HISA revises guidance on Racetrack Safety Program shoe rule

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) July 29 released updated guidance on Rule 2276, which pertains to horseshoes such as full outer rim shoes and toe grabs. Shoe rules are part of the HISA Racetrack Safety Program that took effect July 1, 2022.

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

HISA, in an advisory notice, said its Racetrack Safety Committee in July 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 hind limbs is essential for the safety of horses in certain circumstances. The 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. The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association July 29 issued the following statement on its involvement in the process.

"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, N.Y., 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.

"The group requested the opportunity to meet with the HISA Safety Committee to express 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 and Scott Palmer in providing critical support for the need to change the rule.

"HISA is the law and it is in effect. Notwithstanding the distraction of 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 collaborate with HISA and this decision underscores their willingness to engage with us and make changes as necessary. In particular, we thank the HISA Safety Committee for its willingness to consider and act on thoughtful input from those who can provide it."

In response to the meeting, the HISA Safety 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," HISA said in its advisory announcing the updated guidance. "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 hind limbs with traction devices in the form of either a full outer rim shoe (up to 4 millimeters in height) or a toe grab (up to 4 millimeters 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."

 

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