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How, When and Why to Use Studs

How, When and Why to Use Studs dressage

If you compete on grass, your horse might struggle to keep his balance on days when the ground is slippery, especially on a firm surface that’s made greasy by dew or rain.

Fitting studs in your horse’s shoes can help to improve your horse’s balance and confidence. However, making the wrong choice of studs can cause more problems than it solves.

So, when should you use studs, and why is choosing the correct studs so important?

In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about choosing and using studs.

Using road nails 

When the horse has just been shod, the nail heads are proud, providing the horse with extra grip when you’re riding on a slippery surface, such as on a road or on hard ground with wet grass on top.

However, if you do a lot of road work, the nail heads quickly wear down, leaving you with little or no grip when you’re negotiating smooth, slippery surfaces. For that reason, many people have road nails fitted to their horse’s shoes.

Road nails are simply an ordinary horseshoe nail that has a tungsten carbide pin inserted into the nail head so that it protrudes slightly. The nail grips the road surface as the horse’s foot hits the ground.

Road nails should always be fitted in pairs, either front or back or all four. That ensures that the medial-lateral balance of the foot and limb is maintained. Road nails are fitted as far back on the shoe as possible so that they reduce concussion as the hoof hits the floor.

To opt for road nails, you will need to speak to your farrier.

Using studs for competition 

Some horses struggle to grip on certain surfaces, and that affects their balance, confidence, and their ability to do their job.

If these circumstances, fitting studs to the horse’s shoes is the way to go.

If you want to use studs, you will need to speak to your farrier. The farrier will create stud holes in the shoes by drilling one hole in each corner of the shoe. The hole is threaded so that you can screw in the stud securely, and then take them out again when they’re not needed.

Note that your farrier will charge extra for each stud hole.

How do studs affect the horse?

When the horse’s hoof lands on the ground, it’s an important element of the normal function of the horse’s forelimbs and aids in the absorption of concussion.

The effect of fitting studs in front prevents that normal function, leading to increased forces moving up the horse’s legs and placing strain on the joints of the upper limbs.

So, you can see that studs in the horse’s front shoes should only be used when absolutely necessary.

Fitting studs in the horse’s back shoes helps to provide extra grip for the horse when you’re negotiating corners or taking off in front of a fence.

The anatomy of a stud

  • A stud has a durable tungsten core that is robust enough to withstand continuous impact and abrasive conditions. The exposed tip of the stud provides extra grip.
  • The stud’s barrel is the external body, and varies in size and shape, depending on the purpose of the stud.
  • The thread is the part of the stud that you screw into the stud hole in the horseshoe. You must keep the thread dry and clean so that you don’t damage the stud or the stud hole.

How many studs should you use?

Whatever size or shape stud you choose, it’s recommended that a pair of studs should be fitted either in both back shoes or in all four so that the medial-lateral foot balance is maintained.

The studs you use should be similar in size for each pair of feet, although you could use slightly larger ones in the rear shoes if you want to.

Always use the smallest studs you can get away with. The prolonged use of really big studs on hard ground can cause vertical fractures in the hoof wall, radiating upward from the stud.

Also, don’t use pointed studs on the inside of the hoof, as that can cause strike injuries to the opposite leg, especially if you are competing in a dressage competition where protective boots are not allowed.

If you’re jumping, always use boots to protect your horse’s legs from accidental stud damage. A stud girth is also a good idea if your horse has studs fitted in his front shoes.

Which studs should you use?

There’s a wide range of studs to choose from, and it can be confusing for the novice user to choose the right ones for the ground conditions and job they’re required to do.

As a general rule of thumb, the softer the surface, the larger the studs you’ll need.

Before selecting your studs, it’s crucial that you find out what works for you and your horse. If you try out a few different studs while you’re working your horse at home, you can stop when you need to and make any changes that are necessary.

To help you make the right choice, here’s a guide:

Sleeper or blank studs

These are small studs that are used to protect the stud holes from getting filled with dirt or when only a very small amount of extra grip is required.

Road studs

Road studs are small, square or hexagonal studs that can provide your horse with extra traction on good going when you’re doing normal work. Despite their name, road studs are better used on grass or on a surface, rather than on the road.

Road studs have a slightly domed center, which distinguishes them from blank or sleeper studs.

Bullet studs

Bullet studs are long, rounded dome-shaped studs that are most suitable for use in mud or soft going.

