Big Brown's new shoes
May 07, 2008
"On Saturday, May 3, 2008, a beautiful bay horse named Big Brown shattered a barrier that will mean better health and longer life for horses everywhere," said Joe Camp, noted producer/director and author. "The colt became the first horse in history to win the Kentucky Derby without metal shoes nailed to his feet."

Big Brown had lameness issues, cracked hooves, and hoof wall separation allowing him to run only three races prior to the Derby. His metal nail-on shores were pulled and flexible glue-on plastic shoes were put on, allowing his hooves to flex as Mother Nature intended. His hooves healed and he could run again. "A horse's hoof is supposed to flex," Camp said, "and that flexing acts like a secondary heart, pumping blood throughout the thousands of capillaries in the hoof mechanism, which keeps it healthy and provides a hydraulic-like shock absorption for the tendons, ligaments, and joints of the leg.

"This is huge!" Camp added. "It could be the impetus needed to get tons of metal shoes off horses' feet so the hooves can flex as their genetics designed them to do."

Big Brown fought against huge odds for the blanket of roses. The was the first horse since 1915 to win with only three prior races. And the first horse since 1929 to win from the far outside position. And his earlier lameness has provided a pathway to health and longevity for horses everywhere.

But it was also a day of tragedy when the only filly in the race, Eight Belles, after coming in second place, suddenly collapsed with two broken front ankles and had to be euthanized on the spot. "The death of Eight Belles, even more clearly than that of Barbaro, focuses on the need to stop allowing horses who have not matured skeletally to run in these races," Camp said after the race.

"The growth plates between the bones in the joints of a horse do not fully mature into strong bone until the horse is four to five-and-a-half years old," Camp said. "Yet the horses in the Derby are running at three years old, after usually being trained hard from the time they are one-and-a-half to two years old. It's way too young.

"And before Big Brown, that training and racing was always done wearing metal shoes nailed to their feet, which among other things multiplies the concussion effect all the way up the leg every time the foot impacts the ground. It's time for serious change.

"I wish I could conjure up a computerized scientific analysis of what would've happened if Eight Belles had been five years old, or even four, instead of three; and throughout her years of training her hooves had been able to flex, and pump blood, and provide much needed shock absorption for ankles and knees and tendons and ligaments." Camp said. "I know in my heart what the difference would be. My happy tears for Big Brown's amazing win would not have turned to tears of pain. And that beautiful filly would still be alive."

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