|A crack starting at the coronary (Left) - A crack starting at the sole (Right)|
|Big Brown undergoing special hoof care for quarter cracks.|
So, which trainers and owners are running their horses barefoot? Are there any? Sara and Brian Minsk, owners of Nine Maple Farm in Mendon, Mass. race barefoot only. Sara writes, "I believe we were the first ones in the U.S. to breed, train and race barefoot, as we started in 2003 with Thoroughbreds. We created a particular environment for our horses to allow their hooves to develop to their fullest potential. At the time, barefoot was NOT in fashion, and we were quite the outcasts." Their homebred Arabian racehorse, NMF Benraz Halim, a.k.a. Benny, trained by Leslie Bickel, has raced barefoot with zero training-related physical setbacks. "He has never worn shoes and trains and races on concrete-hard American dirt tracks. He was stakes placed as a Juvenile and just placed second in the Michigan Derby Stakes Race on July 28, 2007. He has 10 starts, with 1 win, 4 place (two of those being stakes races) and 1 show." Sara and Brian have had racing success with both Arabians and Thoroughbreds.
Another equine to bring attention to racing barefoot, is the English Thoroughbred, Saucy Night (owned by Eamonn Wilmott) when he entered the record books on January 3, 2005, by winning the 2-1/2 mile steeplechase at Folkstone, in the U.K., WITHOUT shoes. As Saucy cantered past the winning post, yet again, the commentator shouted out, "Message to all trainers out there - Get your horse's shoes off!!" Kavi, also owned by Eamonn Wilmott, is a five-year-old gelding who races on the flat barefoot. On February 14, 2005, he was entered in a race at Lingfield Park over 1M, 4 furlongs, on the all-weather surface, and at post-time he was rated 16th of 16 runners. Three furlongs from home, Kavi cruised up to take the win easily by 3 lengths. Racing Post thinks it may be the first ever win on the flat for a horse without shoes. He paid 64-1 on the tote.
Similarily, the 2006 Kentucky Derby starter, Brother Derek, trained without shoes. As per the Associated Press 2/9/06: "San Rafael winner, Brother Derek, galloped 1-1/2 miles without shoes for trainer Dan Hendricks. Dan notes, 'He trains without shoes and he's worn glue-on shoes since Del-Mar to allow his feet to air out and expand naturally.' The colt's next start was in the Santa Catalina on March 4, 2006, a Grade 2, which he won.
|Brother Derek training with his glue-on shoes.|
The question still remains though, how many trainers and owners will race their horses barefoot? Has their been enough research done to satisfy questions of safety, traction, and comfort or discomfort to the horse? Would it ever be possible for Standardbreds to race barefoot given that they are raced more frequently, with a tougher track surface than Thoroughbreds? Will glue-ons eventually take the place of steel or aluminum shoes? I guess we will have to ponder this, one step-at-a-time...shoeless of course...ahem!
excerpts from Novita, Tomas G. Teskey, Barefoot Performance: Horse Racing, Thoroughbred Times
Stay safe, keep your hooves on the ground, and keep reaching for the wire.