Survey indicates farriers, other hoof-care professionals have benefited from quality, quantity and diversity of offerings

On the road to putting together our list of the 35 Biggest Hoof-Care Product Improvements, we discovered several things; first of all, that it would be easy to put together a list of more than 35 products — but not quite so easy to mention 35 by brand name.

We got hundreds of responses via e-mail, phone calls, regular mail and through face-to-face conversations. It’s clear that while many farriers and veterinarians have strong preferences on tools and products, the majority of respondents appreciate and are very impressed with the wide variety of tools and products available that help them do a better job.

You’ll notice that quite a few of the products and tools we list aren’t brand new. We include them, however, because one of the biggest things we noticed in responses is that farriers — especially long-time ones — are most appreciative of the overall improvements in variety and reliability of horseshoes, tools and other hoof-care products.

Many responders said they swear by G. E. Forge & Tools, or mentioned those made by well-known toolmakers such as Jay Sharp, Jim Poor, Shayne Carter, Jim Blurton or the Roy Bloom tools distributed by Farrier Products Distribution. Others praised Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center and Diamond brand for making reliable, quality tools that won’t send a novice shoer to the poor house. MFC Tools and Nordic Forge also had their supporters.

Again and again we heard from veteran farriers who recalled days when there choices of keg shoes were few. It’s clear that there is a great appreciation for the improvements and greater variety of horseshoes over the last 35 years. Aluminum shoes, steel shoes, synthetic shoes and even glue-on shoes had been tried before 1975, but it’s clear that great strides have been made in them over the last few decades.

35products_openerB.jpg

Farriers flock to tradeshows like the one at the International Hoof-Care Summit to see what’s new and to talk to clinicians. Sheldon Olsen, left, a farrier from Stillman Valley,  Ill., talks with Dan Bradley at the G. E. Forge & Tool booth. A recent informal survey by American Farriers Journal indicates that farriers are happy with the variety and quality of tools the products they can choose from today.

It’s important to remember that this survey was informal and unscientific. While we have numbered the products in this list, we want to make it clear that the numbers are intended for counting, not ranking.

We’ve listed the products in alphabetical order. Some are general categories of products, and others are specific products. The one thing they all have in common, is that they’ve made a big impact on the hoof-care world and especially on the work of people who responded to our survey.

1. Anvil improvements.

It wasn’t that long ago than an American Farriers Journal editor who was doing a story on anvil maintenance was told by one bemused source, “It’s a hunk of steel. There’s not a lot you can do with it.” But in the last 35 years, that “hunk of steel” has come a long way. It’s now available in different weights and configurations, with curved horns and turning cams, with hollow cores to make it easier to move.

The names of Cliff Carroll, Donald Jones, Jim Linzey and Ken Mankel were frequently mentioned as among those who had pioneered better anvils. Farriers also mentioned improvements in anvil stands as a plus, as well as innovations as swing-out anvil stands on shoeing rigs.

2. Aluminum Shoe Improvements

This is another one of the products that have been round for years but have made great strides during the last few decades. AlumaFlight, a shoe made by Dutchtown Forge, gets credit for being the first fullered wide-webbed aluminum shoe ever forged and that was just the beginning. Aluminum shoes are found in just about every shoeing rig these days and are mainstays both at the racetrack and the shoe ring. Farriers have also gotten better at working with aluminum shoes, helped in part by clinicians sponsored by shoe companies.

Top35_8986.jpg

Hoof models from Horse Science are used by farriers to help educate their clients.

3. Castle Plastic Frog Support Pads.

A pad improvement that numerous respondees mentioned by name. Farriers mentioned using these pads as effective aids against prolapsed soles and for helping maintain provide frog pressure for horses working on hard ground that may help prevent frog expansion. They’re also used in therapeutic situations and — particularly when combined with dental impression material or medicated and other hoof packings — have helped keep horses going.

4. Crease Nail Pullers.

Younger farriers are probably not aware that crease nail pullers are a relatively new innovation. This handy tool, particularly when properly used, makes removing shoes much easier and can help prevent damage to the hoot wall from twisting nails.

5. Curved-Jaw Clinchers.

This is one of those tools that represented an improvement over a long-time standard. While clinchers have been around for a long time, the introduction of curved-jaw clinchers by G.E. Tools is generally credited with designing the first curved jaw nail clincher, and since then, the style has become the standard and has led directly to other innovations in this tool. It’s the rare farrier who wrings off nails and hammer clinches these days.

6. David Farmilo’s Hoofline.

DavidFarmilo.jpg

David Farmilo’s Hoofline

This items inclusion may come as a bit of surprise to some, but not to the farriers and hoof owners who have come to rely on it. The Australian farrier’s tool is credited by many with helping take the mystery out of balancing a hoof. It’s also popular with horse owners who want to check on their horse’s feet between farrier visits. Farmilo’s tool was mentioned by farriers and hoof horse owners from both Australia and North America.

7. Digital X-Rays.

Radiographs have been used effectively for better hoof care for a long time, but the development of digital X-rays has enable veterinarians to get much quicker results and eliminated the need to develop films. Digital X-rays are also easily stored on laptop computers, allowing veterinarians and farriers to keep records handy for reference.

