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Racehorse Plating

     Upon this site, I plan to touch upon a subject that precious few modern race horsemen seem to have a very real solid foundation in or understanding there of. It seems to be the modern norm is to allow the racetrack plater to have full authority on how one's racehorse will be shod. What a horrible mistake for any trainer to so dismiss the importance of how one's horse is to be shod and to know how he was previously shod!  Woe to the trainer that is not present when those shoes are pulled-off and new ones are tacked on! He should be present always.  I was lucky enough to have personally shod my entire stable while I was racing. True, rather time consuming, but what an advantage this was! In my younger days, I initially studied some of the best race farriers in the world, then eventually, I started doing a little at a time until I worked my way up to actually shoeing my own horses.  For what ever it may be worth, I never experienced a catastrophic breakdown or any major ligament/tendon damage in any of my horses during my career. I really do think that how one trims and plates a racehorse is a major contributing factor to soundness. Never underestimate the importance of the hoof, trimmed and plated for maximum effort and ease of motion.

     The commonly observed race track hoof found on USA thoroughbred tracks will be one of a very low heel with a long toe. Terrible!  I have little idea why so many race platers seem to turn out horses consistently with this configuration. It makes absolutely no sense. I can only think of two reasons. One, I have found most hooves on thoroughbreds tend to lose angle over a month of work and racing. If the farrier trims that hoof, uniformly all around, naturally, you are going to get lower and lower angles. I have observed the common race track plater to never use toe calipers (dividers), hoof angle gauges, or hoof levels in producing the finished shod animal. They seem to think that such  measuring instruments are unnecessary, perhaps even a sign of an apprentice.  Secondly, it is true the lower the hoof's angle, the more the horse will be stimulated to lengthen stride. This sounds good on first impression, but it is not what it is cracked up to be. If this is part of the common thinking behind the trimming for low race track hoof angles, then it is logic flawed.   

     These are the three tools,  no race plater's box should be without. Unfortunately, most have them no where near their work.  They should be used on each hoof, every time.  Many platers will tell you that they have been in the business so long that they can just eyeball a hoof and know if it is correct or not. I say to this, hog wash. No craftsman, no master carpenter, no matter how many years in the business, will build a project or house without constant measuring and use of tape measure, protractor, or square. To think that horseshoers are some how exempt is preposterous. . From left to right, a hoof angle gauge for measuring angle, dividers for measuring toe length, and a hoof level designed to gauge if the hoof has been trimmed level.

     I am about to tell you some racehorse shoeing insights that your trainer won' tell you--if you are an owner,  or your shoer won't tell you--if you are a trainer, or if you are the average track plater, you seem just generally not to know.   I will go into much more detail in my book, but this should get you started:


I.     Kinesiology, the Racehorse and Track Dynamics


II.   Trimming the Hoof & Tacking the Plate


III.  Race Horseshoes, Pads & Nails


IV.  Balance and Corrective Race Shoeing


V.    Hoof Health and Maintenance

     This is a very rare photo of a racehorse being shod back in the early part of the 20th century. I would  place the location to be at the local race track in Lynn, Mass. This is probably a harness horse surrounded by its connections. I would guess the owners, groom,  and trainer are all pictured which shows how valuable a task of placing race shoes on one's horse was considered. No trainer should lightly disregard not being present when the old shoes come off and new ones are tacked on, even in these modern times. It is interesting to note that back then, the traveling farrier provided a flat wood platform for the horse to be accurately shod upon. Just how many Thoroughbred platers have you ever observed that remotely took this much care to produce a similarly well shod race horse?

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