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Getting to grip with studs

We were delighted to be asked to answer a reader question on studs and studding in EQ Life magazine.

A reader asked "I’m just starting to do a few local hunter trials but I’m not sure if I need to use studs? Are they necessary for cross country and what is a good way for a beginner to start with studs?

We answered:

"Studs are used to give extra grip to your horse when working on wet or potentially slippy ground, primarily when competing and working on grass. Wet, slippy ground can cause a horse to lose confidence when jumping and can be particularly dangerous when going cross country due to the fixed nature of the obstacles, where a slip could result in a bad fall. However, it’s not just wet going that we need to be careful of. Hard ground can become very greasy and slippery after rain, as the water tends to sit on the surface rather than soaking in and studs can mean the difference between your horse jumping confidently or becoming hesitant and potentially running into difficulty. So while studs aren’t necessary for all horses in all ground conditions, they can be invaluable in many circumstances and it’s a good idea to have stud holes drilled in your horse’s shoes so you have them when you need them if you plan to go hunter trialling.

Studs come in a variety of sizes and shapes and which kind is appropriate for your horse depends mainly on the ground conditions, rather than the level at which you compete. Studs are not so crucial in heavy, sticky going, as the holding nature of the ground affords natural traction. But when going cross country in wet, sloppy going or on firm going which has become (or has the potential to become) greasy, studs are an essential piece of kit.

How to get started

Your first port of call when thinking about using studs is your farrier as he or she will need to drill stud holes in your horse’s shoes. Though some people choose to fit just one stud hole on the outside of each shoe, for cross country riding it’s best to have two on each shoe to keep your horse’s hoof as level and balanced as possible, as ground conditions can vary considerably around a cross country course. The next thing to decide on is the type of studs you need as there are many different shapes and sizes available and although many professionals can have 10 – 20 different types of studs in their stud kits, for local hunter trials you will find that just two or three different types will have you covered for what you need. The most essential studs to have in your kit would be 1) small or medium sized studs with pointed ends – these studs can easily penetrate hard ground that may have become slippy; 2) medium or large dome or bulked studs which offer excellent grip in soft and wet ground;  3) large road studs – these studs are really useful to use on the inside of the hoof when using a pointed stud on the outside, helping to keep the foot as level as possible, while avoiding having a pointed stud on the inside which could cause considerable damage should one hoof strike the other leg.

Once you have your stud holes drilled and your stud kit ready, the next thing to do is practice fitting and removing your studs, so you’re not stressing or rushing just before a competition. Traditionally, stud holes have been drilled with a ‘thread’ which matches the thread on the stem of the stud and so the stud screws into the stud hole to keep it secure and in place. However, while screw studs have proved adequate for many years, most people you talk to will tell you that fitting screw studs is a nightmare task as the thread on either the stud or in the stud hole are easily damaged, which then makes fitting the stud extremely difficult. An alternative now on the market are Pro-Fit studs from Ardall which have a revolutionary, threadless design which means that 8 Pro-Fit Studs can be fitted to one horse in less than 2 minutes, saving you time, energy and back ache!

Whether you opt for screw studs or the new Pro-Fit system, it’s a good idea to keep the holes ‘plugged’ with cotton wool to help prevent stones becoming lodged in the holes and fitting sleeper studs the night before a competition will also help ensure that fitting your studs while at a competition is a quick and easy task.

Other things to bear in mind

There are a few other important things you should be aware of once you start to use studs on your horse:

1)       Always remove the studs as soon as possible after your horse has finished competing.

2)       Never travel your horse with studs (except for road or sleeper studs). Not only will this damage the floor of your trailer, but it could also lead to a severe injury should your horse become unbalanced and tread on himself with the studs in place while travelling.

3)       Although you probably already use boots on your horse if you plan to go hunter trialling, it’s even more important to do so if your horse is wearing studs to help protect your horse’s legs should he strike into himself."

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