After the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s rules and regulations have been in place for 3 months, a Texas congressman who co-sponsored the bill wants to turn back the clock.

Rep. Lance Gooden, who represents Texas’ 5th District, introduced H.R. 9132 that would halt the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s governance and delay it until Jan. 1, 2024. The bill must pass the House of Representatives, and the Senate and be signed into law by the president for it to take effect. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

“The authority has created uncertainty and harmed the horseracing industry,” Gooden says. “State governments are best equipped to regulate their respective horseracing industries and I will not stand idly by while the federal government once again pushes a one-size-fits-all approach.”

HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus told American Farriers Journal that her team will continue to fulfill the obligations that are established under the law.

“HISA remains focused on continuing to implement the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was signed into law by President Trump with bipartisan support in 2020, according to the timeline laid out by Congress,” she says. “HISA’s Racetrack Safety Program has already been in effect for more than 3 months and HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program is on track for its Jan. 1, 2023, implementation date. HISA is the law of the land, and our role is to fully implement it under the guidance of the law. That is our charge, and we will comply.”

The legislation was greeted with mixed feelings within the horseshoe manufacturing and farrier industries. Wellington, Fla., racetrack farrier Gary Gullo sees potential in the legislation.

“If they use the time wisely in order to sort out what we saw not working and adjust accordingly, then delaying the implementation would be a good thing,” he says. “They should use the time to get feedback from horsemen and reduce the blanket approach that has been set forth. It is pretty clear that the current rules are not working in favor of the horse at certain tracks. While it may be fine at some, each track has its own variables with track surfaces and backside conditions that must be considered for the safety and well being of the horses, and horsemen. If they plan on pushing it back without the opportunity for adjustments then it is just delaying the inevitable. I think we saw more than enough issues already on the shoeing end of HISA to appropriately say there is a need to change some the shoeing rules. Input from the people on the ground is extremely valuable. While they have been trying to do the right thing and make changes as we go along, this method of employment has also created a lot of confusion amongst horsemen on what is legal and what is not.”

Gullo suggests a trial period before implementing shoeing regulations.

“It would be beneficial to test the rules they plan to set in place across the country with a number of reputable farriers and veterinarians first if possible at the majority of tracks,” he says. “After they have been well tested and the results weighed, then it would be appropriate to implement a safe solid set of rules without the need of anymore changes in the near future. We have seen a lot of theories go into law recently and I do not see that being the best approach.”

Rosedale, Md.-based Victory Racing Co. welcomed the legislation.

“If the intent is to redirect HISA to plan for effective implementation instead of just implementation, then it seems to be a way to stop the cycle of missteps that have occurred so far,” says Mark Hickcox, Victory Racing Plate’s sales manager. “I believe that Victory, farriers, and the industry would welcome clarity and some involvement in the planning process. HISA shoeing rules need scrutiny and acceptance from those most affected before implementation is even 6 months away.”

Not all horseshoe manufacturers agree. Rob Logsdon, field sales manager for Mustad, believes that if the bill is enacted into law, it will be detrimental to horseshoe manufacturers.

“Mustad is producing HISA-compliant St. Croix front and hind shoes and has substantially reduced production of non-compliant shoes,” he says. “It is apparent that HISA is here to stay, and moving the date back again will cause more costs for manufacturers and add more confusion for suppliers and farriers. The bigger issue facing farriers, suppliers and manufacturers is will HISA change the shoe regulations again and will the HISA shoe regulations be enforced?”

HISA announced it is creating a Horseman’s Advisory Group and intends to announce its membership this month. The Farrier Industry Association created a committee to advise HISA on shoeing rules and manufacturing issues.

Frequent Scrutiny

HISA’s shoeing rules have drawn frequent criticism over its vague language, the universal application on all Thoroughbred racetracks, as well as the short time frame for manufacturers and distributors to fill a large inventory void.

The shoeing rules banned traction devices with the exception of full rims that are 2 mm or less from the ground surface on all horseshoes during training and racing on dirt or synthetic racing tracks. It prohibited all traction devices on all shoes during training and racing on turf tracks. Traction devices were defined as rims, toe grabs, bends, jar calks and stickers. HISA later included traction nails among its banned devices.

Initially scheduled to take effect July 1, the implementation was delayed a month to allow manufacturers to fulfill demand. After Dr. Susan Stover, chair of HISA’s Racetrack Safety Committee, confirmed the delay to American Farriers Journal, she clarified that the inclusion of a 2 mm outside rim shoe was “intended to provide an option for additional traction, if conditioned warranted, without altering the conformation of the hoof relative to the ground surface.”

A 2 mm rim shoe was not available commercially at that time. Thoro’Bred Inc. began development and testing of the specified shoe; however, 3 days before the shoeing rules were to go into effect, HISA announced it would not enforce traction rules for dirt racetracks. HISA announced in a statement that horses racing on dirt tracks may be shod on the hinds with either a full outer rim shoe up to 4 mm in height or a toe grab up to 4 mm in height. A full ban on toe grabs remains in place on the front shoes.

HISA’s statement presented two problems. It rendered the 2 mm outer rim shoe obsolete, scuttling Thoro’Bred’s development and testing of its prototype. It also cited that farriers could apply a shoe that doesn’t exist. The Anaheim, Calif.-based manufacturer shifted gears and immediately began the development of a shoe that would comply with the new 4 mm height limit.

The changes drew the attention of a bipartisan quartet of United States senators who 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, 2022; however, the Authority did not meet the deadline for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program, horseshoes and riding crop regulations. The horseshoeing rules are set to take effect Aug. 1.

“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 the first to report on May 12 that the Authority would delay the 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.”

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, which supplies Kerckhaert racing plates, said they were not consulted.

Although Stover 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.”

During a September meeting in New York, multiple sources told American Farriers Journal that HISA views the 4 mm toe grab rule as a mistake and appears willing to rescind it. A representative of the federal agency mistook a low-toe front shoe for a hind shoe while writing the rules, according to the sources. Lazarus told Farrier Product Distribution, which supplies the racing industry with Kerckhaert horseshoes, that HISA is not considering more shoeing rule changes.

Learn More