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The comprehensive guide to studs - When to use which?

For many equestrians, a set of studs is indispensable when mud has taken over all the trails, when the grass in the field or jumping arena is wet, or when the riding arena has been overwatered. Studs are also an essential piece of equipment for many who pursue equestrian sports at a higher level. For instance, it's hard to imagine an eventing rider, a show jumper, or an endurance rider without a wide selection of studs at their disposal in the stable. Moreover, they're naturally used in Icelandic horse sports and often in flat racing and trotting as well. It's just crucial to ensure that you use the type of stud intended for the purpose. Hence, here's Malgré Tout's comprehensive guide to studs, helping you find the exact studs you and your horse need.

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Like a pair of football boots

To explain the function of a set of studs to someone less familiar with horses, you can start by saying they're like football boots for horses. You can then explain that a stud is a type of screw with an extra-large head, which is screwed into the shoes the horse already wears - and they come in various sizes and shapes, just like football boots. By screwing two studs into each of the horse's four shoes or just two of them, it helps the horse gain better traction when moving on slippery surfaces. And then you might get the question, "When do you use the different types of studs?". This is where most riders fall short - and it's entirely understandable. There are as many different types of studs as there are opinions on how, when, and if they should be used.

When to use which?

In an attempt to give you an overview of which studs you might have in your collection at home and when they can be used, here's a list of the five most commonly used types. As mentioned, there are many opinions on when they should be used, and we fully respect that. This list is based on what we perceive as the most common use.

Also read: 5 training tips for riding the older horse

Ice and snow

It might sound strange, but you should use relatively small studs when heading out in icy and snowy conditions. This is because the surface is usually hard, and the horse shouldn't end up putting most of its weight on the outer part of the hoof because its studs are too large. Typically, riders use studs that are 5-10 mm long when riding in snowy weather. The advantage of the very small studs, under 5 mm - which are usually flat and rounded - is that most horses can wear them around the clock. This means riders don't have to screw them on and off every time they ride. However, they only provide a light grip, which is still much better than if the horse goes without any studs.

Dry and hard grass

If you often ride on grass, the small studs won't suffice. As we know, it often rains in Denmark, making the grass as slippery as ice in no time. The difference is that grass becomes soft, so you'll need a set of longer studs. However, there's a distinction between whether the grass is dry and hard or long and/or soft. If the surface is hard, most riders use medium-length and often slightly pointed studs. Many opt for studs that are 10-14 mm long, and some even use slightly longer ones for the hind legs.

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Long and soft grass

If you ride a lot in the countryside, especially after heavy rain or if the grass is long or medium-length, you'll need even longer studs. Here, you can choose ones that are between 14 and 17 mm long. The softer the surface, the longer they should be.

Light mud

If you're going for a ride in the forest or somewhere in nature where it might be a bit muddy, anything from 10-17 mm would be an appropriate length. This ensures that you can have a good gallop uphill, even if it's a bit slippery - but always be cautious. Also, be aware not to put too long studs on your horse if you're also going to ride on a harder surface along the way - like asphalt or a gravel road. In that case, you should either ride on the verge or compromise and put shorter studs on your horse.

Deep mud and sand

If your riding arena is really deep and slippery, or if you're going to ride on the deep sand at the beach, you should bring out your longest studs. We're talking about those that are between 17 and 25 mm long. It's crucial to remove all studs as soon as you leave the deep surface to prevent any injuries to your horse.

Do's & don'ts

When you get a set of studs, there are a few things worth knowing. Not just for the safety of your horse and yourself, but also to make it as hassle-free as possible to screw these little metal knobs on and off.

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What to avoid:

• Never use studs if the horse has a loose shoe.
• If the horse loses one of its studs, don't leave the rest in. They all need to be unscrewed, or the horse might walk unevenly.
• Try to avoid twisting the horse's pastern when screwing a stud in or trying to get it out.
• Never leave the horse in the paddock or stable without studs without filling the stud holes in the shoe. This can damage the thread and is especially tricky to remove when you need to put your studs back in. You can get special plastic plugs for the holes.

What you should definitely do:

• Purchase a good wrench or a special stud wrench to easily remove all studs. This will also minimize the twisting motion in the horse's pastern.
• Clean all your studs with a dry cloth after use. Especially their threads should be cleaned thoroughly. This way, they won't rust as quickly, and they'll be easier to screw in next time.
• Acclimatize your horse to its studs before embarking on a longer journey. Especially if you're using long studs for the first time, the horse needs to get used to lifting its legs slightly differently. It requires some adjustment.

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Checklist

When you decide to invest in a set of studs, you can't avoid getting a few tools that make cleaning and screwing a lot easier. Additionally, there are a few other things to be aware of:

• First and foremost, ask your farrier to fit your horse with shoes that have stud holes. These shoes are usually a bit more expensive, so most farriers won't fit them unless instructed.
• Buy a hole cleaner specifically for stud shoes. It's a type of pipe cleaner that quickly removes all dirt and debris from the holes.
• Don't cheat yourself out of a proper wrench. It's best to abandon the idea of trying to remove your studs with your fingers. If you don't get the right equipment for the screwing job, you can be sure to hurt your fingers and gift them a plethora of painful wounds and scars.
• Studs can be purchased with different thread sizes.

Typically, riding horses in Denmark and Europe wear shoes with a 3/8” thread, and your farrier is undoubtedly well-informed about this. On the other hand, shoes with a 5/16” thread are often used for trotting horses, among others.

We hope you now feel fully prepared to acquire the right studs! But don't forget to discuss the matter with your farrier - after all, he's trained in this and knows everything about what's good - and not so good - for your horse's legs and hooves specifically.

Also read: 5 metaphors to aid your dressage training

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