Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Turfway Park Brings Back Toe Grabs on Hind Shoes After Eight Horses Break Down in December

You know those hind shoes you just threw away? Most of the shoes in this pile are old draft horse shoes with holes where removable calks could be applied for icy streets.

Just when you think you have things figured out...

Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky runs Thoroughbreds over a Polytrack (artificial) surface that has been in place since 2005. After a new policy went into place in September that banned all but the flattest horseshoes on front and hind feet, the track was a model for reform and safety. Then the calendar turned to December: Turfway reported breakdowns that caused the death of eight horses, most of whom injured the left front leg.

Are the breakdowns related to the shoe changes? It's impossible to tell but one theory is that a slipping hind foot puts more stress on the opposite front. This is still a brainteaser, though, since the foot slips less in Polytrack than on dirt, such as you'd find at Churchill Downs.

Whether as a result of the breakdown or in deference to trainers wishes, Turfway has announced a policy change on shoes. While flat shoes are still required on front feet, toe grabs no higher than 1/4" are allowed on racing and training horses as of the first of January.

Here's the new rule:

Shoe Policy for Turfway Park

Effective January 1, 2009, the following shoe policy will govern racing and training at Turfway Park

Prohibited – Front and Hind
The following devices are prohibited both front and hind for racing and training at Turfway Park: turn-downs, bends, jar calks, stickers and any other traction device worn on the shoes of Thoroughbred horses.

Acceptable – Front
The following front shoes are acceptable for racing and training at Turfway Park: Queen's Plate, Queen's Plate XT, King's Plate, King's Plate XT, Fast Break, Speed Toe, and Outer Rim.

Acceptable – Hind
Hind shoes with a toe grab not exceeding one-quarter inch (1/4") shall be permitted for racing and training at Turfway Park.

Could the same shoe modification believed to cause injury and strain to the front legs actually be of benefit to the hind legs? Time for more research...and keep those new shoe designs coming.

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