Contrary to popular belief, the concept of non-metal horseshoes is not a recent phenomenon. Some of the first horsemen used sandals made of rice straw or leather to protect their horse’s feet. Metal shoes solved obvious durability problems these earlier versions had, but also created the issue of concussion, particularly on hard surfaces.
Centuries later, in 1910, The Fruin Drop Forge Co. started making shoes coated in rubber for street horse work in an attempt to absorb some of the concussion. Fruin Rubber Shoe Co. lasted until 1955, when it was acquired by the Disney Corp., to make shoes exclusively for its theme park horses.
The Fruin shoe was notorious for being very difficult to reshape. I heard a story about the late Gary Wade, a member of the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame, who was the Disney farrier. Wade was asked about the best way to fit a Fruin shoe on a horse with an odd-shaped foot.
“Go find a horse that the shoes will fit on,” Wade is supposed to have responded.
Over the years, many enterprising people spent considerable time and money trying to come up with synthetic shoes, only to fail because of the lack of a good product and a small market.
Many farriers of my generation found these early attempts disappointing, declaring that they were worse than useless because they were difficult to work with and would destroy the hoof wall.
In recent decades, two things have…