Quarter Horse

Helping a Racehorse to the Winner's Circle

Expert farriers share trimming and shoeing techniques they’ve used to help Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and steeplechasers reach peak performance


Quarter Horse races such as the All American Futurity in Ruidoso, N.M., are just 440 yards long, so the start is everything. Running Brook Gal, for example won the 2009 race with a time of 21.144 seconds. Toe grabs are usually used on their shoes. Farrier Steve Norman says the shorter pasterns on Quarter Horses mean more pressure in the toe region than on the typically longer pasterned Thoroughbred.

Shoeing a racehorse — whether a Quarter Horse sprinter, Thoroughbred or a steeplechaser — presents challenges. The farrier must often walk a fine line between what will provide the best traction on various surfaces and what will be safest and healthiest for the horse.

The basics of everyday shoeing also apply to the racehorse. Steve Norman, a Midway, Ky., farrier who shoes many racehorses, says the most important thing is doing the best job for a particular horse, making it as comfortable as possible for a particular race or series of races. He says support and the right amount of traction are both crucial factors.

“There’s controversy right now about traction. Is it detrimental, or is it a savior for the horse?” asks Norman. “The safety issue is foremost on a lot of people’s minds. Are we hindering horses with traction devices, or are we helping them? The new poly tracks are also a factor.”

The Basics

Rich Heffington grew up on a cattle ranch and decided at age 14 to become a farrier. He’s been shoeing racehorses for 25 years…

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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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