Barefoot Harness Racing: How, Why & When


August 26, 2015 by RAZERHORSE BLOG

connyWe interviewed Standardbred farrier, Conny Svensson, and asked him about Standardbreds racing barefoot. You’d think that race horses would always need shoes, but he says that is not always the case.

Why would you race barefoot? 
Trotters started racing barefoot around 20 years ago. Horses with shoes started getting beat by those racing barefoot. People thought that the reason was because it was lighter, but with more research they found that the ability for the hoof capsule to flex was the difference.

It also allows the horse’s bony column (in the lower limb) to remain straight, and it increases blood flow and circulation. That’s where Erik (Razerhorse’s founder) got the idea to make a shoe that moves like a bare foot,” says Conny.

When would you choose to race barefoot?
“If the horse will race better barefoot, we’ll do it. You may try running barefoot and find that it’s not an advantage. Some may go slower barefoot.

When there’s a big race in Sweden and France, it’s not uncommon to see a whole field of horses racing barefoot. In the U.S., we have to pick our races and make sure we have the hoof in good condition. The tracks are much harder and unforgiving here in the U.S. than on the European tracks. They aren’t really suitable for barefoot racing and it’s very hard on their feet.

You have to plan to race them barefoot by preparing their feet ahead of time.”

This is where Conny uses Razer shoes and/or Propads to ensure good hoof quality for racing barefoot when possible.

What’s the biggest factor in this decision? 
“If you see that the competition is tough and have to improve your chances, you’re going to do what is necessary to make your horse the fastest. The most important thing is making sure the horse has enough foot, and strong enough of a foot, to race barefoot. You won’t take shoes off if you run the risk of injuring the horse.”

When would you choose to race in shoes? 
“Some horses don’t have the hoof quality to ever go barefoot. They’ll break up the hoof wall and you’ll end up with a mess and no foot to nail a shoe to. Poor quality hoof capsule is a reason to not race barefoot.

unclepeter record adWith trotters, some may need a lot of weight on their front feet to stay on stride, therefore, these particular individuals won’t benefit from racing barefoot (at least not on the front feet). Uncle Peter for example had Razer shoes on hind and a heavier shoe on front (16 oz. on ea front foot). They’re all different as far as weight and need for shoes. Pacers usually keep shoes on for races because they need a tremendous amount of traction.”

How does shoeing Standardbreds vary from other horses? 
“One thing that is not done with any other breed is that we keep measurements for each horse on their toe length and angle, so we know exactly how much foot  can be removed.

If you alter the foot, you change their gait and the horse can go off stride. Having this record lets me measure before racing, and if the horse has a quarter inch of hoof growth, he has plenty of foot to race barefoot. It gives an advantage to knowing when you can race barefoot.”

What is your shoeing interval?
“We do no longer than three week intervals for shoeing. The reason is that we can’t allow the angle and toe length to change too much. I never trim more than a 1/4 inch, but if we plan on racing barefoot, I’ll leave a little more foot.”

One thought on “Barefoot Harness Racing: How, Why & When

  1. Tom Charters says:

    This is an important piece of handicapping that the wagering public should know. Thanks Connie!


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