Q: This summer, I’m going to outfit a carriage company in a town that requires rubber shoes. Apparently, the town fathers got tired of Borium tearing up the streets.
The two options I’ve found offering synthetic shoes in draft horse shoe sizes are the Remuda Tire Co., and a company called Flex-Step. I called Remuda and found them to be very helpful with installation tips and real-world information.
I called Flex-Step and was told the following: “We’re sorry, but the person who used to know anything about those shoes has retired.” That answer alone should make the decision for me, but Flex-Step shoes are carried at the local farrier store where my customer buys harness tack and they sure look like they would work well.
I’m having a problem figuring out how to attach the Flex-Step shoes properly. It’s obvious that you drill a nail hole, but what size drill bit should I use? Countersink them or not? What size nail? How do you cut the shoe to size when it’s an inch thick of grey rubber and I don’t have a bandsaw on my truck?
Is there anyone who has used Flex-Step shoes on draft horses who can warn me or give me some installation tips? With the Flex-Step shoe, I fear I will drill a hole, nail it on, send the horse off with a load of tourists and wait for the horse to tear the shoe off because of an application error.
Most likely, we’ll go with the Remuda product, which is a metal shoe enclosed in rubber, and we’ll shape it, draw a clip, drill and tap holes for attaching the tire, nail it on and then bolt on the tire.
—Fred Molinari, firstname.lastname@example.org
A: Years ago I worked for an outfit that was a horse-drawn theatre company. They bred their own Clydesdales for lots of road work and all we used were the
Flex-Step shoes. I took over the shoeing duties from two friends of mine who had worked out most of the bugs with using Flex-Steps.
We didn’t drill any holes in the shoe. We’d use a No. 10 nail and just try to aim it right. With a little practice, it didn’t take long to become accurate. One problem you’ll find is that the nail heads keep getting pushed further into the shoe as the horse works, thus loosening the clinches. This has to be checked regularly. As for fitting, pick the closest-size shoe that is slightly larger than the foot. Nail it on and use your nippers at an angle to trim off the excess material and then rasp to finish. Maybe a grinder would work if the horse could handle it, but we never tried that.
On the poorer-footed horses, we forged a plate with reverse clips to help secure the Flex-Step shoe on the foot. The plate would go between the foot and the Flex-Step shoe to provide more support. With these, we had to drill holes to line up with the plate. The plate was forged from 1 1/4-by-1/4-inch stock. The Flex-Step shoe provided good traction and reduced concussion, but they also tended to wear out quickly. As with any shoeing situation, you have to carefully weigh the pros and cons.
—Gary Schwartz, email@example.com
Chronic Founder — Or Is It?
Q: The horse that I’m working with has a hind-end issue. The horse is on one day and off the next. The X-rays lean more toward it being a sinker than a P3 rotation. I’ve squared the toes and added Equi-Pak for soft sole support to both hind feet with no signs of improvement. Are bar shoes or reverse shoes my next option?
A: Make sure you apply Play-Doh or some other temporary material from the apex of the frog forward to “dam” out the Equi-Pak. It’s important to avoid pressure under the tip of P3.
Add in the Play-Doh, then put on a blue foam board and fill with the Equi-Pak. Then remove the Play-Doh (which you can re-use, but it’s cheap). If you don’t do this, the adhesive material can make a laminitic horse very uncomfortable.
—Fred Molinari, firstname.lastname@example.org
A: I never ran into a horse that foundered on just one hind leg. Are you sure that is a correct diagnosis? The Vet was able to take good X-rays with no problems?
If the diagnosis is correct and your soft sole support doesn’t help (and you’re sure this isn’t caused by too much pressure applied in the toe region) it looks like you’re ready to move back the breakover up to or even beyond the apex of P3.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a banana shoe, which may be just the ticket in this case, too. It would reduce the deep digital flexor tendon pull dramatically and may offer relief to the horse. Because of the specific shape of the banana shoe used on a hind foot, the horse will inevitably lose some of its traction from the toe when propelling itself forward.
—Ronald Aalders, email@example.com
A: I’ve seen quite a few horses and ponies founder on all four corners, but a horse that foundered only on the hind end is beyond my experience. Did an experienced equine practitioner make the diagnosis of founder? If so, was it systemic or mechanical? I ask because radiographs don’t lean one way or the other.
Founder is indicated by partial laminar dysfunction, while a sinker is the product of near-total laminar dysfunction. Such dysfunction is usually evident to any experienced veterinarian who reads a good, fresh set of lateral radiographs.
By the way, on-again and off-again lameness is not usually associated with laminar dysfunction of any type. If possible, get a second veterinary opinion. Something doesn’t seem kosher with this scenario.
—Tom Stovall, CJF, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.katyforge.com
Blood During Trimming
Q: I was trimming a mare today that I have worked on for over a year. I trimmed off only a small amount of toe and was still into good, hard sole. I rasped the hoof wall a little bit and blood started coming out of one little hole that was about the size of a pencil lead. Again, I wasn’t deep at all and hadn’t taken off a half-inch of foot.
Is it possible there was a sliver or something previously that had healed over within the last 6 weeks? The owner had pointed out to me that she had kicked holes in the wall of her stall. Has anyone seen anything like this?
A: The sole is constructed of tubules just as the hoof wall is and the axis of those tubules appears parallel to those in the hoof wall. When hair vessels in the foot are damaged, some of the blood enters these small tubules.
Damaging of hair vessels occurs due to trauma, like stepping on a stone, or because the inner structures of the hoof (caused by the deep digital flexor tendon pulling on P3) handle too much stress when breaking over. Although it’s inviting to think that long-toe or low-heel footed horses suffer the most, I have seen this only happen with horses with well-shaped feet.
Since the sole tubules are so small and are probably sealed off at the distal end by debris, I’d guess that the blood in those tubules stays more or less fluid. When cut with a knife, you have the appearance of fresh blood.
If you check the spot by pushing on it with your thumb, you’ll find that the sole is still strong in those spots. The blood obviously got in those sole tubules at the time where the distal end of the sole tubules was the proximal end (with an average sole thickness of 1/2 to 3/4 inches probably 6 to 10 weeks on an average, fed and trained horse).
Sometimes those spots are so big that it’s alarming. I worked on a reiner years ago that had crescent-shaped spots on both of its front feet, following the shape
of the distal margin of P3. At its widest part, the crescent-shaped spot was almost 1/4 inch wide.
The horse was not lame and had well-shaped feet, but it was worked way above its capacity. The push of the distal margin of P3 on the sole when breaking over squashed some vessels. This allowed the crescent-shaped bruises to occur and they filled with blood that had a fresh appearance when cut. It scared me witless the first time I saw it!
—Ronald Aalders, email@example.com