The Thoroughbred racing industry hasn’t been shy about criticizing the implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). As the July 1 deadline approaches, a new voice has joined the chorus — and it wants answers from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.
A bipartisan quartet of United States senators are questioning the “chaotic implementation and poor communication” of the Authority, as well as whether the FTC has the “ability to effectively provide oversight of the Authority and ensure it complies with HISA.”
The mandated implementation of HISA is Friday, July 1, 2022; however, the Authority will not meet the deadline for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program, horseshoes and riding crop regulations.
“This deadline is statutorily required and neither the FTC nor the Authority have the authority to extend this deadline,” according to a letter addressed to Lina Khan, chair of the FTC and Lisa Lazarus, president and CEO of the Authority. The letter is signed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.
American Farriers Journal was first to report May 12 that the Authority would delay implementation of the shoeing rules until Aug. 1.
“This is also concerning because we understand the initial rules were functionally impossible for industry participants to implement due to limited supply chain availability of horseshoes and riding crops,” according to the senators’ letter. “This raises questions about what industry representatives were consulted in the drafting of the rule.”
Although Dr. Susan Stover, chair of HISA’s Racetrack Safety Committee, confirmed the delay with American Farriers Journal on May 12, it officially was confirmed June 28 on the Authority’s website. HISA published a downloadable fact sheet on shoeing requirements before June 17 that stated the rules would be delayed until Aug. 1. Citing American Farrier Journal’s May 12 report, the senators chastised the Authority for how it has implemented HISA and its effect on the farrier industry.
“And now, only one week before the rule was set to take effect, the Authority published a notice announcing a one-month delay in enforcement of these rules,” according to the letter. “This chaotic implementation process and poor communication by the Authority makes it difficult for industry participants to comply with the new rules and regulations. Additionally, continuously changing implementation dates for new rules and regulations, and last-minute delays, cause more confusion and difficulty with implementation.”
The senators concluded their letter by requesting independent responses to six questions, one of which directly apply to HISA’s horseshoeing rules. They have set a deadline for July 11 for responses from the FTC and the Authority.
“Given the Authority has acknowledged the impossibility for [the] industry to comply with the rules regarding horseshoes and riding crop specifications and postponed enforcement of these rules one week before they were set to go into effect, were industry experts and all relevant stakeholders consulted in the initial drafting of these rules?” question four reads. “Please identify specifically who was consulted for this rule.”
American Farriers Journal contacted the four main manufacturers and suppliers of Thoroughbred racing plates to determine whether they had been consulted during the initial drafting of the shoeing rules. Three — Victory Racing Plate Co., Thoro’Bred Inc. and Mustad Hoofcare — said they were not consulted. The remaining manufacturer and supplier — Farrier Product Distribution, which supplies Kerckhaert racing plates — could not be reached for comment.
“Victory had not been contacted before the HISA regulations were released,” says Mark Hickcox, sales manager at the Rosedale, Md.-based Victory. “We were contacted when it became apparent that some manufacturers would have difficulty meeting the deadline.”
Remco van der Linden, vice president of Thoro’Bred Inc., says HISA contacted the Anaheim, Calif.-based manufacturer for the first time in March.
“They have been talking with us for months, that’s why they postponed enforcement of the shoeing rules,” he says. “However, we were not consulted while the rules were being written.”
Rob Logsdon, field sales manager with Mustad, tried contacting HISA late last fall and couldn't connect with officials.
“I left messages upon messages and I was never able to speak to anyone,” he says. “I was under the impression that some research would be done and they would reach out to manufacturers, veterinarians and farriers, but that didn't happen. No one from Mustad was contacted while it was being written. The intent of the rule is good, but the delivery has been atrocious. Since then, I have talked with Dr. Stover several times and she has been very cooperative when we let her know our concerns.”
The new shoeing rules, which can be found on Page 27, Section 2276 of the HISA Racetrack Safety Program, are brief and focus solely on traction devices.
“(a) Except for full rims 2 mm or less from the ground surface of the horseshoe, traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb horseshoes during racing and training on dirt or synthetic racing tracks.
“(b) Traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb horseshoes during training and racing on the turf.
“(c) Traction devices include but are not limited to rims, toe grabs, bends, jar calks and stickers.”
Stover emphasizes that toe grabs, as referenced in section (a), are prohibited.
“Toe grabs are not allowed at all,” she says. “Any wear plate at the toe must not extend beyond the ground surface of the shoe. The inclusion of a 2 mm (outside) rim (around the entire circumference of the shoe) is intended to provide an option for additional traction if conditions warranted, without altering the conformation of the hoof relative to the ground surface. The 2 mm height is the maximum height that the rim can extend from the ground surface of the shoe.”
In the downloadable fact sheet titled “Shoeing Requirements,” HISA adds traction or mud nails to its list of prohibited devices on Thoroughbred racehorses.
“A shoe with a flush toe insert would be compliant, but a shoe with an insert that extends below the ground surface of the shoe would not be allowed,” according to the fact sheet. “The use of toe grabs has been associated with an increased risk of fetlock injury, the major cause of racehorse fatalities due to musculoskeletal injury. Traction devices alter normal limb conformation (Figure 1), which can predispose to injury.”
According to an exclusive American Farriers Journal survey, 58% disapproved of the new federally mandated shoeing rules while 42% approved. Much of the opposition is rooted in the blanket application of the shoeing rules while offering no latitude for variable climates, track surfaces or horses.
The rules were put in place to improve the safety of the horses racing at tracks all across the United States, according to an earlier statement attributed to Stover.
“These new rules will decrease fatalities by detecting horses with mild pre-existing conditions through expanded veterinary oversight and the review of medication and treatment records and training histories,” according to the statement. “They will also provide a window into understanding and preventing the development of mild injuries in the first place via uniform surface maintenance standards and ongoing data analysis.”