Regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry, you’ve probably seen a number of farrier products come and go.
Like many American Farriers Journal readers, we’ve listened as inventors told us about a new product that was going to revolutionize the shoeing industry. Some were off the market in less than a year’s time.
We’ve complied a list of “remembered farrier products” that are no longer with us. Special thanks goes to Bill Pieh at Centaur Forge in Burlington, Wis.; Ray Steele at Horseshoes Unlimited in Gill, Mass.; Butch Colbert at Greene County Horseshoe Supply in Greenville, N.Y.; and Ed Kinney at Thoro’Bred, Inc., in Anaheim, Calif., for coming up with the products shown on these pages.
A. Shoeing Box, Tools
When Bill Pieh hung up his shoeing apron for good in the mid 1970s, this shoeing box and these tools were the ones he stored in the attic.
Pieh began shoeing in 1947 and started Centaur Forge in 1960. He handled both jobs until the mid 1970s when he decided to concentrate 100 percent on providing supplies to farriers.
B. Nail Board
Some specimens on the Capewell Co. nail board are horizontal head nails for the South American market.
The board also includes nails manufactured for the Japanese market. The nail at upper left is a founder chill nail. It was made with a technique that reduced the time needed to cool down the castings.
The Hartford, Conn., firm also made Franklin nails and exported tons of nails to Cuba until President John F. Kennedy placed an embargo on the sale of U.S. goods to that country after Fidel Castro came into power. Capewell was later sold to Mustad.
C. Horse Nail Box
This old box contained double E, size 7 ice nails from Capewell Manufacturing Co., Hartford, Conn.
D. Neverslip Calks
These ice and snow calks were made by the Phoenix Manufacturing Company which had plants at Joliet, Ill., Catasauqua, Pa., and Montreal, Quebec. The drive-in calks were highly popular and worked exceptionally well with bar pads.
The firm was a successor to the Phoenix Horse Shoe Co., which got its start in the 1880s. The firm’s sales literature stated, “To insure accuracy and perfect satisfaction, always use a Phoenix Neverslip Punch with calks on Phoenix Neverslip Shoes.”
“It was a generic calk that had a carbide pin which is similar to many of the calks made today,” says Steele.
E. Union Cold-Rolled Horse Nails
There were numerous nail companies in the earlier days and one was the Union Horse Nails Co. of Buffalo, N.Y., which later merged with the Fowler Nail Co.
“The cleft hand on the upper left side of the box was repeated on the head of the nail to represent solidarity,” says Pieh. Later on, the firm came out with the Northwestern nail. “Thesewere among the best shoeing nails ever made,” he says. “They were excellent.” The company was eventually bought by Capewell.
F. Antiseptic Ointment
Corona Manufacturing’s lanolin-enriched (wool fat) antiseptic dressing and lubricant for horses, cows and pets was for treating hooves, saddle sores, cuts, rope burns, scrapes and bruises. This “cure-all” was also advertised for treating udders, teats, chaps, cracks, snags, scratches, sunburn and windburn.
G. Giant Grip Calks
Genuine Giant Grip Horse Shoe Calks were driven with a punch. To remove the calks, the company said you needed a special extractor.
H. Fly Killer
Roberts Horse And Stable Fly Spray was formulated to kill stable flies, horn flies, horse flies, mosquitoes and gnats around the horse barn.
I. Toe Calks
This crate contained 25 pounds of Sweet’s forge welded toe calks. Later purchased by Phoenix Manufacturing Co., the firm offered country pattern (dull), sharp pattern and blunt pattern toe calks. Each calk was a different height.
J. Nail Crate
Centaur Forge received shipments of 25 pounds of “Mustadsfors” city, regular and frost head Mustad nails from Sweden in the 1970s. This was prior to Mustad opening a U.S. sales office in Connecticut in 1982.
K. Welding Flux
This container contained Borax-Eite forge welding flux.
L. Nailless Horseshoes
The SBS-100 Nailless Horseshoe Starter Kit contained two shoes, an oven thermometer, two bonding straps, mixing stick, two adhesives, a test strip of horseshoe material, a pair of protective rubber gloves, four screws and hoof cleaner. It came out shortly after the first glue-on shoes.
