A name is powerful. It defines one’s character and ethics. For the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, its name defines a noble and significant mission. Yet, its credibility within the farrier industry is eroding the most important word in its name — integrity.

The first 8 months of HISA’s existence have been witness to a dizzying array of shoeing rule clarifications, delays, changes and selective enforcement. Its “chaotic implementation” has drawn scrutiny from four United States senators. The good news is there’s a simple solution — communicate with farriers.

Lack of Communication

The farrier industry has been relegated to the proverbial kiddie table at Thanksgiving dinner from the beginning. It has been told what it’s going to do without consultation regarding the simplest of questions.

The Federal Register published the HISA Racetrack Safety Program on Jan. 5, 2022. Rule 2276 states, in part, “(a) Except for full rims 2 mm or less from the ground surface of the horseshoe, traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb horseshoes during racing and training on dirt or synthetic racing tracks.”

The rule created confusion among racetrack farriers and manufacturers. Why? A 2 mm or less full-rim shoe does not exist. Furthermore, there’s a reason 2 mm outer rim shoes aren’t manufactured. When they were available, they were difficult to level, nail and clinch. As a result, the shoe was discontinued.

Manufacturers were not consulted on whether the shoe existed, nor were they asked how the prohibition of an estimated 95% of all racing plates would affect the supply chain. HISA was forced to delay enforcement of the shoeing rules by a month to provide manufacturers with the time necessary to meet market demands.

As the Aug. 1 shoeing rules enforcement deadline approached, manufacturers altered production and delivery schedules. Then a bombshell — HISA announced it wouldn’t enforce traction rules for dirt racetracks. It would allow 4 mm full outer rim hind shoes and 4 mm toe grabs on hind shoes.

The problem? Neither exists. Once again, manufacturers were not consulted before a shoe was cited in federal regulations. Worse yet, manufacturers are left holding the bag for significant resources invested in developing, producing and shipping HISA-approved shoes to meet the deadline.

Seat at the Table

The solution to HISA’s credibility problem with the farrier industry is simple — ask them to join the adult table.

“The main thing manufacturers can bring to the table is the ability to know from a supply chain perspective when to implement certain rules,” says Remco van der Linden, vice president of Thoro’Bred Inc. “While it’s important to make sure the giant supply chain void is addressed, it’s equally important to get input from the farriers who have to use the products.”

Victory Racing Plate Co. Sales Manager Mark Hickcox suggests a committee consisting of farriers, companies and the Farrier Industry Association that would advise HISA before decisions are made.

“Track farriers could represent regions and provide reasonable opinions and suggestions on rules and shoeing specifications,” he says. “I don’t know any farrier who is dead set on what toe grabs should be everywhere, but the information must have science and experience behind it. HISA needs to get active with the farrier community to help keep it out of the ditches.”

The farrier industry won’t agree with every HISA decision. However, asking questions to avoid unforced errors will restore HISA’s credibility and strengthen its integrity.

Learn More

  • HISA Won’t Enforce Traction Rules for Dirt Racetracks: With the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s shoeing rules just days from taking effect, the federal regulating body announced it is changing its stance on the application of traction devices for Thoroughbreds racing on dirt tracks.
  • Senators Want Answers After “Chaotic” HISA Implementation: A bipartisan quartet of United States senators are questioning 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.”
  • HISA Bans Traction Nails When Shoeing Thoroughbred Racehorses: In a downloadable fact sheet titled “Shoeing Requirements,” HISA adds traction or mud nails to its list of prohibited devices on Thoroughbred racehorses. The list includes, but is not limited to toe grabs, bends, jar calks and stickers.