Developing the young foot

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I remember my first yearling and two-year-old-in-training sales at Keeneland, Woodbine, and Tattersalls.To my untrained eye, and despite tracing backwards through the bloodlines, each and every horse appeared sound and fit, looking like a million bucks.

Although few horses ever actually sold for that amount, every inch of those young racehorse wannabes was gleaming from nose to toes. Even their feet were buffed and polished as perfectly as a pair of Usher’s coveted shoes.

Possibly because young horses for sale are primped and preened to the gills, few potential buyers actually ever pick their feet up to inspect them. Instead, buyers tend to focus on joints and throats, using the extensive repository to review joint radiographs (X-rays) and scoping prospects’ throats. “The horses in the September (yearling) sales are simply glamorous, including their feet. I would estimate that only 10% of buyers ever actually pick up at foot at those sales,” remarks Sam Christian, a Kentucky-based farrier servicing several top-level operations such as Shadwell Farm.

In general, the expectation appears to be that if the throat and joints are clear and the young horse appears straight, their feet must also be in good condition. While some horses may have hidden surprises once their party shoes are removed (indicating that some of those fancy feet are in fact simply mutton dressed as lamb), Mark Dewey, a highly sought-after racing farrier, attests this is not generally the case.

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