The British Horse Authority (BHA) is putting a maximum 6-month hold on its new shoeing regulation that was set to go into effect Feb. 1, 2019.

The new rule would require all jump racing horses to be fully shod in order to prevent them from slipping. However, many trainers expressed their outrage over being forced to fully shoe their racehorses.

Long-time trainer Mick Easterby will not cooperate with the new regulation because he claims it will make jump racing more dangerous, according to The Racing Post. A previous regulation was put in motion for flat racing to prevent slipping, but that isn’t a large concern for many trainers. 

Rather, Easterby says that shoeing fronts and hinds in jump races could lead to more injuries resulting from overreach. In this case, the horse’s hind leg hits the backs of the front legs in landing. Most horses that aren’t shod in their hind feet can walk away after overreaching after a jump. If the horse is wearing shoes, however, the front tendons are often shredded by the back shoes, which can result in euthanization of the horse.

“This is a safety initiative for the benefit of the horse and rider to reduce the risk of the horse slipping,” according to the BHA in a statement. This change comes after a 2-year process of the BHA’s reviewing of data and consultation with participants.

Some of the data collected include statistics grounding the new regulation, such as the fact that 98% of jumps racehorses are already fully shod. Also, the data collected over 2 years indicates that horses that are partially shod are eight times more likely to slip than their fully shod counterparts. 

Trainer Paul Webber doesn’t find the results conclusive after only 2 years of research.

“If proper horsemen like the Easterbys and the Smiths have found that running without hind shoes works for them, then I’m not going to argue, and I think they have every right to stick to their guns,” Webber told The Racing Post

Easterby has trained horses his whole life.

“The BHA says horse welfare is their major concern but nobody can tell me why this change is beneficial to a horse,” Easterby says. “Have they never seen one with its tendon cut through? We should be given the option. It’s different on good ground, but on soft or heavy ground, they’re far less likely to injure themselves with no hind shoes.”

The resistance isn’t a matter of costs either, says Easterby’s nephew Tim. In fact, he says not having hind shoes is costlier than requiring them. With his young horses, they are fully shod before racing, but the shoes are removed for the duration of the time spent on the course. Once the horse is finished, the hind shoes are replaced. This is to protect the front tendons from the overreaching hind feet, but it costs more to remove the shoes and put them back on. This cost is a minor one compared with the possibility of surgery or euthanasia costs that would accrue in the event of a tendon injury.

Simon Earle, another trainer, deeply opposes the new regulation, also reported by The Racing Post. He has run his horses without front or hind shoes since 2005. None of his horses have suffered a tendon injury. Also, he pointed to a U.S. study that claims the frog of the horse’s foot should be weight bearing and in contact with the ground. The study concludes by saying that the more pressure the frog experiences, the less pressure the hoof wall is exposed to. This study argues that without shoes, the hoof wall undergoes less stress. Not only would shoes create the potential risk for injuring the front legs, but hind legs could also be susceptible to strain from wearing shoes. 

Earle has run nearly 90 horses over the years without shoes, and none of them have slipped despite the BHA’s concerns. The ground of the jump races is different than that of flat racing. With different surfaces taken into account, Earle doesn’t approve of the one-size-fits-all regulation for flat and jump racing. 

“Flat racing is completely different to jump racing,” Earle says. “You cannot compare unshod horses on the flat to jumping. It’s a completely different discipline on a completely different ground.” 

Jeannie’s Equestrian World reported before the BHA delayed the implantation of the rule that any trainer who doesn’t obey the regulation will be able to have their horse re-shod before the race or the starter will withdraw the horse from the race. Trainers approached The National Trainers’ Federation (NTF) in hopes that they can persuade the BHA to review the situation and hear the protests of trainers. 

NTF chief executive Rupert Arnold has heard the disquiet from the trainers.

“As a result, and because none of the incidences of horses slipping in the BHA survey involved horses who weren’t wearing hind shoes, we have gone back to the BHA to ask them to review their decision to change the rule pending further discussion,” Arnold told Jeannie’s Equestrian World

Jeannie’s Equestrian Worldalso quoted an unnamed trainer who described the potentially dangerous risk that this regulation will bring, saying, “The very act of jumping means the hind legs come through on landing, and if the horse has to wear shoes, it would automatically create an enormous risk of the front legs being sliced into.” 

The only other alternative to having a horse re-shod or removed from a race is for a trainer to apply for a special dispensation. This would come from a farrier or veterinarian, noting that the horse is unable to be shod on its hind hooves for a particular reason. The dispensation would still have to be approved prior to competition. 

The BHA has heard the disquiet and agreed to look further into the matter. As the races will continue, authorities will analyze any instances of slipping to gather more data. They will also analyze the instances of tendon injuries to add to their reports, as well as whether there is any correlation between the severity of the injury and the presence of hind shoes. Furthermore, trainers are asked to provide their own scientific evidence or research that backs their claims that horses are in more danger being fully shod than partially. 

A discussion will occur at the annual BHA Equine Welfare Agencies consultation meeting as well as with the BHA Veterinary Committee. Upon the conclusion of this research and consideration of submissions, a final decision will be determined surrounding the implantation of this regulation.