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Is It The Shoes Or Our Farriers – Or Something Else?

Even a fundi like Hawkins hasn't got an answer

While we are told that we have some of the world’s greatest farriers, the old debate around horses losing a shoe and being reshod at the start is alive again.

Seasoned racing man Selwyn Elk writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that a while ago he asked why so many horses in South Africa lose a shoe on the way to the start?

In other countries it is a rare occurrence- but as yet there has been no response to my question.

Recently a favourite had to be reshod at the start and was eventually scratched. Exotic punters had to have the discomfort of witnessing the replaced tote favourite running out of the placings.

On Friday at Hollywoodbets Greyville a number of horses had to have their shoes refitted once again – and Graeme Hawkins, regarded by many as a racing ‘fundi’ was at a loss as to why this happens predominantly in South Africa.

Isn’t it about time that the powers-that-be provide an explanation to the racing public – or is that too much to ask?

I would appreciate a reply, many thanks.


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3 comments on “Is It The Shoes Or Our Farriers – Or Something Else?

  1. Dick Adcock says:

    I’ve commented on this issue on numerous occasions in the SP in the past. Certainly I was surprised by Graeme Hawkins comments whilst on track a couple of days ago. Normally all the disciples and underlings in SA racing employ, dismiss the issue as ‘giving us more time to get our bets on’, as if it is something positive. That probably sums up the attitude of the powers that be in the industry, nobody gives a proverbial. I just find it extraordinary that other countries agree to screen our racing, given that it never runs to schedule. Only in SA is it normal for even the first race not to run to time.

  2. David Thiselton says:

    by David Thiselton
    One of the country’s most respected farriers Robbie Dawson admitted horses pulling shoes on their way to the start in South African racing was a real problem but added it was difficult to know why it was so prevalent out here.
    The problem was highlighted on Saturday at Kenilworth when two horses pulled shoes on the way to the start of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and this contributed to a 25 minute delay.
    Dawson said Simon Curtis, possibly the most renowned horseracing farrier in the world, had inspected the style of plating on a visit to South Africa and had confirmed it was pretty much the norm.
    Dawson has in fact been the on-course farrier at both Bath and Ascot racecourses in the UK during his career and as one who has a deep passion for his chosen profession he has a vast knowledge of global plating methods and habits.
    In SA horses are normally fitted with alumite racing shoes after their final bit of fast work, which usually happens about five days before the race.
    These relatively soft material shoes do not withstand much abnormal frictional force. A hoof catching an edge of a shoe usually meant it would be pulled off and even just an awkward step could cause the shoe to shift position.
    Dawson pointed out that something could go wrong anywhere between the yard, the float, arriving on course, parading and going down to the start.
    The different walks of life in racing all watch the sport from their own frame of reference and farriers pay particular attention to the pre-race preliminaries.
    Dawson said about British racing, “It is beautiful to watch them going down to the start.”
    He was referring to the British habit of simply cantering the horse smoothly down to post.
    He reiterated the cause of the problem out here was unknown and was at pains to not lay any blame.
    In fact, he said he had often found himself questioning his own abilities and wondering whether he could have done something different when seeing a horse he had shod pull a shoe.
    However, in surmising possible causes, he pointed out the pressure jockeys seemed to be under to get their horses down to the start as quickly as possible in South Africa.
    There was a consequent lack of smoothness in achieving this aim.
    Jockeys are often seen with their feet out of the irons and the horse’s head over the rail, which causes the horse’s legs to go all over the place.
    Horses are seen freshing and spinning as they come out of the chute.
    Horses also seem to go down at all sorts of different paces.
    He added, “Watching horses going down to the start here I am sometimes surprised there are not more horses pulling shoes.”
    He added some horses were predisposed to lifting shoes due to their fractious temperaments.
    In SA, due to the relatively fast ground and the use of false rails, our racing is generally canter-sprint in nature and speed work is predominant, while in the tougher going conditions of the UK long, slow work is prevalent.
    The horses in the UK are consequently easier to switch on and off and are generally less on edge.
    Dawson pointed out that more horses appear to pull shoes on the way to the start in SA than in the race itself and he said a survey to see whether this was indeed true would be interesting.
    In the USA horses invariably go down with ponies and and with their heads being held to the side, so their stride is not always smooth.
    However, Dawson pointed out they go down relatively slowly and, furthermore, horses out there are usually shod on the day of the race.
    He pointed out the SA habit of shoeing horses a week before the race was not unusual.
    He revealed during his stint in the UK his farrier team had shod Quest For Fame a week-and-a-half before his victory in the Epsom Derby and they had also shod Sanglamore a week-and-a-half before he won the French Derby.
    Dawson has often fitted special shoes to try and solve issues with a horse’s feet and he has also tried a special plating method for the polytrack in an attempt to create more “slide” for the horse.
    However, he said he invariably ended up going back to the basics.
    He concluded by saying he is adamant the plating methods in South Africa are generally no different or inferior to anywhere else in the world.
    * Sean Tarry has made use of overreach boots for some of his big race runners. They are fitted before the preliminaries and are removed at the start. Using these boots for all horses on big race days might be the way to prevent a repeat of the LQP delay.

  3. Dylan says:

    Watch some international racing and focus on the horses leaving the parade ring and walking to the race track and then after the canter down watch them ringing at the start, they are calm hence lose less shoes and there is less jig jogging around and horses messing about and losing shoes. Then watch SA racing and watch how the horses behave and leave the parade ring and you’ll soon see the difference in behaviour and horses pull shoes when they canter on the spot and behave like that. Greyville makes me cringe when I see the horses coming out of the shoot, it makes total sense why so many shoes are lost there. I honestly think the problem lies with the trainers, riders and work riders rather than the farriers. It’s very easy for a badly behaved horse to pull a shoe!

    Don’t shoot me down, observe what I’m saying above first, you will see a vast difference in the behavior of the horses between SA and International, in the very part where they all lose a shoe, heading to the start.

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