Farriers' Roundtable

Q:  It seems that Standardbreds often go lame a couple of weeks after racing on frozen tracks. What can we do to help these horses?

A: The horse pays the price when it comes to a frozen racetrack.

A farrier is required to shoe every racehorse with Borium corks to provide the traction necessary to get over the ice. We usually weld one cork on each heel and anywhere from two to six corks across the toe, using 1/8-inch Borium.

Borium corks, especially heel corks, produce a tremendous amount of strain on the horse. Racing on a normal, good-weather track, the foot lands heel first and slides before leaving the ground. The frozen, concrete-like racetrack and Borium corks cause the horse’s limb to stop prematurely.

These conditions can create lameness through bruised feet, heel cracks, quarter cracks, multiple joint soreness and broken bones, to name a few.

Training and racing the harness horse in the winter requires a different approach. Most trainers prefer to rest their better horses. For the horses that race, the trainer must pick and choose the days they train, according to the weather conditions.

Minimizing the pounding on the hard surface helps the horse’s condition. Alternative training methods, such as treadmills, swimming pools or indoor turnouts help.

From a shoeing standpoint, you want to be careful to not over-trim the feet. Leave a bit more foot for protection. The use of pads and or bar shoes can help if the horse does have a foot problem.

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