Clinic Report: USDA/SHOW Tennessee Walking Horse Shoeing Compliance

Candace Wade attended the February 3 clinic put on by the USDA and SHOW, a Tennessee Walking Horse organization, which was intended to help improve Horse Protection Act compliance. Here’s what she learned.

Photo courtesy of HSUS.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Care division, which oversees Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) shows, teamed with SHOW (Sound Horses – Honest Judging — Objective Inspections — Winning Fairly) to host a shoeing clinic to “help improve Horse Protection Act (HPA) compliance.” The use of breed and discipline-specific training devices and show compliance inspections of the “big lick”/performance TWH horses continues to be a contentious issue on the local, state and federal levels.

To continue to educate myself on the performance shoeing of these horses, I attended the February 3, 2018, clinic at the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, TN – home of the TWH Celebration.

As a recreational horsewoman, the USDA slide show was an essential aid to help me understand the regulations: what is prohibited and for what the USDA and the Designated Qualified Person (DQP inspectors) will look. I came away with questions from the audience discussion like: What is SHOW? What’s with the “caulk” thing? The 50% rule? Why so much discussion about “hoof packing?” Here’s what I learned:

Who or What Is SHOW?

SHOW is a Horse Industry Organization (HIO). They work out of Shelbyville. I infer from their website that SHOW supports “big lick” training methods and shows.

Some Technical Practices and Prohibitions Discussed

Heel-toe ratio of hoof: “The Horse Protection Act prohibits a toe length that does not exceed the height of the heel by one inch or more.”  I learned that the length of the hoof effects the action of a horse. Pacier horses, like the performance horse, may be trimmed to a longer toe to provide different timing in the front footfalls allowing the horse to move the front slower than the back. A shorter toe on the rear feet raises the hoof angle. A heavier shoe along with the longer toe changes the arc and footfall of the front movement.

Extremely long toes (over 5″) with a short heel might cause bowed tendons as well as other physical problems. An overly long toe can have trouble holding a shoe. Longer toes can become weak and crack. Too short a hoof can cause soreness. Soreness may cause the horse to lift his feet to avoid painful contact with the ground.

Hoof angles with performance pads/package: Angles that differ between the front and rear feet encourage the horse to “break up” a two-beat gait. The stride length between the front and rear feet is altered making synchrony more difficult — whether the horse travels laterally (pacing) or diagonally (trotting). A rack or running walk can be achieved by increasing the angle of a horse’s front feet (shorter toe, higher heel) and decreasing the angle behind (longer toe, shorter heel). The HPA requires that the shod “heel to toe ratio” be a least four inches of toe for each inch of heel.

Use of a caulks or trailer caulks: The use of shoes with trailer caulks on the outside of the back feet changes the natural travel of the rear leg. The caulk moves the rear feet to the outside to avoid hitting the front hooves. This forces a horse to move with a “toe-out” motion. The trailers plant the foot firmly. The “caulked action” can cause twisting of the hocks and stress and strain to the hind legs. Trailer caulks can be attached for corrective use.  Flat shod farriers may use heel caulks for traction but they are applied evenly and on both sets of shoes.

The metal hoof band placement and the coronet: A metal band is used on some flat shod and all performance horses to hold the shoe and/or package onto the hoof. This band must be placed at least one half inch from the coronet band. The coronet is a sensitive area on the hoof — I suppose sort of like the quick of a human nail. Pressure on the coronet can cause damage to the hoof and pain.

The 50% rule: Refers to materials used to build up the damaged hoof wall. To comply with the HPA, the show horse must have at least 50% natural hoof as opposed to fill material.

Hoof packing: An object or material inserted between the pad and the hoof. Packing is intended to protect the frog and sole afflicted with severe thrush or a cracked sole for example. Packing has also been used to create a false sole which can hide soles that have been pared down and/or where objects have been inserted into the sole. The HPA prohibits the application of objects such as tacks, nails, lead weights, pieces of golf balls or other materials hidden under the performance pads/package. Therapeutic use of pine tar, oakum, live rubber, sponge rubber, silicone and commercial hoof packing are acceptable under the HPA.

Benzocaine: A HPA-approved substance used on horses as a local and/or prolonged low epidural anesthesia or numbing agent for pain. It can be used to avoid detection of pain during inspections. It can wear off by the time the horse is to perform, returning the horse to pain.

After listening and researching, I feel that the conference was like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. I have covered only some of the discussions that left me scratching my head. To be fully informed, read the slides and accompanying text on the USDA site.

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