Research Journal

The information, ideas and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Early Study Concluded Toe Grabs Are Associated With Risk Of Fatal Injury

Although anecdotal information had suggested the link years earlier, this California study was the first to identify a link between toe grabs and risk of fatal musculoskeletal injury (FMI) in Thoroughbred racehorses. Horseshoes from 155 horses with a fatal injury that broke down to 79 suspensory apparatus failures (SAF) and 41 cannon bone condylar fractures (CDY), were compared with those from 46 control horses that died from non-musculoskeletal causes.

Ninety percent of the injured horses were shod with low or regular toe grabs compared with 80% of the controls. The odds of FMI, SAF and CDY were 2, 6.5 and 7 times greater with low toe grabs and 3.5, 16 and 17 times greater with regular grabs. Horses shod with rim shoes seemed to be at decreased risk of injury.

—Kane et al. AJVR 1997;57:1147-1152

Comment: This landmark study started some controversy in Thoroughbred racing. It was criticized for using a case-control design and not following live horses on the track, but the results were statistically significant and of such a great magnitude they could not be ignored. Although we acknowledged the results were not adjusted for training status or track condition, we concluded “the higher the toe grab, the greater the risk” and advised that discontinuing the use of toe grabs, particularly regular…

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Albert Kane

Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

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