To use this product, a farrier needed a toaster oven, electrical outlet, extension cord, heat protection gloves, acetone, ketone, heat gun, electrical tape, clean cloth, power drill, 1/8-inch drill bit and a 4- by 4-foot mat.
After trimming the hoof, the farrier heated the shoes in a portable oven and custom molded the front toe tab and braces with his or her hand. Quarter wing tabs were molded with a heat gun. After the hoof was cleaned with acetone, ketone or hoof cleaner, it was dried with a heat gun.
Next, the farrier placed the nailless shoes loaded with adhesive on the hoof and stabilized it with a bonding strap and electrical tape for 20 minutes. The farrier rasped off excess shoe material from the toe clip back to the quarter wing tab to obtain a custom-fit shoe.
M. Ice Nails
Double E, size 7 Capewell nails were used with horses working in icy conditions.
N. Nail Cards
Before Mustad set up a U.S. office in Connecticut in 1982, Centaur Forge imported Mustad nails from Sweden. “Mustadfors” nail cards indicated the available sizes and quality.
At the time, Diamond was a U.S. nail distributor and was among several firms who sought to become the sole distributor of Mustad nails. Instead, Mustad set up its own U.S. operation.
O. Hoof Bond
Many farriers referred to this as the “egg paint” product. “The promoters would paint Hoof Bond on egg shells and drive spikes through the shells without cracking the shell to show how strong the bonding agent was,” Pieh says. “That’s why it was called egg paint.”
Advertising literature billed the dental industry developed product as “bonded-on hoof protection for horses.” Owners would no longer need a farrier because all they had to do was apply this liquid to a foot and forget about having to shoe or trim.
The product was advertised as being able to seal in vital natural fluids, seal out excessive moisture, provide longlasting protection (regardless of whether a horse was shod or trimmed) and eliminate shoe throwing problems. All that was needed to cure the material was 10 to 30 seconds of light focused on the hoof from bright sunshine, a common sunlamp or an ultraviolet light.
“The promoter went around pushing the product directly to horse owners,” says Steele. “He had a pamphlet that featured a color photo of an aluminum hunter shoe with bent heel calks, bent toe calks and a ‘banned internationally’ sign printed over the shoe. Under the photo, there was a headline that urged horse owners to ‘Stop hurting your horse with shoes.’
“The company was pushing the product directly to owners and it was really irritating to farriers who knew it would never work. It didn’t last long.”
“It’s a good thing this product died before the promoter got into a big lawsuit,” says Bill Miller, a veteran farrier from Olympia, Wash. “He was making all kinds of exaggerated remarks about how shoeing crippled horses.
“How anyone could believe you could paint something on a horse’s foot that would protect it from wear and tear is beyond me.”
P. Russell Hoof Gauge
This is a Russell hoof gauge which Pieh used from 1952 through the mid 1970s.
Q. Farrier Price Lists
The 1968 Centaur Forge catalog and 1975 price lists from Madon Farrier Supplies in East Cannan, Conn., contained practically every item a farrier needed to shoe horses.
Several other products are well remembered by many farriers over the past 25 years.
Boeing engineers got the idea for this product from a human prosthetic device. The Seattle Foot could absorb shock from the human foot and return that energy like a spring to the foot. The original horseshoe weighed 4 pounds, had a big bolt in the center and featured two levels so the shoe could turn right if the horse turned left.
The shoe was a two-part composite of high-tempered plastic and aluminum. Thicker than a conventional shoe, the plastic portion reminded farriers of back-to-back Frisbees compressed under pressure. Exertion at a full gallop was executed under full compression of 2,500 to 3,000 pounds per square inch and the shoe was forced virtually flat. Once the weight was released, it would supposedly spring back to its normal configuration, returning part of that energy to the horse.
The plastic portion was nailed to the foot and was constructed so the aluminum shoe could be screwed directly into it.
“I never had any experience with them, but if God wanted another joint on a horse, he would have put it there,” says Miller. “Those shoes had a pogo stick effect on a horse.”
