You’re headed to an event or to a show that will be held on grass. Immediately the questions clutter your mind: “Do I use studs? What is a stud? Where do I even start?”
The use of studs is prevalent in eventing; on cross country, you want your horse to have the maximum amount of grip on grass that can be slick on top or in muddy conditions. Even for show jumping, many riders will put small studs in if the jumping is on grass for that extra amount of traction. Using studs can improve safety and confidence, but a rider should still be educated on the different types of studs and how to decide what to use. Too much can cause problems — and even injuries — so we spoke with pro groom Courtney Carson to get some fast facts.
“The first thing I think of is what horse I’m studding,” Carson said. “I have some really big, exuberant movers that tend to slip a little behind, and I have one that’s a bit slower with his front end over the jumps. That, combined with what level they are running and how the footing is plays into my decision.”
First things first, what is the footing like? On a soggy day, riders will often choose larger studs to really dig down and grip. They must be cautious, however, that they don’t create too much traction that will result in a horse not being able to get its feet off the ground quickly.
“When it rains, people like to go with wider studs, while some will go longer,” Carson explained. “We tend to go longer with a wider base; nothing too big and bulky. I feel like shoes get ripped off pretty easily if they’re too big because they risk getting their feet bogged down on take off. You still need the horse to be able to leave the ground and move its feet; you want to keep them all fours and give them the ability to land safely and turn.”
“The whole point of studs is so the horse does not slip and slide, like football cleats. Studs on the outside holes of the shoe will help with grip, helping the hoof plant. Having a bigger stud on the outside when they turn is helpful because it creates more power, whereas studding too big on the inside holes can almost create over flexion. You also don’t want to put any studs that are too pointy in the inside holes because the risk of them studding themselves is higher that way.”
When in doubt, Carson will chat with other grooms who have already sent horses out on cross country. Depending on when the rider goes can determine stud needs as well; footing that is wet can deteriorate the further down the order you go, which must be taken into account.
“When you’re not sure, talk to other riders or grooms and see what they’re using. We all talk to each other in the barns because we all want our horses to go out and be safe,” she said. “I tend to go a bit more conservative if needed; I’d rather my rider go slower than feel like they’re stuck in the ground and can’t take off.”
The other advice Carson gives is to make sure your horse has boots on when there are studs in — no one wants a stud injury because of bare legs! Carson usually puts her studs in before putting boots on, as she finds it’s more comfortable to hold the horse’s leg without putting more pressure on the tendons while putting the studs. This is personal preference, though. As long as a boot is on the leg once the studs are in, you are helping your horse stay safe.