Where The Foot Fits The Shoe

Visit Michigan’s Mackinac Island and all you’ll hear is the clip-clop of rubber shoes. There are horses everywhere but not a car to be seen!

Shoeing means making the shoe fit the foot. Yet it’s much different on Michigan’s famous Mackinac Island.

Some 550 horses are used during the tourist season on the island that’s located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. Most wear urethane shoes with steel inserts or rubber shoes that can’t be easily shaped.

With a 105-year ban on motorized vehicles still in place on the island, horses move over 1 million visitors each year to and from the ferry boats. Horse-drawn freight wagons move tons of supplies that arrive on the ferry boats each day.

Having been involved with island horses since 1830, the Chambers family has harnessed as many as 300 horses on a single summer day through Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. These horses wear out 3,200 to 3,500 urethane shoes each summer. They also use some Kerckhaert steel shoes.

Through the decades, the company’s farriers have found urethane shoes work best on these horses that constantly pound the asphalt roads on the 4-square mile island.

They used Fruin rubber shoes until the company went out of business. In the 1960s, they developed the Chambers- designed urethane shoe with a steel insert. With toe clips already in place, these steel inserts are purchased and molded into the urethane shoe material during the winter off-season.

“We quit adding a dye to the plastic a few years back.” says Ben Mosley, one of two farriers handling these horses. “Staying with the amber-colored plastic, we can drill extra nail holes…

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Frank lessiter

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has spent more than 50 years in the agricultural and equine publishing business. The sixth generation member to live on the family’s Centennial farm in Michigan, he is the Editor/Publisher of American Farriers Journal.

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