Every competitive rider should have a stud kit in their grooming box, and know which size studs to use and when. Horse studs provide extra grip. You may choose to use one in each shoe or two, and the studs come in all shapes and sizes. Which ones you use and when depends on the ground conditions, what activity you are doing with your horse and how much extra grip your horse requires with the ground.
Tricia Price, a UKCC Level 3 eventing coach who has ridden round both Badminton and Burghley on a home-produced horse, explains what a stud kit should include, how horse studs work, and when and why you might choose to use them on your horse or pony.
Problem: What should a comprehensive horse stud kit contain?
Tricia says… A basic stud kit can start from as little as £25 and will contain a spanner, a tool to clean out stud holes and normally four road studs. These are small, shallow studs that can be square or hexagonal in shape and are used to give a horse extra grip on good ground.
There will also be a selection of eight pointed and square studs. You can then add more types of studs to this to build your kit. A comprehensive kit will include a range of studs for using on hard or wet ground, and everything in between.
In addition, I have a very useful magnetic stud bowl and I use a safety stud tap. A traditional stud tap has a spanner at one end, while the other end is used for screwing the empty stud hole before putting in the stud.
The safety stud tap, however, has a shallow, round shape as opposed to a spanner which, if a horse fidgets and stands on the tap, means they are less likely to injure themselves.
My kit also contains an adjustable spanner and either cotton wool or plastic plugs for packing the holes. Keeping stud holes clean and ready use, saves a lot of time on competition day!
Finding the balance
Problem: Can using studs affect a horse’s way of going? Can they become reliant on them and stop being able to balance when they are taken away?
Tricia says… I have never had an issue with a horse getting too used to wearing studs. I believe they will only improve a horse’s confidence, especially in slippery conditions.
On good ground, horses are able to balance themselves if ridden in a balanced way. Likewise, studs will not prevent a horse losing confidence if not ridden correctly. Horses cope well hunting without studs but this tends to involve less tight turning.
It is worth using studs for competition jumping, especially when speed and tighter turns may be involved.
When to use them
Problem: Do you need studs to compete at unaffiliated or low level events? How do you fit them?
Tricia says… Having had one of my worst-ever falls when a borrowed horse who did not have studs in slipped over on the flat on firm ground in the warm-up area, I am a huge believer in using studs at all levels when competing on grass. I think the benefits and confidence a horse gains are important, as long as appropriate studs are used in different ground conditions.
As soon as we start competing on grass, I get my farrier to put two stud holes in each shoe. I soak cotton wool in oil or use plastic stud plugs and plug them so they don’t get clogged up with mud or stones.
The night before a competition, I always check the stud holes are clean as there is nothing worse than struggling to get them clean after you arrive.
Some people only use one hole per shoe, but I think it is better for the horse’s balance to have two. The choice is yours.
Selecting the right size
Problem: How many and what type of studs should be used on hard ground, and after rain on hard ground?
Tricia says… For firm summer ground, small pointed studs or road studs in front and larger pointed ones behind are best. Smaller studs in front avoid unnecessary jarring on the horse’s front legs as the balance of the foot is altered as it hits the ground at a different angle. Larger studs are used behind as there is not the same impact as on the front feet, so they can be used to help prevent slipping. The wetter the ground, the larger the stud.
Protecting from injury
In order to prevent a horse catching itself I tend to put a slightly smaller stud on the inside and a bigger one on the outside. Studs are normally either square or hexagonal and used on the outside of the shoe, or blunter rectangular shapes which can be used on the inside where horses can knock themselves.
I would always recommend using a stud girth when jumping a horse in studs.