Toe Grabs & Thin Walls

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Q: As a Thoroughbred Trainer I can't believe how the thickness of the walls in Thoroughbreds is overlooked by breeders. One can only see the rising popularity of glue on shoes in ads in trade journals. I am amazed how a racetrack farrier can actually still nail a shoe onto the wall of a racing Thoroughbred. I recently learned that Running Quarter Horses are also having the same problem as they are bred to Thoroughbreds. Breeders are concentrating on Speed, Speed, Speed, and failing to focus on a good thick hoof wall as a foundation.

Perhaps we would have fewer breakdowns on the racetrack if this were not true. In
any event keep up the good work. Would appreciate your opinion on this

A: Breeders are, as you say, concentrating on Speed, Speed, Speed, which to
them equals Money, Money, Money.

You are quite right; breeding IS a major factor with these thin walls. However, improper shoeing and trimming such as shoeing too frequently, using aluminum shoes, and encouragement of exaggerated toe length are all major factors that contribute to thin and weak walls. There should also be more testing done by trainers and vets on the track on the horses' nutritional balance including biotin, selenium, etc. Most racehorses lack the necessary nutrients to grow a strong thick hoof wall.

There is no magic formula--each horse must be dealt with as an individual. Because of the above factors the responsibility of spending several years developing a sound hoof is generally left to those who buy the x-race horse. They are not always successful but many times they are.

Glue on shoes are relatively new in the horse industry and may be a way of dealing with poor feet in some cases. There has been talk of toxicity from the chemicals used to glue on these shoes. Also the difficulty of keeping them on speaks of unnatural stresses to the hoof wall. There is a lot to be learned about glue on shoes, but I think it is admirable that people are seeking new solutions to problems.

I believe that there would be fewer breakdowns on the track if we could eliminate toe grabs and long toes on the front feet of racehorses in this country. Either condition by itself would cause troubles, but the two together are almost a guarantee of a breakdown. I have shod on the track and it is my opinion from what I have seen (not what others have said) that 75 to 80% of the breakdowns on the track are the result of these long toes and toe grabs.

Of course starting yearlings in intensive training and competing the horses too hard at too young an age contributes to many horses failing, too.

I appreciate very much your e-mail and your concerns about the racing horses in this country. You also keep up the good work. I hope you have had the opportunity to read my web pages. In case you have not, my web address is below. I hope the articles and Q&As are helpful to you.


Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.