Monday, March 28, 2016

Shoeing Rule Change in Great Britain: Racehorses Must Be Fully Shod

On Friday, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced a change to its rules determining how racehorses must be shod in order to race in Great Britain. In this case, the rule change was about the fact that the horses must be fully shod, in the first place.
The BHA amended the Rules of Racing so that after April 2, 2016, it will be mandatory that "all horses competing in Flat Turf races enter the parade ring to race fully shod, unless permission is otherwise granted by the BHA prior to the 48-hour declaration time to race".

Note: Horseracing in Great Britain is primarily conducted on turf courses. Four "all-weather" (artificial surface) tracks also exist, primarily for winter flat racing and some horses train on various types of all-weather surfaces.

The BHA said that this change is the result of an analysis of 12 months of race data which showed that there is an increased risk of a horse slipping if partially shod when racing under Flat Turf conditions. However, that data has not been shared, to date.

The issue of shoeing on all four feet was raised with the BHA by the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA). The BHA worked closely with the PJA, as well as the National Trainers Federation (NTF), and the Racecourse Association (RCA) before implementing the change.

The new British rule states that horses must be shod on all four feet, but it doesn't specify how much of each foot must be shod. While the rules are strict about traction devices, they don't mention practices like three-quartering a shoe, which may be done to get a horse into a race in spite of a quarter crack if it is running on soft ground. This photo was taken at Goodwood in 2011.

The BHA acknowledges that there can be legitimate reasons as to why trainers might wish to race a horse partially shod in Flat Turf races. Trainers may therefore apply for a dispensation, which must be supported in writing by a suitably qualified professional such as a veterinarian.

Dale Gibson, Executive Director (Racing) for the PJA, said:

“The wellbeing of horse and jockey are paramount to us. This Rule change will reduce the risk of slipping up, thus improving safety for both horse and rider, and will allow Flat Jockeys to ride with a greater degree of confidence at all times. Trainers of those horses with a genuine veterinary reason to be unshod can apply for dispensation or race on the All-Weather, where grip is far greater. We welcome that in those rare cases where horses are unshod it must be declared.

“We have agreed with the BHA that the situation regarding Jump horses will continue to be monitored, in line with our members’ wishes.”

“The PJA are delighted to have agreed this vital improvement to horse and jockey safety. If the new ruling helps prevent one horse and jockey from slipping up and potentially falling the rule change will have succeeded.”

This case of stakes winners' raceplates from the 1920s is one of several that hangs in a training stable in Newmarket, England. They are remarkably similar in size and shape but they are absolutely uniform in that, unlike American raceplates, all are perfectly flat on the ground surface. These plates are inscribed with Lord Derby's stakes winners' details from the 1920s, when he was considered the leading racehorse owner in the world. (Hoofcare Publishing archives image © Fran Jurga)

British racing will follow these modified shoeing rules, beginning April 2:

7.1 The following types of shoes are prohibited:
7.1.1 Shoes which have protrusions on the ground surface other than calkins or studs on the hind, limited to 3/8” in height,
7.1.2 American type toe-grab plates, and
7.1.3 Shoes with a sharp flange.
7.2 Horses running in Flat races conducted on turf must enter the Parade Ring fully shod, except with the permission of the Authority. Permission under this Paragraph 7.2 must be obtained prior to the time fixed for making declarations to run under Rule (F) 89.
7.2.1 National Hunt Flat Races conducted on turf are excluded from the provisions of Paragraph 7.2.

The wide green expanse of grass tracks and fields are impressive at British racetracks like Ascot (above). Unlike American tracks that usually have turf and dirt tracks side by side, British racetracks force stewards to consider the safety of horses on grass when the weather is excessively wet or dry. They can't just move a turf race to dirt the way that US stewards can. The jockeys' group apparently felt that a statistical link between unshod hind feet and slipping meant a risk of injury to riding in a race on a horse with unshod hind feet. (John Fielding photo)

The rule seems straightforward. However, an article in the current issue of Trainer magazine's European edition adds some footnotes. Tony Lindsell of Atlantic Equine Ltd., a British horseshoe supplier, inventoried shoeing rules across Europe and noted the idiosyncracies between the jurisdictions, much as shoeing rules vary from state to state in the U.S. The new rule change had not been announced when he wrote his article.

While the new rule requiring all four feet to be shod was only announced on Friday, Tony added his observation that horses are being allowed to routinely race in the UK wearing a plate with an outside mud calk, a Victory V plate, or a Kerckhaert Safety Track (outer rim shoe). He also said that he knew of horses that had been allowed to run (and win) wearing plastic Ezy-Fit and Imprint shoes, but that stewards have the right to ban any horse entered to race with what they consider to be an "unsuitable, unsafe or inefficient" equipment.

The big difference in the UK--and most of the world--is that racing there is done almost exclusively on grass. In the U.S., wet weather can cause stewards to move turf races to the dirt in the interest of safety. In Britain, there are no options, other than a few artificial tracks. At large racecourses like Newmarket and Ascot, the running is all grass, all the time. Racing may be cancelled completely if the grass is deemed unsafe for horses.

Many racetracks in the U.S. have rules that can make running without shoes problematic; the trainer may need to declare the horse to be running barefoot far in advance, at the time of entry. Trainers experiment with shoeing and unshoeing of the hinds or all four feet when training or racing on artificial surfaces in the U.S.

The Emirates-based racehorse Mubhaatij created a stir in the United States last year when he trained for the Kentucky Derby without shoes. South African trainer Michael de Kock routinely keeps his runners barefoot during training and shoes them just before the race, then removes the shoes right after the race.

Long-time Godolphin farrier Derek Poupard, also from South Africa, shod all three of Kieran McLaughlin's US-based runners for Saturday's Dubai World Cup races. He said that he also has seen great success with the de Kock method for Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby in Newmarket, England. "I have stronger sounder feet for it with good results this year," he said.

An interesting side effect of the rule change may be the opinions of exercise riders who gallop the runners during training. They may train on all-weather surfaces or grass, and the horses training on grass may put their riders just as much at risk as jockeys during races if they aren't wearing shoes.

None of the information from the BHA or PJA mentions the welfare of the horse, and the rule change process did not consult veterinarians or farriers for their expert opinions.

Story and images (except where noted) © Hoofcare Publishing 2016; no use without permission.

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Shoeless Thoroughbred racing and training have been covered extensively on The Hoof Blog for several years. Click here for a linked reading list of articles about shoeless Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, or type a keyword like "barefoot racing" in the search box at the top of right sidebar column.

To learn more:

British Horseracing Authority: Amendment to the Rules of Racing in relation to Shoes

Parkes, R. S. V. and Witte, T. H. (2015), The foot–surface interaction and its impact on musculoskeletal adaptation and injury risk in the horse. Equine Veterinary Journal, 47: 519–525. doi: 10.1111/evj.12420

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