In the Email Q&A section of the May/June issue, we asked farriers to provide the steps for hot shaping a shoe. We couldn’t include all the responses in the issue, but here is some additional advice from our readers.

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Q: What tips do you have for the steps of hot shaping a shoe?


A: It’s important to remember to shape the hoof so I only have to walk to my anvil once. Also, remember to properly fit the clips. 


— Torben Jensen, Kobenhavn, Denmark


A: Unfortunately, if you don't have a flat, level shoe surface, hot setting will hide a poorly shaped shoe. If you get the shoe flat and level and also have a flat, level hoof surface, it doesn’t matter if you hot set.


I prefer cold setting because it forces me to get better with my rasp and hammer. Also, hot setting aggressively will often dry out a hoof wall.


— Mark McLimont, Ontario, Canada


A: Make sure the shoe is truly flat before you burn it on the horse’s foot.


— Shannon Dabbs, Royse City, Texas


A: Most farriers in my area do not hot shape shoes. Of the dozen or so full-timers within a 50-mile radius, I can think of a few that don’t even have a forge in their rig. While some will draw clips or make trailers, I’m one of the few that hot fits every foot on every horse that will tolerate it.


I spend a lot of time on the trim, paying very close attention to wall flares and other abnormalities before even taking a shoe to the foot. With the wide variety of well-made shoes, I rely heavily on front and hind pattern shoes of various width and weight suited for each foot.


For instance, a front pattern SX7 in a size 0 fits nicely onto a hoof with a broad, round toe. However, if it’s too long at the heel or if the foot is not quite as round, then a front pattern St Croix or Diamond (generic shape) size 0 is easier to fit. And it’s also going to fit the heel better since it’s not quite as long.


I’ll rough it out cold most of the time, safe it on the grinder and then heat it to fine-tune any heel bends or if a branch needs straightening. After my apprentice pulls the old shoes and I determine that we’ll use the same brand and size, I’ll heat the entire shoe before looking at the foot. It’s super easy if you have the old ones to use as a pattern. Just make sure the trim job turns out the same as last time. And then it's time for the foot to be “up in smoke!”


— Mike Wells, Chesterton, Ind.


A: I always build as symmetrical of a shoe as possible and then take out of or build into the shoe according to hoof shape. When hot fitting, I never place a red-hot shoe to the foot. When the shoe is too hot, the hoof does not leave an outline on the shoe that is usable for determining modifications at the anvil.


— Sean Lorenzana, Tehachapi, Calif. 


A: Keep the shoe level after each alteration, then clear the nail holes and brush any slag off.


— Charly Atkinson, Yorkshire, England


A:  It’s important to learn the difference between forging and shaping. Also, keep an even heat so you get a nice burn and your clips are burned in properly.


— D.J. Gouge, Springfield, Ill.


A: When hot shaping, start at the toe and shape towards the heel. Every strike should have the hoof shape in mind.


— Matt Hull, Stony Point, N.C.


A: Having a plan of what you’d like to accomplish as well as what you’d like to avoid happening is important. Many shoes are ruined by neglecting one or the other.


— Andy Colton, Mount Vernon, Wash.


A: Clip; shape toe, quarter and heel. Repeat for the other branch. Re-pritchel the nail holes and check fit. Make adjustments to the shape as needed and re-check the fit. Repeat if necessary.


Level, reheat and hot fit. Check heels, box and safe as needed. Spike them on and finish.


— Troy Ehrmantraut, Buffalo, Wyo.


A: When I’m shaping a shoe, I am trimming the foot in my mind. And when I am trimming the foot, I am mentally shaping the shoe. When these two go together, my shoe should fit my trim.


— Jason Critton, Sedalia, Colo.


A: When hot shaping, use the horn as a die not as a turning cam. Don’t go to the foot with too hot of a shoe — you won’t be able to see your fit while burning and you won’t get a burn pattern on the shoe.


Fit shoes from the toe back. It’s faster to mark clips with a light burn and cut them in than to just try burning them in.


— Josh Ramsey, Big Lake, Minn.


A: Proper equipment, especially tongs, is required. Inadequate tongs for the type of shoe will prevent or hinder proper modeling work. The force control of the beat of the hammer should also be observed in order to reduce the deformity of the horseshoe structures such as holes and creases. Heat must also be controlled so that there is no damage to the hardness and durability of the horseshoe.


The care in preparation of the hooves is perhaps the most important caution. Be careful when burning the hoof as horses can be frightened by the smoke and the smell.


— Luiz Gustavo Tenório, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


A: Bring a horse into hot fitting slowly. On a horse that’s never been shod, I will shape the shoe hot, cool it and then fit it.


