The Farrier Industry Association is offering its expertise to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority after several missteps during the agency’s implementation of its shoeing regulations.

The FIA board of directors has appointed Mark Hickcox, CF, to chair a committee to closely follow current and proposed HISA regulations, as well as advise the agency about issues relating to farriers and hoof-care issues.

“To increase the effectiveness of this committee’s role, I am contacting other farrier and hoof-care associations/organizations to consolidate our efforts in maintaining an advisory role to HISA,” says Hickcox, a Gentry, Ark., farrier and sales manager of Rosedale, Md.-based Victory Racing Plate Co. “A larger group of these hoof-care professionals might be more helpful as a resource for HISA.”

The creation of the committee comes days after HISA closed the application period for its new Horsemen’s Advisory Group. It received more than 200 applications from “qualified horsemen and women,” according to HISA.

HISA’s executive team intends to select a group of 10-12 people with input from its standing committees, the federal agency announced Aug. 29. HISA said it expected to announce the advisory group’s members and conduct its first meeting in October.

“HISA is proud of and grateful for the unparalleled expertise that has informed the development of our regulations — the first ever national rules to govern our sport,” according to a statement attributed to Lisa Lazarus, HISA president and CEO. “As we continue the implementation phase of our mandate from Congress, HISA will benefit immensely from additional perspectives from the trainers and owners who are on the backside, standing trackside and in the racing office every day.”

Whatever the outcome of advisory group’s selection process, the FIA committee aims to provide farrier industry representation to HISA.

“Regardless of whether a farrier is selected to be on the HISA horsemen’s advisory group,” Hickcox says, “a larger representation of professional farriers and the farrier industry may be a good resource for HISA shoeing concerns.”

Farrier Representation

The lack of farrier representation has been a consistent concern in the hoof-care industry after multiple HISA errors have proven to be a hardship to both suppliers and racetrack blacksmiths.

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).”

A 4 mm toe grab shoe is not available commercially. Multiple sources in the farrier industry told American Farriers Journal that HISA officials led them to believe that shoeing rule adjustments are being considered because the 4 mm toe grab directive is a mistake. A HISA representative mistook a low-toe front shoe for a hind shoe while writing the rules, according to the sources. The rules adjustments would allow “regular hind toe shoes,” and 2 mm front and hind toe grabs for both turf and dirt, the sources say.

Lazarus has denied that HISA is considering more shoeing rules changes in an interview with Paulick Report and a conversation with Farrier Product Distribution.

HISA’s decision to not enforce traction rules and accept a full outer rim shoe up to 4 mm or a toe grab up to 4 mm 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.

Market Troubles

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 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 Hickcox of Victory Racing Plates, Fred Ruddy of Farrier Product Distribution, 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.

“A farrier and/or farrier industry advisory group,” Hickcox says, “could have been contacted to avoid all of these errors.”

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