8. Equilox Line Of Products.

This line of adhesives and hoof-repair products are the choice of many farriers and equine veterinarians, whether for gluing on shoes, rebuilding a damaged hoof wall or protecting tender soles. Survey respondents also said they appreciated Equilox’s customer support and educational efforts.

9. Farrier’s Formula.

Frank Gravlee of Life Data Labs, an equine veterinarian, was among the first to develop and market a supplement specifically aimed at improving the health of hoof horn and the hoof. He also worked through a network of farriers to help him distribute the product and has steadily improved the product since its introduction. His research and outreach has also helped make horse owners more aware of the importance of nutrition in good hoof health.

35products_9040.jpg

Reponsdees to the AFJ survey like the variety and styles of manufactured shoes they can choose from. 

10. Hoof Boots.

This is another product that had been around for a while, but respondents indicate their use has changed drastically in the last 35 years. Long popular in therapeutic situations and has a sort of emergency “spare tire” for long trail and endurance rides, hoof boots are now preferred as regular hoof wear by many riders and more farriers are learning how to use them and stocking them on their trucks. Hoof boot companies have strengthened their marketing efforts by offering clinics on the use and proper fitting of their products.

11. Hoof Knives.

Hardly a new product, but one that farriers are very particular about and seem especially happy with improvements over the last decade. Anvil Brand’s “The Knife,” which the company identifies as the first American-made knife with a drop blade, has many fans. So did knives by knife-makers like Frank Ringle. The Roy Bloom loop knives, as well as loop knives in general, were mentioned by a number of respondents.

Survey respondents also spoke highly of new knife sharpening systems, which make it easier for farriers to ensure that their knives have a keen edge throughout a day’s shoeing.

12. Horse Science Hoof Models.

35products_9054.jpg

Hoof knives are far from a new product, but farriers are passionate about them. Again, quality and variety were stressed.

The freeze-dried hoof models of farrier Allie Hayes are popular items with many farriers, who say they use them to educate horse owners as well as apprentices about what’s going on inside the hoof. They also can help take the “wet” out of “wet labs” in situations where a neater approach is preferred.

13. Kwik-Poly.

Many farriers swear by this product by Anvil Brand, perhaps the first product that could be used to rebuild damaged hoof walls.

14. Gas Forges.

Younger shoers may not fully realize just how much of a difference gas forges have made in how farriers do business. There is probably no other product that has had a bigger impact in the last 35 years than affordable, reliable and effective gas and propane forges. They have made it easier for farriers to travel from stop to stop, to get to work quickly and even to use heat to modify a single shoe that’s being replaced.

heartbar.jpg

Forging a heart bar shoe.

15. Glue-On Shoes.

Glue-on shoes may not have made horseshoe nails obsolete as some people predicted they would not that long ago, but they have carved out a well-established niche in the horseshoeing world. More and more farriers are carrying them in their trucks and they’ve become staples of therapeutic shoeing and have been used on horses in the Kentucky Derby, including 2008 winner, Big Brown. Responders mentioned glue-on shoes form Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center, Sound Horse Technologies, NanRic and Ian McKinlay’s Yasha Shoes were all mentioneb by respondents. Aluminum shoes are glued on more than any others, with many non-metal shoes also designed with gluing on in mind.

16. Heart Bar Shoe Reintroduction.

While not strictly a new product, the pioneering work done by the late farrier Burney Chapman and George Platt, DVM, helped bring this shoe back into use for founder and navicular cases. It also helped focus more attention on mechanical methods for fighting founder.

17. Hoofjack.

Hoof stands of various types have been around for a number of years, but the Hoofjack, the invention of Kevin Keeler of Equine Innovations, has become the hoof stand of choice for farriers around the country as well as overseas. Developed by Keeler in response to his own injuries, the Hoofjack is light enough to be easily portable, yet sturdy enough to handle the weight of the biggest horses. The Hoofjack adjusts easily to different heights, is available with interchangeable ball and flat posts, as well as cradle attachments and in sizes for everything from drafts to minis. It has helped improve farrier efficiency, but even more importantly has made major contributions to farrier health and safety.

2334_Hoofjack.jpg

18. Kearkhaert Triumph Series Shoes.

Ever since these shoes were introduced into the United States, we’ve been hearing about them from farriers, particularly those who shoe big Quarter Horses and warmbloods. The shoes are appreciated for the support they give through a wider web, nail placement and the ease with which they can be modified. Triumphs were mentioned most often among those of the Kearkhaert family.

19. Keg Shoe Improvements And Varieties.

A couple of farriers who responded to the survey mentioned they could still remember when keg shoes didn’t even come in front and hind patterns. Now farrier supply shops and farrier rigs are stocked with scores of brands in a seemingly infinite universe of configurations. Some are concerned that this had let to a decline in forging skills, but more farriers seem to appreciate the variety for how it helps them do their jobs better. The only down side mentioned ruefully by some repsondents was the need to invest in additional shoe racks for their rigs.

