To the Races

If the shoe fits, WEAR IT?An alternative look at the horse’s hoof.

by Wally Wood

Horse wins race. How much did it pay?

There is so incredibly much more to horse racing, than that.

The breeding, the rearing, the feeding, the care, the veterinary care, the training…. add the vitamins, and throw in love. The jockey, not to mention the groom, may have to be in concert for the individual horse to perform at its best.

The trainer and owner look at the racetrack’s Condition Book, to select an appropriate race for the untried 2-year old. Assessing the horse: the breeding might suggest that ‘speed’ is in his/her pedigree, or not. Four and a half furlongs, or six or seven furlongs? Is he or she bred to run all day? An appropriate jockey, to be given appropriate instructions.

What about feet?

Feet? Feet?

No foot, no horse… goes the saying.

A horse has a leg on each corner, and a foot at the end of each leg. The trainer gets the expertise of a reputable blacksmith/farrier, and the horse is shod. Is the horseshoe, a racing ‘plate’ on each leg, a necessity? The vast majority of horsemen would state that it is.

On the other hand, Dr. George Roth, a chiropractor who works under the banner of Caledon Wellness Centre, near Tottenham, Ontario, wonders aloud if the aluminum horseshoes do more harm than good to the racehorse. An academic with a long list of accomplishments, Dr. Roth also has a creative imagination, and the enthusiasm to make some of his imaginings real.

One of his office treatments he calls Matrix Repatterning®. What is that? Matrix, in biology, is the substance between cells. Dr. Roth explains that Matrix Repatterning is a way of understanding, assessing and treating the body, literally at the molecular level. He goes on to elucidate: in his concept, he sees that the entire human body- – bones, muscles, organs, everything – is like one continuous piece of fabric; and his Matrix provides stability and flexibility and absorbs energy from other sources. A sufficient amount of energy, say from an injury, could cause the molecules within the Matrix to change to a rigid state that manifests itself as hurt.

With wizard-like facility, Dr. Roth discovers the ‘blockage’ in the body fabric with his hands, and magically relieves the pain: the curative treatment is exemplified by the affected area becoming much more supple to the touch. Dr. Roth says that, what he calls the molecular restriction is actually an electrical disturbance, and that when he passes his hands over the restriction, it tends to move towards a Norman electrical balance, thus reducing the molecular tension. Since the Matrix is interconnected, the rest of the body tends to relax.

If that explanation sounds mystical, it is. Dr. Roth concedes that part of the ‘cure’ could indeed be mental, but adds that that could be part of the conceit, knowing that the body and the mind are linked.

Man could indeed be fooled into accepting a ‘cure’, but a sentient horse much less so. Dr Roth has, with the assistance of a veterinarian, worked his Matrix Repatterning magic on horses, alleviating the individual horse from discomfort. He says that it is necessary for him to have a partner in the curative process simply because such an animal is too large for the normal ‘laying on of hands’ to work effectively with just one person.

The Matrix Repatterning does work. But, what about horses running without shoes, another of Dr. Roth’s imaginings?

Dr. Roth says that horses developed over millions of years without shoes, and flourished. He adds that there is a copious amount of evidence that horses continue to get injured on a regular basis, and wonders if shoes could be part of the problem. He says that the normal legs and feet of a horse are the natural shock absorbers, and wonders if horseshoes might not be affecting the individual horse adversely.

Looking at horse racing tangentially, Dr. Roth was struck by ‘girthyness’ of many of the racehorses he has encountered, and speculated that pressure from the day-to-day life of a racehorse, compounded by strictures that might have their genesis in ‘foreign’ racing ‘plates’ might lead to damage to internal organs. He says that blood in the lungs of racehorses mow seems to be more prevalent than ever, and there appears to be pathology that indicates that some internal organs in some horses, heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, were larger, more bloated, than expected.

One might assume that many minds have been set to solve the problems that horseshoes present. Then, there was ‘an open letter to veterinarians’ sent by fellow veterinarian, Dr. W. Robert Cook, about 18 months ago, headed ‘Educated Owners and Barefoot Horses’. In the treatise, he cites German veterinarian, Dr. Hiltrud Strasser, Having proved that “the horseshoe is an unnecessary evil”.

One veterinarian who works at Toronto’s Woodbine racetrack, suggests that a discussion about the pros and cons of horseshoes is interesting, but that racehorses need the support of racing ‘plates’: that horses competing in a race are athletes subject to biomechanical forces, and need all the ‘supports’ deemed necessary.

Bill Anthoulakis, is a blacksmith working at Woodbine, intimates that the individual racehorse has individual feet that have to be shod accordingly: to protect the feet, to balance the horse, and to help maximize his or her performance in a race. But, he says, that to have a horse compete in a race without shoes would be tantamount to ruining that horse as a racehorse: that the feet would break up and wear out. He says that there are different products available to help the individual horse run comfortably to its potential, including pads that absorb pressure when the horse is in competition. He adds that the farrier/blacksmith is there to alleviate or help to avoid foot and other problems that might afflict the racehorse: and, for example, He says that probably 90 percent of the horsemen at Woodbine now don’t use toe-grabs on a horse’s front shoes, because they tend to be self-defeating.

Horse racing is still a work in progress, with science and resourcefulness often conjoined for a desired effect. In the context of horses’ hooves, and racing to win, if the shoe fits, wear it.

International Thoroughbred Digest,January 2003