Bob Baffert chatting with farrier Steve Norman at Churchill
Emblem's Winning Kentucky Derby Formula Included The Latest
Hoofwear From Europe
KY Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem looks every bit the classic
Derby winner. He ís lean, fit, and fast, all right, like
all his predecessors. But only from the ankles up. There was something
very different about this racehorse.
War Emblem was the first winner of the Run for the Roses to wear
a new brand of racehorse shoe, newly imported to the USA from Holland.
Manufactured by the long-established metalworking firm of Kerckhaert
Horseshoes Company in Vogelwaarde, Holland, the aluminum shoes look
similar to the shoes manufactured in America.
But to the eye and feel of a professional farrier, there is a difference
in these shoes. And perhaps, most importantly, there is some difference
to the horse. The shoes are shaped more precisely to the natural
shape of the Thoroughbred hoof. According to Steve Norman, the man
who nailed them onto War Emblemís feet, they have a nail
placement that gives plenty of options, sole relief and a slightly
wider stock that gives better support. The strength of the shoes
practically eliminates spreading or distortion of the shoe.
A number of the horses entered in the Derby wore the new European
shoes on either all four feet, or the hind feet only, according
to farrier Steve Norman, of Lexington, KY, who has integrated the
new shoes quickly into his busy practice.
"Shoeing a horse is old news," said Steve Norman as he
prepared to check the horse's shoes before his trip to Baltimore
to run in Saturdayís Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. "What
I'm looking for is the best shoe for the horse. My goal is to shoe
a racehorse twelve times in a row. That means no injuries, and no
layups. When I shoe a horse twelve times, I feel like I have really
accomplished something. Most horses don't have a chance to prove
Trying the new shoes on War Emblem wasn't a problem for trainer
Bob Baffert, who has a reputation for being independent in his thinking.
In Australia last year, New Zealandís Ethereal won the prestigious
Melbourne Cup wearing the shoes.
War Emblem's hind foot showing new raceplate with clip
War Emblem's front foot showing new raceplate
"Trainers are accepting the new shoes, which is a little surprising,"
Norman reported. "I think they are helping to hold the foot
together. The added material makes the shoe more stable, maybe.
I'd like to do less patching, see fewer layups, and this is one
thing to try in that direction."
Norman has been shoeing for 33 years ever since he failed to make
weight as a jockey in his native Colorado and looked for a different
job to keep him on the racetrack he loved so much. Today, Norman
shoes many of Americaís top stakes horses, and is assisted
by four helpers. War Emblem was the third Kentucky Derby winner
to wear his shoes; he also shod Point Given last year for Baffert
when the Horse of the Year ran in the Preakness and Belmont.
"You're only as good as the last shoe you nailed on,"
Norman smirks, in reference to the fate of farriers whose notoriety
was made by horses that pulled shoes on race day or in the starting
gate. "I hope they all stay on."
Hoofcare Magazine: www.hoofcare.com
Farrier Product Distribution (USA agents for Kerckhaert horseshoes):
Kerckhaert Horseshoe Company: www.kerckhaert.com