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Are Our Farriers Up To Scratch?

Or is the issue our tracks?

Is anybody keeping statistics on the incidence of horses being reshod at the start in South Africa?

 A few punters contacted us today again and one even took the trouble to put pen to paper about this puzzling phenomenon.

Please could you investigate as to the reason why in South Africa the number of horses being re-shod at the start is alarmingly high, requests reader Andre of Durban in the SP Mailbag.

He writes:

I would like to know the statistics as compared to the rest of the world’s racing countries as I never see horses in Dubai, Hong Kong or Malaysia being reshod.

On Wednesday in the fourth race at Greyville two horses  had to be attended to, and in the fifth race there was another.

I would like to hear your opinion as well as those of the stipes and punters.

Maybe I am being pedantic?

Ed: Please feel free to comment and tell Andre what the issue is, if there is one – we have referred the query to the NHA, Phumelela and Gold Circle for feedback

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36 comments on “Are Our Farriers Up To Scratch?

  1. Ronny says:

    Not a race meeting goes by in South Africa without a horse having a shoe replaced. Why not have the horse scratched? Or is the delay deliberate in order to have the pools bigger and meet profit margins for Phumelela & Gold Circle?

  2. Robbie Miller Awcf Asf says:

    As an Associate of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (UK), and having horses that I shoe sometimes pull a shoe at the start (or going down to the start), this is something that unfortunately does happen. In fact, I had two horses pull a shoe on Met Day, from the approximately sixty odd horses we shod for the meeting!
    I’ve said it more than once, take into account the variables with the average 550kg of horse, before climbing into a truck to go to the races, is pulled around, shoved and loaded to go. Then they “stand” around before being saddled. Now a jockey climbs on board, and the horse is freshing and jumping about, maybe gets taken down to the start with its head to the side, or even sideways….. all of this with a few ounces of aluminium attached to the bottom of the foot with usually six tiny nails. Bear in mind that about 10 000lb per square inch of pressure is applied every time the foot is fully loaded at the gallop!
    South Africa has arguably more qualified and knowledgeable farriers today than there ever has been and there isn’t one racing farrier that fits shoes to a race horse expecting the shoe to come off.
    Sadly when it comes to horse shoeing, it seems that everyone is an expert bar the farrier.

  3. Pieta says:

    RM, 3.3% failure rate is not exactly something to be proud of.
    This has been ongoing many times on a daily basis….haven’t you noticed the difference between RSA and other countries? With respect you sound like a politician or maybe you just woke up from a coma?

    1. Editor says:

      Hey Pieta, Robbie was good enough to stand up and respond – let’s play civil

  4. Pieta says:


    Just another observation…we have approximately 640 horses running at all SA centers till Sunday…..if 3.3% is an acceptable standard it will equate to 21 horses…the mind boggles….

    1. Editor says:

      Have a look at the thread of discussion on this topic on our FB page , Pieta

    2. Editor says:

      According to NHA Racing Control Exec Arnold Hyde, they do maintain stats.
      These have not been provided, but he responds as follows:

      We do keep records of horses losing or spreading shoes to establish if there are any trends (farriers or trainers).
      It appears that these incidents are evenly spread across the professional ranks and that there are a myriad reasons which result in this unfortunate occurrence.
      I do not have the stats from overseas jurisdictions, however they are definitely not spared from this part of Racing.
      Kind regards,

  5. Philip says:

    Hey Pieta, the 3.3% you are talking about isn’t a failure rate it’s just unlucky. You’re obviously just not a great punter and need someone else to blame.

  6. Steve Reid says:

    My money is on other reasons. I have had the good fortune of meeting many farriers over the years of owning horses and I just have admiration for these guys. There are horses that I wouldn’t have been comfortable getting into a box with for fear of harm, yet these gents happily grab hold of the required limb and get to work sorting issues out. I have spent 20 minutes on a few occasions getting on with their trade and they have my admiration and respect. To shoe a horse is a complex thing, its not just a hammer a few nails in and move to the next.

  7. Jay August says:

    Robbie Miller, very insightful and eloquent response!.

  8. Reza says:

    Yes as Robbie stated thing happens and most of it is out of the farrier’s control the horse can fresh ,fly leap ,jump a patch ,run away with the jock and in an attempt to restrain a horse the jock might cock its head to the side or pull the head into the chest or just unbalanced the horse and it will move differently to it’s normal stride and put a foot wrong and accidentally step on it’s self and pull a shoe ,these horses are highly strung and at the start horses miling around waiting to be loaded can turn very tightly or being pulled around by a handler or shy away from the pens and put a foot wrong and a shoe might come of or loose when the horse step on itself .The farrier is far removed from all of the above mentioned unnatural circumstances. Anybody asking these questions should know that a 55Kg jockey has to control a 550kg highly flighty and tuned up horse it’s a big ask and things will happen. Ask yourself the question did you ever step on your feet by accident and if so was it your natural way of movement? #if shoes is the problem why not race horses barefoot, they really don’t need shoes they work on sand they run on grass why do they need shoes nailed to their feet if it is a question of grip that is a myth a horse without shoes have infact more grip and stability when the feet are correct than a horse with shoes .Here’s a little food for thought the winner wears aluminium shoes and so does the horse that runs 20 lengths last question is,if it’s the shoes that made that horse win ,then why is it that the horse running last probably shod by the same farrier and wearing the same aluminium shoes is not a winner ?

  9. Ian Jayes says:

    I can honestly say that in my more than thirty years of training none of my horses ever had to have a shoe replaced at the start. On one occasion in Durban, the farrier had to fix a shoe which had become loose before the race. My horses nearly always ran in steel shoes, not alumites. The shoes on my horses were always checked before they left the yard and again on arriving at the racecourse.