We didn’t hear from too many racetrack farriers, but Victory Racing Plate, Thoro’Bred and Grand Circuit were all mentioned by one caller.

20. Keratex Line Of Hoof-Care Products.

More than a few respondents said they are sold on this line of hoof-care products. They like the fact that the products are not oil-based and like the fact that Keratex provides what many see as a complete line of products aimed at typical hoof problems.

21. Mike Steward’s Wooden Clog Shoes.

This low-tech approach to tacking laminitis and navicular problems was mentioned by many farriers. The wooden shoes developed by the Oklahoma equine veterinarian, combined with dental impression material, has spread rapidly veterinarian as an inexpensive way for offering horses relief from laminitis. Steward has described the system at many clinics and symposiums and continues to fine-tune its use.

22. Myron McLane Full Support Pads.

These plastic heart bar-style pads developed by the Hall Of Fame farrier helped put the benefits of heart bar shoes into the hands of farriers who might not quite have mastered the forging skills needed to forge and correctly apply the shoes themselves. Numerous farriers who responded to our e-mail survey mentioned the pads, particularly praising how easy they are to modify to get the right fit. Other McLane-developed pads were also mentioned.

23. Natural Balance Shoes And The EDSS System.

Another controversial selection. While Gene Ovineck’s shoes and trimming system has its detractors, it also have many followers in the hoof-care community who are convinced that these shoes and the methods taught for using them have improved hoof care.

24. Noavel Headstall.

A relative newcomer, this device, invented and marketed by horseman Rick Wheat, has gained a strong following among farriers who say it helps keep them safe while working with too often unruly horses.

25. Pad Improvements.

As with keg shoes, many veteran farriers are amazed at the explosion in hoof pad configurations, materials and uses. Pick out just about any type of horseshoe and there will be a pad that goes with it — and it will probably be available in leather, plastic, urethane and several other materials as well. Shoers clearly appreciate the choices they have in pads, which they say — when combined with improved products and methods for packing hooves — enhances their ability to deliver good hoof care.

Several farriers who mentioned pads also said they appreciate pad cutters.

2190_SBS.jpg

26. Plastic and Other Synthetic Horseshoes.

We use the term “plastic” to take in a wide variety of non-metal horseshoes that have found a place on the shoeing racks of farrier rigs. While metal horseshoes still have the lion’s share of the market, the ability to apply synthetic shoes for certain uses and surfaces has come to be expected of top hoof-care professionals. Epona Shoes, Easywalkers, Remuda Tire Co. shoes were mentioned by people who responded to our survey.

27. The Principles of Horseshoeing (P3).

The third edition of this textbook by Dr. Doug Butler and Jacob Butler remains the most used textbook in horseshoeing schools today, and well-thumbed and bookmarked copies of it can be found on the bookshelves and in the rigs of countless farriers. Hailed as a comprehensive collection of horse foot knowledge, this text provides proven, step-by-step information and how-to be on everything from assessing foot balance to treating laminitis and founder, to horseshoeing and humane hoof care, as well as how to start and run a farrier business.

28. SBS Line of Products.

We noticed an oddity on this one. Not one respondent mentioned SBS. But they did mention Hoof Armor, Save-A-Hoof and Thrush Stop, among other products by the company. Clearly, SBS products have carved out a place in hoof care.

29. St. Croix Eventer Shoes.

St. Croix shoes in general are a favorite with many farriers, who cited their affordability and reliability and the Eventer class of shoes was mentioned specifically by more shoers than any other.

30. Sno-ball Pads.

2012_Mustad-thrushbuster.jpg

These may not be appreciated in Florida or other area of the Sun Belt, but farriers who deal with snow liked these pads and the ability they give to keep horses going in the winter months.

31. Stone Well Bodies And Equipment Shoeing Bodies And Rigs. 

Shoeing rigs have made big strides in the last 35 years and the distinctive look and solid designs coming out of Brent Chidsey’s Genoa, N.Y., headquarters got plenty of mentions from those responding to our surveys.

32. Tool Box Improvements.

Dozens of farriers mentioned how much they prefer modern tool boxes compared to the ones typical of 35 years ago. Some appreciated taller tool boxes, others praised those with casters and wheels and everyone seemed to like less weight, better organization and the variety of choices.

33. Thrush Buster.

This Mustad product that is used for treatment and prevention of thrush and white line disease has plenty of fans in the hoof-care community. It’s also easy to identify. Several respondents used the same description: “The purple stuff.”

34. The Vettec Line Of Products.

2320_Vettec.jpg

The color-coded tubes of Vettec products are found in most shoeing rigs these days. People who responded to our survey mentions the entire line as well as the individual products like Equi-Pak, Sole-Pac and Adhere. Vettec has also been effective in continuing to come out with new and improved products, as well as paying attention to new ways farriers come up with to use them.

35. White Lightning.

This product from Grand Circuit Products was mentioned by name by numerous respondents who have found it effective against a variety of hoof ailments, including thrush and white line disease. Containing chlorine dioxide, the product is available in gel and liquid forms.