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Non-metal horseshoes, in their most rudimentary form, date back to the ancients with a grass sandal protecting the hoof. In the modern era, as technology advanced, farriers gained a variety of options made from synthetic materials. Once dismissed by some, through extensive use many of these have become go-to shoes for therapeutic or practical solutions.
Smithtown, N.Y., farrier Gary Werner has had several years of experience working with different types of non-traditional shoes. He got into non-metal shoes more out of demand than curiosity.
In the '90s, he began working for the Claremont Riding Stables, the last public riding facility in New York City which stabled 60 horses. At any time, the facility housed 25 horses that performed at places like Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall or Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
“I had to change the horses’ shoes from steel to nylon or polyurethane that had countersunk nails or a glue process for attachments so the horses could go on the stages,” says Werner. “All the stages were wood and extremely expensive, so the synthetic shoes I used provided a non-slip surface, were quiet on impact and wouldn’t mark or deteriorate the stages.”
Over the years, Werner worked with eight different shoes. When the horses would go from a performance to a ride in Central Park — a very hard-packed surface — Werner noticed that horses that suffered from varying degrees of lameness had improved soundness almost immediately. The dampening effect of the shoes was…