Studs or Screw-in Calks are traction devices screwed into the bottom of a horse shoe. This improves the horse's balance and grip over uneven or slippy terrain, and can make him move better and jump more confidently in poor footing. The shoes are "tapped," or drilled, on either heel of the shoe, so that different studs may be applied as needed and changed according to the footing conditions. Therefore, a horse may have a maximum of 8 studs (2 per foot). Studs come in several sizes and types.
Studs should be removed when the horse is not working, and the hole for the stud should be plugged with cotton, rubber plugs, or a stud blank, so dirt does not ruin the threads of the hole. A horse should never be shipped in studs or left in his stall with stud screwed in.
When used, a horse should always wear bell boots to protect himself, should he scrape himself with the bottom of his hoof, and brush or galloping boots are also advisable. It is best to only use pointed studs, such as grass studs or pointed bullets, on the outside of the shoe, so the horse is less likely to cut himself should his foot hit one of his legs. A road stud should be used on the inside. However, the shoe should have some stud on the inside of the shoe; without it, there will be a twisting motion on the foot, which can cause a loss of shoe. Smaller studs are usually used on the front shoes than in the back.
Studs are most often seen in speed sports, such as eventing, polo, and show jumping, although they are sometimes used for dressage.
It is important to know which stud to apply, as the wrong stud will be useless and can damage the horse's legs. Too little traction, and the horse may slip and possibly fall. Too much, and the horse is jarred, as his feet cannot naturally slip (which is a shock-absorption mechanism). Additionally, the more stud used, the greater chance the shoe may be pulled off. It is best for a rider to learn how to apply and choose studs from their trainer or farrier.
Some types of studs include:
- Road studs: used on hard surfaces, usually 4 or 6-sided, smaller in size and blunt. Can be used front or back, on the inside of the shoe or the outside. This type of stud is fine most of the time, unless the ground is incredibly muddy or slippery.
- Blocks: square in shape and best for soft, deep, muddy ground.
- Bullets: best for firm ground with a layer of soft ground on top. They are large and sharp.
- Grass Studs: narrow and sharp to dig into hard, dry ground. They should only be used on the outside of the shoe, or just on the hind feet.
- Olympic: used for extremely slippery ground, very long and sharp.
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