So far, we have seven items left to finish our shoe display. The square-toe hind with a trailer we’ll describe here will satisfy two of the remaining modifications.
This is a pretty simple shoe, so we are going to fuller (crease) the shoe in order to demonstrate our ability to do so for the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) examiner. Fullering is also a way to make a shoe that seems unbalanced look better.
Square toes and trailers are very useful modifications for everyday shoeing. By applying a square toe, you can move the breakover point for the foot back without affecting the angle of the coffin bone. Doing this can give you the best of both worlds: easy breakover and a correct natural angle.
This is a very useful shoe for the hind feet of horses that have any sort of front-to-rear interference problems. By moving the breakover of the hind feet back a little, you gain two things. First, the toe is shorter, which means that an overreaching horse has less of a weapon to hit the front feet with. Second, if the hoof tends to land heel first, adding extensions or trailers to the back of the shoe will widen the distance between the front and hind feet. The extension will make the foot hit a split second earlier, which will change the placement of the foot compared to a foot without an extension or trailer. Adding traction to the hind shoes will enhance this even more.
Stride Length Is Constant
Stride length is dictated by the length of the horse’s leg and the momentum of the horse’s body. All four feet have to have an equal stride length unless the horse is walking in an arc or circle, even when a horse is lame in one leg and appears to be “short striding” on the good leg.
The horse is not “short striding.” What is actually happening is that there is less of an anterior phase to the stride. The leg still has to travel as far as the other three legs if the horse is walking in a straight line.
To put it simply, if three legs have a stride length of 8 feet, the fourth leg has to be traveling at a stride length of 8 feet as well. If it didn’t, the fourth leg would be left behind.
Why Use Trailers?
The benefits of trailers are often overstated, but I have seen cases where they have made a remarkable difference. One of the best reasons to use a trailer is to support the lateral side of the leg when a horse has a conformation that demands a bit more support than a traditional fit will allow. Cow-hocked conformation causes horses to put a lot of weight on their lateral heels. When a trailer is applied to the shoe, a horse that may have been uncomfortable can find the support it needs.
Trailers can also change the way a foot moves through the air by changing the way it lands. A projection out the back of the hoof will generally hit the ground earlier than the foot would without one. But if the trailer is only on the lateral side, it can make the foot turn slightly when only the lateral heel hits first. Of course, the terrain will be a major contributing factor. Many things that we try to accomplish with shoe design can be quickly undone by soft, yielding footing.
Knowing the horse and its environment is an important part of any shoeing job. I would not advise placing a trailer on a horse that is a known kicker and that is likely to be turned out with other horses. A trailer on such a horse could become a dangerous weapon.
Shoe Building Sequence
Since one of the shoe-display requirements is that all the hind and front shoes fit the same foot, it is important to get the measurements for this shoe correct. The main reason we featured the shoe to raise the angle (American Farriers Journal, Sept./Oct., 2001, pages 97 to 101) first among hind shoes for our board was that it is the hardest to get made to size.
Measuring The Steel
When the shoe from the last article was finished, it measured 14 inches from heel to heel. To make a normal shoe that would cover 14 inches, I need about 11 7/8 inches of bar stock and a little bit less if the shoe is fullered. However, this shoe requires a trailer, which will mean that we will need some extra stock. I cut 12 1/4 inches of steel to build the shoe for this article.
Marking The Steel
Decide whether the shoe is going to be for the near- or off-hind hoof. Marking the steel about 1/4 inch off center if you plan to draw the medial branch. If you don’t intend to sweeten the medial branch, 1/8 inch off center will be sufficient. The long side of the steel is the lateral branch. I usually mark this as well.
Remember that whatever distance you mark off center, the effect is actually doubled. In the case of 1/8 inch off center, the lateral side is 1/8-inch longer and the medial is 1/8- inch shorter. There’s a 1/4-inch total difference.
I decided to make this shoe for the near hind. Heat, center and make a normal hind-toe bend. Set up the square toe from the very beginning. Place the center mark past the center of the bar stock at the tip of the horn, and aim your hammer blow just past the point of contact with the horn (Figure 1).
Pull the toe bend toward you so that the center mark is now on the near side of the horn. Aim the hammer blow so that it is now hitting just on your side of center (Figure 2). Without moving the piece, hammer toward your tong hand, hitting the metal on the far side of the horn.
Notice that inertia has caused the end of the branch to bend outward (Figure 3). Turn the shoe around and repeat the previous 3 steps (Figure 4). You can hit the piece closer to center if you need to straighten it further after the initial forging (Figure 5).
Move to the heel of the anvil and lightly forge the branch (Figure 6).
Now you should have a square toe. You will notice that the right side is shorter than the left side (Figure 7) from the hoof surface. The longer side will be the lateral branch with the trailer on it.
There are other ways to build a square toe. I have seen shoe displays failed if there is not enough definition in the corners of the square toe. In an earlier article (American Farriers Journal, Sept./Oct., 2000, page 84 to 88), we covered making square-toe shoes with crisper, sharper corners on the toe.
Forging The Trailer
Build a normal heel and forge the trailer on a beveled edge of your anvil (Figure 8). If you do this move on a sharp edge, you may end up cutting into the steel instead of forging a nice clean turn. To finish bending the branch around the horn, hit the stock behind the trailer (Figure 9). If the trailer is bent too far, you can bend it back slightly by hitting it directly on the horn. Complete the lateral branch and finish fullering and punching. We will look at the fullering and punching sequence for the medial branch.
Hemming The Shoe
Build a normal heel on the medial branch and sweeten the stock over the heel of the anvil (Figure 10). Turn the hammer in your hand so that it is coming down with the face at a slight angle in order to hem the shoe (Figure 11). Hemming is narrowing the ground surface of the stock to accommodate stock displacement that occurs from driving the creaser into the steel. (We’ll take an in-depth look at hemming and creasing in a future article.) It is a little easier to control placement if you mark your crease while the stock is still straight (Figure 12).
Begin the bend for your quarter over the heel of the anvil (Figure 13). Finish bending the quarter over the horn (Figure 14) and complete the fullering (Figure 15). Use a drift to bottom out the area that you are going to pritchel for the nail holes (Figure 16). Once the shoe is complete, you can clean up the trailer by forging it in the area where you made it originally (Figure 17).
Defining The Trailer
I know of three different methods to define trailers: It can be parallel to the opposite branch behind the bend of the quarter; forged at a 45-degree angle to the lateral branch behind the quarter; or angled so that the midline of the trailer points at the medial toe nail.
Whichever method you use, be sure you are able to define it for the examiner.
Shoes with extensions can easily fool the eye. One way to enhance the look of this shoe is to fuller further down the medial branch to offset the length that is present on the lateral branch (Figure 18). To really check the balance of the shoe, cover just the trailer. The result will give you a better look at what the shoe looks like without the modification (Figure 19).
This completes our third shoe. We still have five modifications and two more shoes to complete the shoe display. Learning these simple modifications will make your everyday work that much better and your clients’ horses will be the big winners.
Chris Gregory is an American Farrier’s Association Certified Journeyman Farrier and a Fellow Of The Worshipful Company Of Farriers of Great Britain. He is the owner and instructor of the Heartland Farrier School in Lamar, Mo.