The Thoroughbred Safety Committee
The Toe Grab Recommendation
Bill Casner Bill Casner - President & Co-Owner, WinStar Farm

Editor's Note: Because Mr. Casner's presentation relied heavily on the use of PowerPoint slides and video, this is an abbreviated excerpt of his remarks. A copy of a similar PowerPoint presentation he produced with Mitch Taylor is available on the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit website, located at:

Bill Casner: Good morning. My presentation is on the detrimental effects of toe grabs and I'd like to start off by recognizing the members of our Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit Shoeing Committee: Dr. Sue Stover of the University of California-Davis has done a tremendous amount of research in this field, dating back to 1992; Steve Norman is a premier blacksmith in this country; Dick Mandella and Todd Pletcher, whose credentials speak for themselves; Kimberly Brown, who is a grad student in economics at the University of Kentucky; and Mitch Taylor, who is the owner of Kentucky Horse Shoeing School and has done a tremendous amount of work on the high-speed videos and putting this presentation together.

Of course, we all know what the problem is…The documented research shows that musculoskeletal injuries have a $1 billion economic impact on the Thoroughbred racehorse industry.

Up to 83% of Thoroughbred deaths can be attributed to an exercise-related injury and toe grabs have been shown to be a contributing factor to race horse breakdowns…

There has been an abundance of studies done at universities all across the country that have shown that toe grabs increase the risk of injury. For the sake of time, we're not going to go into all of the individual studies but there is one in particular that I think is compelling.

This one was done by Dr. Stover at UC-Davis and it shows that the odds of injury increase with the height of the toe grab.

Fatal musculoskeletal injuries have a 1.8 higher chance of occurring with a low toe grab than with a Queen's Plate [horseshoe]. And that nearly doubles to 3.5 with a regular toe grab. Suspensory apparatus failure - there is a 6.5 greater chance of having a suspensory apparatus failure with a low toe than there is with a Queen's Plate toe grab and that more than doubles to 15.6 with a regular toe grab. Cannon bone condylar fractures are seven times more likely to happen with a low toe grab than with a Queen's Plate and it nearly triples to 17.1 with a regular toe grab…

In effect, the toe grab acts like a snow plow on the leading edge of that shoe and the cushion (of the racing surface), causing an abnormal interruption of the slide phase which in turn causes a deceleration of the toe, which in turn amplifies the strains and angulation on the coffin joint and the fetlock hyperextension.

The snow plow effect can cause the toe to elevate as it seeks the path of least resistance… This is magnified if a horse, as it hits heel first, lands in the hole or track created by another horse…

Toe grabs also increase the chance of a spill when horses clip heels…

We've seen the videos and the data that show that these devices are lethal and dangerous to the horse, but one thing I really think we have to put above all else is how dangerous these devices are to our riders.

We all know that when a horse suffers a catastrophic injury, he's eligible to go down and he puts the rider in peril that's riding the horse and of course all the other riders behind him.

Another thing that happens: when you have horses with toe grabs, you magnify the chance of a horse having a spill when they clip heels.

There are several riders - Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, Steve Cauthen - that have testified to this. When they rode in Europe [where toe grabs are not permitted] and heard horses clipping heels, they did not have nearly the level concern they did when they rode in this country…

What is the solution?

Of course, the solution is to eliminate the use of toe grabs on the front foot of the horse. The data is compelling.

We need to continue to fund quantifiable research in equine lameness, develop minimum standards for farriers and develop standardized training curriculum for farriers and possibly trainers.

Thank you very much.

Stuart S. Janney III: Thank you very much, Bill. Your presentation helped the committee immensely in making its recommendation.

We're pleased that a number of key industry stakeholders have stepped forward. In a short period of time, both California and Kentucky have adopted the committee's recommendation by legislative action. And the racetracks in New York have done so by house rule. Racing associations like Penn National Gaming have also stepped forward.

It is now time for any racetracks that have not yet adopted this policy to do so by house rule until such time that their state racing commission can formally adopt the model rule. It is also time for horsemen's groups to support this rule when their state racing commissions take it under consideration. Finally, it is time for each and every racing commission who has not yet done so to put the adoption of this rule on their agenda.

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