Cone-shaped jumping studs

Cone-shaped jumping studs are best suited for use on grass that is classified as “good going.” In other words, the grass will comfortably take the stud.

Also, if your horse tends to lose his balance on fibrous indoor footing, these are the best studs to use.

Slim, pointed studs

Slim, pointed studs are designed for use on firm ground that a larger stud won’t easily penetrate. However, you shouldn’t use these studs on the road, as they’re too long and could cause your horse to have difficulty in balancing himself.

Short, dome-topped studs

Short, dome-topped studs are best-suited for use on loose sand schools and well-watered grass surfaces. These studs will provide your horse with extra grip and security, without stopping him dead in his tracks!

Pointed jumping studs

Pointed jumping studs are the best choice for use on varied terrain, especially when you’re riding across-country.

This design of stud is large enough to give you extra grip on wet going while being narrow enough to penetrate firmer sections of ground.

Fat top with pointed lower section

A stud that’s designed with a fat top and lower pointed section is perfect when riding on firm going that is slippery on top. For example, on a hard grass arena after overnight rain or a heavy dew.

Large, uniformly fat studs

Big studs that are uniformly fat are ideal for use on deep going or boggy ground.

Horses and ponies

When selecting studs, you would usually choose small studs for ponies and larger ones for horses. That’s because the impact of a large stud on a smaller, lighter-weight animal is more extreme than it would be on a heavier animal.

The right stud for the job

When choosing studs, you will also need to consider the type of activity in which you will be taking part.

So, if you’re going to be riding very tight turns or small circles during a high-level dressage test, you may be best choosing slightly larger studs than you would for ordinary work on the same going.

What should a stud kit contain?

So that you don’t lose your studs and associated equipment, you should keep everything together in a box or kit.

Your stud kit should contain the following:

  • A selection of different shaped studs
  • A stud tap that’s used to clean mud from the stud hole before you fit the stud
  • An adjustable stud spanner
  • Stud plugs
  • A large nail that you can use to push the plugs into the stud holes

A small magnetic metal dish is also extremely handy to keep the studs just where you want them. That way, if the dish is kicked over, you won’t lose the studs in the grass. You can buy magnetic wristbands that do the same job, safely holding the studs until you want them.

How to fit studs

Step 1

Remove the plug from the stud hole, using the pointed end of the stud cleaning tool or a horseshoe nail.

Get rid of any stubborn dirt in the stud hole by using a small brush. Alternatively, insert the end of your cleaning tool into the hole and turn it with the thread.

Step 2

Clean the thread using your tee tap.

Screw the tap in perpendicular to the horseshoe. Be sure to use the tee tap, as its thread has special channels that help to get rid of debris.

Step 3

Screw-in the stud by hand, and then use the spanner to tighten in. Take your time so that you don’t cross-thread the stud, which would damage the stud hole.

Step 4

To remove the studs, unscrew the stud and re-plug the hole right away with a plug or a piece of cotton wool soaked in hoof oil or Vaseline.

Clean the stud with a clean, damp cloth to get rid of any mud, and then dry it thoroughly to prevent corrosion. Give the stud a quick spray with WD-40, and then put it into your stud kit where it will keep dry.

The Dos and Don’ts of Studding

Don’t travel your horse in studs. Studs will damage the floor of your lorry or trailer and could severely injure your horse if he stands on himself.

Do remove the studs when you’ve finished riding. That reduces the risk of the horse becoming footsore and saves you from getting trodden on by a studded horse!

Do use boots on your horse to protect him from injury if he’s wearing studs. A stud girth is also a good idea if you are using studs in front.

Don’t fit studs when you don’t really need them; over-studding can cause injury to your horse.

Don’t use studs in your horse’s front shoes only or fit smaller ones behind than in front. That’s because bigger studs in front will prevent your horse from getting his forelegs out of the way of his hindlegs, increasing the risk of falling or overreaching.

Do ask your fellow competitors what studs they’re using.

Do clean your stud holes as soon as the horse has been shod, and then remove the plugs and clean the holes the day before you’ll be using them. That way, you know that the holes are clean, saving you time and hassle on the day of your competition.

In conclusion

Fitting studs in your horse’s shoes can help to prevent your horse from slipping on less-than-perfect ground. As a general rule, the deeper the going, the larger the stud you’ll need.

Never stud-up before you leave home. Your horse could injure himself in transit if he has studs fitted, as well as damaging the flooring of your transport.

If you have any questions or any other hint and tips that you would like to share, then please leave us a comment in the box below.

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