls for States for Nationwide Ban on Grabs and Traction on Front Shoes

(June 4, 2008) ESPN video clip with Belmont shoer Tim Shortell on basic racetrack shoeing and shoes

(April 30, 2008) Kentucky Derby: Shoewear of the Fast and Famous

(March 13, 2008) Shoes and Surfaces at the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation's 2008 Welfare and Safety Summit

(February 21, 2008) California Reports on Horses Since Toe Grab Ban, Switch to Artificial Tracks

(June 2007) Indiana Bans Toe Grabs in Response to GJC WSS Recommendation
(June 2007) 2007 Grayson Jockey Club Foundation Welfare and Safety Summit Shoeing

(May 2007) State Racing Commissioners Encouraged to Ban Toe Grabs

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