  10. bob kistnasamy says:

    In any sport or activity, we should also look at improvements. Whilst we sometimes make provision for the exception but the regularity in the recent past is cause for further thoughts in improvements.
    The consequences for re-shodding are many and affects the horses and the racing scheduled times.
    Perhaps some innovative discussions will help, after all we are looking for efficiency in the sport.

  11. Reza says:

    I made a comment and it’s not on here can’t find it

    1. Editor says:

      Repost it please Reza – nothing shown anywhere

  12. J. Akkish says:

    Are the horses in overseas different from ours
    Why only in South africa
    Forget the excuses
    All horses behave and the weights are the same
    No excuses for our farriers

  13. John Bryant says:

    I think the question is why is it a regular occurrence in South Africa, whereas in the thousands of races shown annually on Tellytrack from the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong etc it is a rarity.
    The ratio of SA races to overseas races shown on Tellytrack is small and so it is clear that the problem in South Africa is significant (and unique to SA). The technical explanations of how a horse can loose a shoe applies to all countries – so why is it a rarity in other jurisdictions?

    1. karel says:

      Appears to be quite a sweeping statement.
      Can you provide the facts to back up your opinion?

  14. Mashie says:

    It’s not only in SA that this happens and a few people on this site are showing their complete ignorance – Pieta you are leading the way in that department

  15. Pops says:

    One question for Robbie Miller.These six tiny nails he talks of,are they 1/2 inch panel pins 40 mm sturdy nails?

  16. Roy Naidoo says:

    Fair query from Mr. Bryant..Local farriers don’t need to be defensive about their profession. I would also like to know why it happens so frequently in ZAR.

  17. Liam says:

    Pieta claims it’s a 3.3% failure rate but it’s actually less than 1% as most horses wear 4 shoes and it’s generally only 1 shoe being replaced. So considering your dealing with unpredictable animals with so many variables I don’t think it’s to bad. Well done Robbie.

  18. Swift And Bold. says:

    Well said Mashie. Ignorance is the understatement.

  19. hilton witz says:

    It has nothing to do with the quality of our farriers .Our racetracks especially the polytrack in durban is the root of the problem…i have been racing 35 years and i can never recall horses ever having to be reshod at the start as they are today …Due to selling off racetracks and over racing on the ones left we are left with certain tracks that are not up to scratch and this especially applies to natal ..

  20. Paul summers says:

    We keep stats in Singapore of the overall plates cast. The equation we use is based on the number of runners per plates cast , not per feet (4). We have 2 racing surfaces , poly and grass .Typically over a season shoes lost per runners, averages about 1•4%. We do find a spike on rain affected grass tracks , typically during the monsoon season . Unfortunately I don’t have stats for horses replated at the start but it is relatively Low , that said our regulatory procedures require 2 farriers to be present on race days , one at the pre race holding area and one at the parade ring and subsequent start and stringent rules in place requiring horses to be presented plated to industry standard

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks for the info Paul

  21. Pieta says:

    Mashie, sadly I can’t make you the leader of the denial club…..that club should not have a leader….. maybe with the blinkers removed you can also show improvement and see the reality.

  22. Hogan Govindsamy says:

    Just a question to Mr Miller – has the design of the shoes changed much since allumites were first used?The reason I am asking is Aluminium is by nature a metal with a low friction coefficient – so maybe a design change to the contact area where the shoe comes into contact with the horse’s hoof could affect the situation of losing shoes positively.Also as far as stats are concerned ,maybe we should break them down into different seasons ie. all tracks are not in the same shape throughout the year.

  23. Pieta says:

    Hey Philip,
    For your info not a great punter at all….learned a long time ago that my Horseracing addiction should be on par with the average weekly golfer expenses.
    I only blame myself for taking that decision.

  24. Robbie Miller says:

    For those on this thread who actually do want to understand more about shoeing racehorses, you are more than welcome to contact either myself, or any of the other professionals at any of the centres, and possibly even spend a bit of time with us. Our association (SAAPF) is all about education of farriers in SA, and part of that is also client education.
    For those who are looking for a witch-hunt, the offer stands for you too. Remember of course that ignorance is a game that is usually played by the uninformed.
    If, after that, anyone is still out for farrier blood, please feel free to try one of our aprons on, and show us how to do it better!

  25. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Perhaps the question was posed in a way that would get a defensive response.

    My perception after watching hours and hours of racing both locally and abroad and we seem to have the most incidents of shoe related delays, probably more than the other jurisdictions combined.

    French racing is decidedly the worst in terms of delays during the loading process.

  26. Graham. says:

    You cannot say it does not happen with frequency in SA compared to other countries…..I look up when I see a delay for shoeing any where else…..it stands out. When there is a reshoeing we check that horse out very quickly and immediately put it in all bets…….you just don’t know.

  27. Robbie Dawson dwcf says:

    Amazingly this has been such a positive article for us farriers the future for us is looking so awesome

  28. Pieta says:

    ED, we are getting nowhere with the original question. We are grateful for the answer from Singapore but Mr Hyde’s stats will maybe give us more of an insight.
    It is pointless listening to the farriers posting here….they are just polishing their marbles….can’t do anything wrong.
    Some of us have (and still do) owned,trained,ridden,groomed and treated racehorses……we don’t need a lesson as part of the denial.

  29. Ronny says:

    Well said… Let’s just close this cold case.

  30. J. Akkiah says:

    I hope gold circle and phumelala are keeping stats on re shoding and bad starts
    That should give us all a good indication of SA racing

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