It may not be exactly the assembly line of a “Big-3” automaker, but in a short visit to the headquarters of Stone Well Bodies & Equipment in Genoa, N.Y., you can quickly see the basics of how the company’s popular shoeing bodies go together. If you’re lucky enough to visit the day a customer is on hand for a pick-up, you can even see one go from the assembly line to its place on a truck.
Brent Chidsey, founder and president of Stone Well, built his first shoeing rig for his own shoeing practice back in 1994. That rig became a rolling advertisement for his work and by 1995, he was building shoeing rigs full time.
FRAME IN. Stone Well employees use adhesives and clamps as they fasten the body panels to the aluminum frame.
FRAME UP. The aluminum frame of a Stone Well shoeing body after it has been welded together.
Since that first rig, Stone Well has rolled out more than 800 units, including truck caps, shoeing bodies and tow-behind and goose-neck trailers. The company employs between 12 and 15 workers full-time, depending on the season. Chidsey says he’s hoping to add a few new employees soon. He says business has been good and he wants to be able to continue to deliver his bodies and other equipment in a timely fashion.
In addition to rigs for farriers, Chidsey has built and equipped a number of rigs for equine veterinarians. Stone Well also produces aluminum cabinets, shoeing boxes and other products with a distinct Stone Well look.
Doing The Numbers
SIGNATURE SWIRLS. Stone Well employee Randy Wallard uses a buffing wheel to put the well-known circle pattern on a Stone Well Body. Stone Well president and founder Brent Chidsey says he originally started using the patterns to help hide the dings and scratches the aluminum bodies might accumulate during a shoeing lifetime. Now the patterns have become virtually a company trademark. Chidsey says they are on the vast majority of bodies, trailers and equipment the company manufactures, although customers can opt for a plain aluminum or stainless steel body.
Prices for Stone Well rigs vary with the style of rig wanted, customization and other factors. Chidsey says equipped truck caps start at around $6,000, shoeing bodies range from $8,000 to $10,000, with most falling in the $9,000 to $10,000 range. Trailers average about $12,000. Equipped products include racks, propane tanks, shelves, drawers, etc.
Planning A Rig
While Chidsey says Stone Well will build shoeing bodies to whatever specifics a client wants (and is willing to pay for), he says most clients seem to want to draw on his experience.
“A lot of people will ask me what we recommend,” he says. “Then we’ll try to draw out the information that we need to build the best rig for their needs.”
Chidsey says farriers who are thinking about ordering a rig need to think about a number of factors when they plan a rig. These include what type of horses they shoe, whether or not they regularly work with other shoers, what type of area they’ll be shoeing in, as well many other factors.
“A lot of things can affect how you plan your rig,” he says. “For instance Extendo beds and swing-out anvils are becoming very popular, but they work best when you’re able to keep your rig level. They don’t work so well if you wind up parking on a slope.”
HOOKING THINGS UP. Stone Well employee Dan Boyer works beneath Fischers’ truck, hooking up the bodies lighting systems. Jim Jordan takes measurements to mark the spots for installing the rig’s rear bumper.
INTO PLACE. A Stone Well shoeing body is lowered into place on the truck of farrier Eric Fischer of Jackson, N.J. Fischer said he’d be back in New Jersey and ready to shoe the day after he picked up his new shoeing body.
Swing up doors are fine for many rigs, but if you know you are going to shoe inside a lot of barns where the aisles are relatively narrow, fold-up doors may work better and be worth the added expense. Trailers, Chidsey says, are popular with farriers who want to work out of the weather or who want to use one vehicle both for their shoeing work and their personal use.
PROPANE PRIMER. (left) Brent Chidsey, right, explains the propane storage tank system to Eric Fischer.SWING-OUT IMPROVEMENT. (right) Brent Chidsey demonstrates the swing-out forge arm on Eric Fischer’s new shoeing body. The forge arm locks into place when swung out. The arms also have holes drilled in them to take any size forge available on the market, enabling customers to change forges without having to change the swing-out arm.
