Farriers all have slightly different shoe-shaping styles and a few have some very different techniques. Just about any farrier has pulled a shoe that was nailed on by someone else and puzzled over what that other horseshoer could have been thinking when he chose that shape. Then the new farrier nails on a shoe that is substantially different.
There are countless arguments about the best shapes, as well as a wide variety of styles; round toes, broad toes, square toes, symmetrical shoes or those that strictly follow the white line. The list of shoe shapes goes on and on.
I decided to conduct a little unscientific experiment to see what kinds of shapes would be produced if several farriers all shaped a shoe for the same foot. I expected there would be many different shapes and styles, but that turned out to not be the case.
The first clinic at Santa Fe, New Mexico’s San Marcos Feed, the company that bought out Wagon Mound Ranch Supply’s horseshoe line, was chosen for the location. Owner Tom Macdonnel had a horse brought in especially for the experiment, and Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center furnished the shoes.
Mark Milster of Washington, Okla., was the clinician for the day. He trimmed the right front hoof and dressed off the flares, which were minor to begin with. The foot was very nearly symmetrical, so that took away any discussion of dealing with symmetrical abnormalities in the shaping.
The farriers all shaped shoes for this hoof, which several remarked was “deceptively big.” The finished shoes were very similar in size and shape.
I had hoped as many as 20 farriers would each shape a shoe, but participation was limited to nine men, even though there were approximately 45 horseshoers at the clinic. Some just were not interested in taking part. One blunt New Mexican was kind enough to state the whole idea wasn’t any good, and there were some who seemed shy about having their work compared with that of others in a magazine.
Not Much Variance
A crowd gathered around, watching the shoers hand the foot off to each other to check their fits.
Milster shaped a shoe, as did Jim Keith of Tucumcari, N.M., and Craig Trnka, of Edgewood, N.M. Keith “eagle-eyed” his shoe and was done seemingly almost before he began.
When everyone was finished, all the shoes were very similar in size and shape. Seven of the nine shoes were size 2; the other two were size 1. There was only a quarter-inch difference in width between the narrowest and widest shoes, and most were much closer than that.
Mike Stone of Santa Fe, N.M., selected a size 2 St. Croix Lite-plain.
There was much discussion afterward about why the shoes were so similar, since most had expected a little more variation. Perhaps the fact that all the participants were proficient horseshoers, eliminated any radical shapes that might have been due to inexperience. It could have been that the foot was dressed before shaping, although the rasping was minor and there was still plenty of wall left to play with.
Trim Seen As Defining Factor
The general consensus was that everyone was shaping for a hoof trimmed by the same person. Most thought the shapes would have varied more had each of the men trimmed the foot themselves. That, of course, would not have been possible, but if it were, then the trims would have differed at least slightly and caused some variation in the shapes.
The finished shoes, minus Craig Trnka’s, which was nailed on the horse. The original shoe is at the bottom center.
The horse came in with a Kerckhaert SX7 in size 0, much smaller than any shoe shaped for it that day. But that shoe had been nailed on after a different farrier trimmed the foot. As dry as New Mexico was at that point, it is unlikely the hoof had spread. The new shoes were all wider, most by at least a quarter-inch, but the length was the big difference.
The old shoe was 5 inches from heel to toe, but the new shoes ranged from 5 1/4 to 5 9/16 inches long.
In the end, this little unscientific experiment had much different results than what I expected. But I believe it does show that differing shoe shapes may have as much to do with the trim as who shaped the shoe.