The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is considering more shoeing rules changes following confusion over a horseshoe, sources close to the discussions tell American Farriers Journal.

HISA officials are close to allowing “regular hind toe shoes,” and 2 mm front and hind toe grabs for both turf and dirt, horseracing industry sources say.

“Regular hind toe shoes” references the differences between those applied to Thoroughbreds, as opposed to a Quarter Horse hind toe shoe. It is not known whether the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved or has been presented with the latest changes. HISA does not have the authority to modify regulations, enforcement or deadlines.

The potential change comes after HISA announced July 29, just days before Rule 2276 was to take effect Aug. 1, that it “shall not enforce traction rules for horses racing on dirt surfaces that are shod on hindlimbs with traction devices in the form of either a full outer rim shoe (up to 4 mm in height) or a toe grab (up to 4 mm in height).”

The sources say HISA views the 4 mm toe grab rule as a mistake and appears willing to rescind it. The federal agency’s representatives mistook a low-toe front shoe for a hind shoe while writing the rules, according to the sources.

Capitol Hill Criticism

The decision to not enforce hind shoe traction rules for horses racing on dirt came a month after a bipartisan quartet of U.S. senators questioned 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 was July 1; however, the Authority failed to 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 on 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, chairperson 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 a May 12 report by American Farrier Journal, 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 set a July 11 deadline for responses from the FTC and the Authority. It is not known how the agencies responded.

“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. Victory Racing Plate Co., Thoro’Bred Inc., Mustad Hoofcare and Farrier Product Distribution all say they were not consulted.

Left Scrambling

HISA’s announcement that it would not enforce the traction rules for dirt races left horseshoe manufacturers to evaluate their next moves. Each had altered manufacturing and delivery schedules to meet the market demands created by the HISA specifications.

Thoro’Bred was testing a 2 mm outside rim shoe that it developed to fill a market void after its inclusion in Rule 2276. The Anaheim, Calif.-based company scrapped its plans for the shoe after it was rendered obsolete by the 4 mm rim shoes and toe grabs before they reached the supply shop shelves.

Thoro’Bred quickly regrouped and worked through the weekend after HISA’s announcement to develop a wide-web, low-toe, 4 mm hind shoe that was compliant with the new specifications. The tooling was in heat treatment by Aug. 2.

“The primary driver for us is to provide our customers with what they need,” says Remco van der Linden, vice president of Thoro’Bred Inc. “We developed the shoe because we don’t want our customers to have to grind the toe grabs. They were getting tired of that because they are made from hardened A2 high-carbon steel. It’s not like grinding on a shoe. It’s like grinding on tool steel.”

The decision was made to develop the shoe despite the fluidity of HISA’s rules changes, as well as the uncertainty of the agency’s review of regulations that reportedly will occur in early 2023.

“It’s a risk financially, but it’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least not for us,” he says. “We have a sizable customer base and that’s who we serve. It might hurt our profits, but we’re in it for the long game.”

The three remaining horseshoe manufacturers and distributors teamed up to formally request that HISA reconsider its decision in an Aug. 4 letter that was signed by Fred Ruddy of Farrier Product Distribution, Mark Hickcox of Victory Racing Plates and Andrew Lyke of Mustad Hoofcare Group.

“This is a length of toe grab that has not been and is not currently manufactured and supplied to the market, nor is a 4 mm rim shoe,” according to the letter. “Up to the effective date of the HISA specifications, suppliers of horseshoes only provided hind shoes with 2 mm and 5-5.5 mm toe grabs to the racing market. [We] request that the specifications be modified to allow toe grabs up to 5.5 mm length so that a new horseshoe with a 4 mm toe grab does not need to be developed, which would be unduly burdensome, including taking many months and significant resources.”

One week later, HISA’s Racetrack Safety Committee unanimously rejected the changes requested by the companies, which represent suppliers of approximately 85% of all aluminum racing horseshoes in the United States.

“The specific proposal for 4 mm was put forth by several horsemen’s groups and widely supported by them,” according to the response from Stover. “Since the announcement, there have not been any requests from horsemen to further modify the announcement or make any changes. Horsemen are representing to HISA that they are purchasing existing inventory and modifying that inventory to comply with the rule. Consequently, there does not appear to be any inventory issues for horsemen.”

In addition, Stover cites safety concerns for the horse’s welfare if rim shoes and toe grabs of more than 4 mm were allowed. HISA did not respond to AFJ’s attempts for comment.

Conspicuous by its absence as a rep­re­sen­tative on the manufacturers’ letter, Thoro’Bred declined to sign it.

“We would have signed it if we hadn’t already created the tooling for the low toe hind shoe,” van der Linden says. “I expected HISA to accommodate the industry, but there were no guarantees. Lisa [Lazarus] said if a letter was sent that they would consider it. Based on the response from them, it wouldn’t have made a difference had Thoro’Bred signed on.”

Learn More

  • HISA Seeks Advisors for Horseman’s Advocacy Group: The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is seeking applicants to participate in a Horsemen’s Advisory Group, which is being formed to advise the federal agency on the “implementation and evolution” of regulations and protocols.
  • HISA Needs Farriers at the Decision-Making Table: A name is powerful. It defines one’s character and ethics. For the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, its name defines a noble and significant mission. Yet, its credibility within the farrier industry is eroding the most important word in its name — integrity.
  • HISA Won’t Enforce Traction Rules for Dirt Racetracks: With the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s shoeing rules just days from taking effect, the federal regulating body announced it is changing its stance on the application of traction devices for Thoroughbreds racing on dirt tracks.
  • Senators Want Answers After “Chaotic” HISA Implementation: 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.”