While willing to set up equipment in any way a farrier prefers, Chidsey says he’s found the most efficient way is to set up bodies with a distinct area on each of its three sides; storage along one side, power equipment such as belt grinders and drill presses along the other, and a shoeing work area at the back where a swing-out forge and anvil are located. If a client knows that a rig is going to have more than one farrier working out of it, he’ll take that into consideration.
EQUIPMENT SIDE. Brent Chidsey says he’s found it functional to group power equipment stations along one side of a rig. Eric Fischers’ new shoeing body follows that pattern with drill presses, a belt sander and pad cutter lined up along one side for use.
CHECKING THE STORAGE. Katey Fisher looks over the storage racks on her husband’s new shoeing rig. Katey pointed out that the rig is actually being installed on her truck body rather than her husband’s. The trade-out is that she’s getting a new vehicle.
WORKING AREA. Brent Chidsey says most Stone Well shoeing bodies are set up for the farrier to do most of his actual shoeing work from the back of the rig. That means the forge, anvil and storage space for an anvil stand and shoeing box will usually be located there. Once the anvil and shoeing box are removed, the flat space also provides an area to set tools that may be needed soon as a farrier works.
One recent Monday morning in November, farrier Eric Fischer and his wife, Katey, were on hand to pick up the shoeing body they had ordered. Fischer, a certified farrier, has been shoeing horses for just over 6 years and decided he was to the point where his business required more room and equipment like drill presses and other power tools then he had in the smaller truck cap he had been using.
The Fischers, along with their two dogs, drove from their home in Jackson, N.J., to upstate New York over the weekend. They were on hand at Stone Well with their truck at 7:30 a.m. By lunchtime, they were back on the road heading home, with Eric already planning to load the rest of his equipment that evening and spend his first day shoeing out of the Stone Well rig the following day.
Before the Fischers got on the road, though, Chidsey gave them a thorough introduction to their new shoeing body. The “tour” goes along with each Stone Well body. Chidsey opens and closes doors and hatches, explains power and propane hook-ups, demonstrates various features and gives tips about maintenance and cleaning.
“A little maintenance and a little TLC now and then, and a shoeing body ought to last you a good long time,” Chidsey says to the Fischers just before they leave.
Chidsey says the Fischers’ experience is a fairly typical one for customers. Many do all of the ordering with Stone Well over the phone or through e-mail. (The company also has a Web site at www.stonewell bodies.com.) When most customers arrive, their shoeing body is ready for installation on their truck and they’re out the door sometime the same day.
“We know these guys have businesses to run, so we try to get them out on the road as soon as possible,” he says.
MORE THAN RIGS. In addition to shoeing bodies, caps and trailers, Stone Well makes other aluminum products, including cabinets, drawer sets and shoeing boxes. All are available with the distinctive Stone Well “swirl” pattern.
More customized jobs may take a little longer. Chidsey says he’s also had a number of customers who order a new truck from a manufacturer and have it shipped directly to Stone Well to have a shoeing body installed. That’s included one farrier from Alaska who then picked up the truck and drove it directly to an American Farrier’s Association convention before driving it back home.
Chidsey says shoeing bodies from the Genoa plant are being used by farriers and vets in just about every state as well as in some foreign countries.
TRAILER UNDER CONSTRUCTION. A Stone Well tow-behind shoeing trailer in mid-assembly. Brent Chidsey says trailers are popular with farriers who want to be able to use one vehicle for both their showing work and personal transportation.
That Swirly Look
Stone Well shoeing bodies — as well as other products — are known for circular swirling patterns that are buffed into the metal. Chidsey says that pattern actually had a practical rather than an artistic origin.
“I was looking for something that would minimize the appearance of nicks and scratches that you’re going to get in an aluminum body and someone showed me this,” Chidsey explains. “Now it’s practically become a trademark.”