HISA: Toe Grabs Will Be Allowed On Hind Limbs For Dirt Races - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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HISA: Toe Grabs Will Be Allowed On Hind Limbs For Dirt Races

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority announced Friday that Rule 2276 shall not be enforced for horses racing on dirt surfaces that are shod on the hindlimbs with traction devices in the form of either a full outer rim shoe (up to 4 mm in height) or a toe grab (up to 4 mm in height). All other provisions of Rule 2276 shall remain in full force and effect.

Enforcement of Rule 2276 will begin as previously announced on Monday, August 1, 2022.

RATIONALE

In the last week, the Racetrack Safety Committee (“the Committee”) was made aware through communications from elected officials on Capitol Hill and from horsepersons of widespread concerns that the traction provided by full outer rim shoes and toe grabs for the hindlimbs is essential for the safety of horses in certain circumstances. These circumstances include breaking from the gate and track conditions that are impacted by ambient temperature or precipitation (including maintenance procedures such as watering the track). The concerns are that reduced traction will result in horses either slipping, falling, or otherwise being unable to firmly grip the track surface, with resulting injury to horses and their riders.

In response to these concerns, the Committee invited a representative group of horsepersons including trainers, owners, a veterinarian, and a blacksmith to present their concerns to the Committee. Following this meeting, the Committee met for several hours to discuss the concerns expressed in light of the upcoming implementation of the horseshoe rule.

After full consideration of the matter, the Committee strongly recommended the use of full outer rim shoes for hindlimb traction because these shoes provide traction while enabling the hoof to land flatly on the track surface, whereas toe grabs accentuate stressors on bone and soft tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, which contributes to injury. Moreover, the only study investigating the association of hindlimb toe grabs with injury revealed that injuries to the suspensory apparatus were more likely to occur to horses shod with hindlimb toe grabs.

In contrast, there is no evidence indicating that toe grabs protect horses or riders.

However, given the concerns expressed, the Committee recommended to HISA that Rule 2276 shall not be enforced for horses racing on dirt surfaces that are shod on the hindlimbs with traction devices in the form of either a full outer rim shoe (up to 4 mm in height) or a toe grab (up to 4 mm in height). All other provisions of Rule 2276 shall remain in full force and effect. Enforcement of Rule 2276 will begin as previously announced on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.

EVIDENCE AND FINDINGS SUPPORTING THIS RECOMMENDATION

Findings that support the rationale for strongly recommending use of full outer rim shoes rather than toe grabs are the epidemiological data, consistency of the association of musculoskeletal injury with toe grabs on the hindlimbs with that of injury on the forelimbs, findings of the association of a long-toe conformation with racing injury (toe grabs would extend the effective length of the toe), expert opinion, and evidence from other racing jurisdictions where toe grabs are banned and where injury rates are lower (including Japan, where racing on a dirt surface is prominent).

REFERENCES
1. Kane AJ, Stover SM, Gardner IA, Case JT, Johnson BJ, Read DH, Ardans AA. Horseshoe
characteristics as possible risk factors for fatal musculoskeletal injury of Thoroughbred racehorses. Am J Vet Res 1996;57:1147-1152.
2. Hill AE, Stover SM, Gardner IA, Kane AJ, Whitcomb MB, Emerson AG. Risk factors for and outcomes of noncatastrophic suspensory injury in Thoroughbred racehorses. J Am Vet Med Assoc 200; 218:1136-1144.
3. Hernandez JA, Scollay MC, Hawkins DL, Corda JA, Krueger TM. Evaluation of horseshoe characteristics and high-speed exercise history as possible risk factors for catastrophic musculoskeletal injury in thoroughbred racehorses. Am J Vet Res 2005;66:1314–1320.
4. Anthenill LA, Stover SM, Garner IA, Hill AE. Risk Factors for proximal sesamoid bone fractures associated with exercise history and horseshoe characteristics in Thoroughbred racehorses. Am J Vet Res 2007;68:760-771.
5. Balch OK, Helman RG, Collier MA. Underrun heels and toe-grab length as possible risk factors for catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries in Oklahoma racehorses. Proc AAEP 2001;47:334-337.
6. Casner B. 2010 Jockey Club Welfare & Safety Committee Presentation
7. Hitchens PL, Morrice-West AV, Stevenson MA, Whitton RC. Meta-analysis of risk factors for racehorse catastrophic musculoskeletal injury in flat racing. Vet J 2019;25:39-40.

The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association released the following statement regarding HISA's announcement: 

On July 19, the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association Board of Directors, joined by representatives of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and Thoroughbred Owners of California met in Saratoga with HISA leadership to discuss the implementation of HISA, issues that have arisen, and short-term and long-term plans. Among the issues discussed was the shoe rule, which has generated significant concern among horsemen for its potential to negatively affect the safety and welfare of our horses. We requested the opportunity to meet with the HISA Safety Committee to express our concerns and recommend a resolution prior to the rule's implementation.

On July 27, a group comprised of John Kimmel VMD, Scott Palmer VMD, Ian McKinlay, Graham Motion, Linda Gaudet, Joe Appelbaum and Alan Foreman met with the HISA Safety Committee. The dialogue was invaluable, as it gave the Safety Committee the opportunity to explain its rationale for the rule and the THA group the opportunity to respond. We are pleased that this morning, HISA has announced that it is implementing the change we recommended that allows horses racing on dirt to have certain hindlimb traction devices. We are particularly appreciative of the contributions of John Kimmel, Scott Palmer and Ian McKinlay for providing critical evidence-based support for the need to change the rule.

HISA is the law and it is in effect. Notwithstanding that there is ongoing litigation, we believe that it is our responsibility on behalf of our constituencies to engage with HISA as necessary to ensure that our horses are protected, our horsemen are treated fairly and responsibly, and that the integrity of racing is preserved.

The fact that horsemen are not represented on any HISA Committee is a missed opportunity that we believe needs to be corrected. In the meantime, we will continue to vigorously advocate for the best interests of the safety and welfare of the horse and the best interests of our horsemen. We continue to engage with HISA as the best way to serve our membership and the industry at large and this decision underscores their willingness to engage with us and make changes as necessary.

We thank the HISA Safety Committee for its willingness to consider and act on thoughtful input from those who can best provide it.

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