Henderson and Webber back Easterby in horseshoe battle with BHA
Nicky Henderson and Paul Webber are among the senior figures in jump racing to back fellow trainer Mick Easterby in his call for the BHA to review a new rule that will enforce the wearing of horseshoes on all four hooves.
The BHA will introduce the rule change on February 1, after conducting a two-year data review backed by consultation with a number of racing professionals.
The governing body views the change – which mirrors the rule introduced on the Flat in 2016 – as a safety and welfare measure, designed to reduce the chances of horses slipping during a race.
Both Mick and his nephew Tim Easterby, as well as Sue and Harvey Smith, argue that leaving the two rear hooves unshod can help reduce the risk of a horse injuring itself by striking into a front leg, while disputing that there is any increased chance of slipping.
The 87-year-old trainer described the BHA move as "ridiculous" and vowed to defy the ban in circumstances where he previously would have run a horse with only two front shoes.
'My father used to run his horses with no hind shoes'
Speaking at Huntingdon on Friday, trainer Paul Webber said he had rarely found any lack of traction in the days when he was riding for his father John.
"My father used to run his horses with no hind shoes and my brother [Peter] and I rode a lot of them," said Webber. "We seldom found it caused any problems. Unless you're running on fast ground or watered ground, I don’t think there's a lot of difference between how God made the hoof and what's under it, so I’m not sure slipping is that much of a problem."
Webber also pointed to the lifetime of experience among the rule's opponents.
"I think it's very difficult to prove in two years that something is conclusive," said Webber. "If proper horsemen like the Easterbys and the Smiths have found that running without hind shoes works for them, then I’m not going to argue and I think they have every right to stick to their guns."
Ben Case was another trainer at the track to feel the current state of affairs was preferable.
"I don't understand why they won't let trainers make their own decisions on things," he said. "None of our young horses would wear hind shoes at home until they get near ready to run."
Henderson: 'Mick has enough experience'
Champion trainer Henderson said he had never run a horse that wasn't fully plated but strongly defended the rights of those who wished to leave the rear hooves unshod.
"If Mick Easterby prefers his horses not to run in hind shoes, I think he's had enough experience," said Henderson. "And if he felt hind shoes helped, he’d put them on. Why does someone have to come and tell him he can't? It makes no sense to me. I’ve always shod all four but it’s Mick's prerogative."
Henderson also backed the Easterbys' argument that wearing hind shoes could increase the chances of incurring a serious tendon injury.
"I know of two horses with other trainers who have struck into their tendons and the horse has had to be put down," he said. "If you’re not wearing any hind shoes, you can't do that.
"We always used to put boots on ours but through the veterinary world it has been concluded that the tendon heats up a lot underneath them in a race.
"We've found that we're suffering much less tendon damage on the racecourse since we took the boots off. On the other hand that does bring into play the risk of horses striking into themselves.
"With no hind shoes you can't do anything like the damage and I think there's a big issue here."
The National Trainers' Federation has asked the BHA to revisit the rule change.
NTF president Rupert Arnold said: "The data in the BHA survey showed that none of the horses who slipped had fallen, so it's clear there's no increased risk of injury to horse or jockey. As a result of that evidence and the trainers’ experience, we've gone back to the BHA to ask them to review their decision and delay implementation pending further discussion."
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