I try to introduce one element at a time so the horse isn’t overwhelmed. Also, look at the heat the shoe is at and make sure it’s not too hot. I only set the shoe on a black heat.


Note which way the wind is blowing so you don’t get smoke in your face. In winter, I pre-heat my anvil to keep shoes workable longer.


— Heidi S. Larrabee, Palmer, Alaska


A: When I am forging shoes, I take a measurement of the width of the bottom of a trimmed hoof. When I am at the anvil, I make the toe to match and bring the shoe to the measurement taken depending on the amount of expansion needed. Then I bring the heel quarters in. This saves multiple trips to the horse and gets you proficient at shaping.


                                                               — Matt Traynor, Queen Creek, Ariz.


A: Stay away from the tip of the anvil horn unless you’re working a size 000000 shoe. The fattest part of the anvil horn for the size of shoe allows the most contact with the shoe, giving the bends a nice flow rather than kinks. Run branches all the way to the very end of the heel — heels have bend, too.


When seating sole pressure, work both surfaces of the shoe. Start with the ground side and finish with the hoof side. Working just the foot side will put an angle on the inside horn surface of the shoe. Then if you have to work over the horn again, it will fill back in your sole relief.


— Jason Hill, Burton, Ohio


A: When hot shaping, I use a pair of needle-nose vise grips. Place both shoes in the fire after trimming one foot. Trim and shape the opposing foot, return to the fire to shape one shoe, place it in the forge, shape the other shoe and turn off the forge. Hot fit the one you just finished shaping. Return to the forge to shape the opposing shoe, which is still hot enough to hot fit.


When shaping shoes at the anvil, the horse must be facing me.  By doing so I can visualize the foot better and get the correct shape the first time. This is also when you must pay attention and remember where your quarters are on the hoof.  They are not always the same on each foot, so I tell myself walking back to the anvil where my quarters are medially and laterally.


— Randy Hoy, Ankeny, Iowa


A: It took time and practice for me to be efficient at hot shaping shoes. Remember what you have trimmed and try to get an idea of what this hoof should look like. A mentor told me that when shaping shoes, you’re trimming feet and when you’re trimming feet you’re shaping shoes!


Use your propane wisely and shape multiple shoes together. When fitting, always make sure you have enough depth to get an even burn and burn in the clips. It sounds straight forward, but for somebody starting out it can be difficult to see depth. I struggled a lot to see vertical depth.


Seat out your shoes — don’t burn the soles too much unless you know you’ve got a lot that can be seated out later with your knife. When fitting, the very first thing I look for is hay or straw or anything on the ground that could catch fire if the shoe gets knocked out of my hand.


If you’re not sure if the horse is smoke shy, burn some trimmings on the ground as a test. Once you’re happy with your fit and burn, let the shoes cool before wetting them as they may shrink.


Remember that every horse is different. Don’t wrestle a scared horse just to burn shoes on for the sake of it.


— Robbie Bennett, Chesapeake City, Md.


A: With so many farriers hot shaping shoes, we all can learn a few tips to make the process easier and more efficient. One tip I can think of is allowing the hammer to do the job. If the shoe is hot it will move easily, which makes shaping it quicker and easier on your body.


Be sure not to overwork your shoe. It's hard to get it back once it’s been overworked.


Be very careful not to have your shoe too hot. Also, don’t rely on hot fitting to fix a lazy trim job.


— Christa Martindale, Alberta, Canada 


A: Most farriers struggle and tend to over shape keg shoes. Once you’ve established your toe in the shoe you need to get your width established. Then heel placement will fall into place or there will be very little adjustment, particularly if the trim is correct.


— Mark O’Brien, Indianapolis, Ind.


A: I prefer to use tools that will uniformly burn the hoof when fitting a hot shoe to the foot. Some farriers use two tools with both hands and over burn one side more than the other.


Leave a little extra hoof so when you burn the shoe on the hoof, you don’t make the ground surface less than desired. I prefer hot shoeing and shaping as it is easier on my body and takes less effort to alter a shoe. I also like what hot shoeing does to the hoof after trimming (seals horn tubules).  Although it takes less effort to move a hot shoe than a cold shoe, don’t over-hit a hot shoe and distort it too much.


— Esco Buff, Webster, N.Y.


A: When burning in your clip, be sure to burn it into the wall. A clip is not effective if it’s not burned in good.


Hot shoeing is great — it kills bacteria in the white line. It also helps your shoe stay in place and stay on longer. Remove sole pressure with a light knife.

— Andee Rogers, Jackson, Ga.