Tennessee Navicular Shoe
When this shoe was written up in Western Horseman, Miller thought it might be ideal for horses suffering from navicular syndrome. “Made of steel, it created a heel-weighted shoe,” he says. “As a result, I felt it would be one of the last shoes I’d want to put on a navicular horse.
“At one of the AFA conventions, I was given a pair of G.E. aluminum navicular shoes to field test. I figured I had the perfect horse for a test.
“The aluminum version of the Tennessee navicular shoe made a world of difference. Judges who had seen the horse the year before came to the owner to see what she had done to make him so much better.”
This clear plastic urethane shoe featured a big promotional splash. Miller used a few plastic shoes at the racetrack, but always felt it was like nailing a snake onto the bottom of the foot. He didn’t think they were rigid enough. Don't confuse this defunct product with the Australian shoe manufacturer, Blue Pegasos and their fine line of products.
This was a carbon composite shoe. “It was all hype. The idea was that you could shape it easily and just nail it on,” says Steele. “When the product didn’t go over with farriers, you’d see it in tack shops. But it never caught on.”
This type of shoe is still used on Standardbred racers, but Miller maintains it’s not a new shoe. “Just before I left the track to come to Washington in 1977 to teach horseshoeing, there was a harness horse that wore a mushroom shoe and turned in a record time,” he says.
“Horsemen are the greatest copy cats. If a shoe works on one horse, it has to work on all of them. I left the track just in time to keep from having to nail on a zillion mushroom shoes.
“I shod for one trainer who didn’t have a clue about effective shoeing. I’d run out of ideas for one of his problem horses, but eventually reversed the hind shoes, put the swedge to the inside and placed the half round to the outside. When it worked, he wanted me to shoe all of his horses with reverse shoes.”
Despite all of these product failures, Miller says it’s great that new products continue to show up on the shoeing scene.
“This means people are thinking,” he says. “Some new products make it and some don’t. But just because it worked for Grandpa doesn’t mean we have to stay with that same vein of thought.
“It’s progress to try something new.”
SHOES THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT
1. Draft Horse Swamp Shoe
This contraption provided extra flotation for draft horses working in marshes or swamps. While earlier models were made of wood, this steel unit could be adjusted for extra traction. It carries a 1906 patent and was made by the Fheinig Co., in Beaver Dam, Wis.
In the center of the contraption, there’s a Phoenix front shoe with sharpened heels and handmade toe calks.
2. Diamond Shoe
Manufactured by Diamond in Duluth, Minn., this shoe was factory drilled and tapped for 3/8 inch screw-in calks.
3. Rubber Shoes, Pads
Fruin, Ajax, Dryden, Firestone, Morgan & Morgan and other firms private branded rubber pads up until the mid 1970s. This pad had leather backing over the rubber pad and a tip shoe was nailed to the suction-style pad.
“The shoe and pad offered non-slip heel support and full support across the heels,” says Pieh.
4. Snow Shoe
This Phoenix hind snow shoe was popular before World War II. It featured a laminated heel calk and split heel.
5. Hackney Pony Shoe
This was a cast shoe made by the Russelloy Co. from Bettendorf, Iowa.
6. Drop Forge Calk Shoe
Looking like a Williams-style shoe, Pieh isn’t sure who made it. The shoes came drilled but untapped.
7. Nature Plates
The idea was to allow a horse to dig in with its toes. Nail holes were spaced out at the heel and spaced in at the toe to match the natural dimensions of the hoof wall. A concave bottom conformed to the normal shape of the hoof and hopefully made the shoe self-cleaning.
“They looked like they’d be the best thing since sliced bread,” says Miller. “I shod a cutting horse with Nature Plates and the owner loved them at first. But as the shoes wore down to a sharp edge, he was afraid the horse might cut the opposing limb. Horses seemed to move better at first, but they tended to stumble as the foot grew.
“Extension of the natural foot seemed like it might work, but that was just man’s thought. The horse is always the final decision maker.”
8. Original Glue-On
“It was a lot of work to use this original Mustad glue-on shoe,” recalls Steele. “The tabs came as a straight piece and you had to bend them, trim them and cut a piece of hard plastic to hold everything together. The shoe came with a 3/8-inch pad which could be cut with a saber saw. You could make a glue-on heart bar, but needed a special tool to pull the tabs.
“Mustad quickly recognized that farriers could glue the tabs to the pad. They found a way to mold the shoe and have the tabs already attached.”
Farriers had to go to a two-day school to learn how to use these glue-on shoes. After completing the course, each farrier received a Glu-Strider certificate which was required to order the shoes.
9. Extra, Extra Light Shoe
This Phoenix hind shoe was made from 1008 mild steel and had an erratic punching pattern. It was used extensively with riding horses, driving horses and hunters. The shoes were so light (8 ounces) you could ship 200 of them in a 100-pound keg.
10. Mexican Steel Plates
Along with Cooper nails from England, these Herraduras Valdes Steel Plates were introduced at the 1983 AFA convention in Houston, Texas.
“Because of low labor costs in Mexico, the shoes were cheap to make,” says Pieh. “But by the time they crossed the border at Laredo, Texas, they cost as much as U.S. manufactured shoes.”
11. Rubber Shoe
“I liked this Fruin Co. shoe for circus horses and carriage horses driven on pavement,” says Pieh. “The rubber was molded to the steel at the heel with very little rubber in the toe area. It still had plenty of toe support.”
12. Neverslip Shoe, Calks
Used with light work horses, this Phoenix shoe contained plenty of prepunched holes for calks. Farmers used little wrenches which came with the shoes to easily change the calks.
13. Plain Hind Rim Shoe
The punching pattern was poor in this Phoenix blank shoe which a farrier could swedge out. It was used extensively on polo ponies until it was banned.
McGraw Brothers at Manteno, Ill., manufactured this shoe after Phoenix went out of business.
14. Half Swedge Shoe
This 15-inch hind shoe was used on Standardbred pacers.
15. Light Racing Plate
These shoes carry a British patent and came from London, England. The nail holes are set back in the heel in the British style. Steel grabs offered extra grip and wear on these light racing plates.
16. Heel Back Draft Shoe
This drop-forged shoe was not as easy to customize as a rolled shoe. Note the shallow crease with toe and heel calks.
17. Rubber Pads
Left to right: Mary Jane pads were made by East Coast shoer Charlie Guimarra of Stephentown, N.Y. It was an inexpensive pad named after his daughter.
The Flexi-Slab 7/32-inch pad was manufactured by the Field Acre Tack Shop in Akron, Ohio.
Fruin-Tobin Snow Pads were among the first bubble snow pads.
18. Double-Drive Draft Shoe
Known as a double-drive Diamond shoe, this draft shoe was sold with factory prepunched holes for driving blunt calks. Farriers used a tapered punch to reform the holes to lock the calks in place. Larger toe calks were used with horses pounding the pavement. This shoe includes a giant grip double-drive cushioned heel. The rubber heels proved popular in the Midwest since they could be easily switched with changing winter weather conditions.
19. Cast Shoe
This toe-weighted Saddlebred shoe was cast instead of being drop forged. The shoe from a long-forgotten Iowa manufacturer proved difficult to rework and almost always had to be repunched.
20. Bar Shoe
Fruin rubber shoes for police horses and circus horses featured extra heel support with a rubber insert which could be easily cut with a knife.
The shoe was expensive since the manufacturer had to make the steel shoe before adding a vulcanized coating of rubber. The toe clip was drop forged.
21. Pony Shoe
This Phoenix shoe was drilled and tapped for 5/16-inch Neverslip calks. It was used with ponies on ice and snow.
“Phoenix shoes were really tough to shape cold and I always figured that’s one of the reasons why they went out of business,” says Steele.
22. Plastic Shoe
This was another of Charlie Guimarra’s specialities. The Stephentown, N.Y., supplier sold these plastic shoes for use on Standardbred trotters and pacers.
23. Steel Inserts, Aluminum Shoe
Aluminum made this shoe lightweight while steel inserts provided grip and longer wear.