The September/October issue of American Farriers Journal marks the magazine’s 40th anniversary.  In it, we’ll publish the original 8-page magazine that Henry Heymering ran in 1975. We also have a special section in which veteran farriers consider how the industry has changed over the previous 40 years.

In this section, Lee Liles, a Hall of Fame farrier in Sulphur Okla., and owner/curator of the National Museum of Horse Shoeing Tools discusses a couple of the fads he saw come and go over the last 40 years.

“The basics are still the basics, and the horse’s hoof hasn’t changed very much over the last 40 years,” is Liles’s summary, holding that a focus on the basics distinguished a fad from a new idea with lasting power.

I recall a story about the late Eddie Watson, the legendary farrier was walking the aisles at a hoof-care trade show. One of the exhibitors offered a new horseshoe. Another farrier standing next to Watson scoffed and asked Eddie what he thought of the product. Watson replied that he wasn’t sure, but he would know after he took it home and tried it. His evaluation was firmly based in trying it and evaluating it based on his own usage.

I reached out to Pat Reilly for his thoughts on the lasting power of new ideas. Not only the farrier at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, he also runs the school’s Podological Museum and its massive collection of historic horseshoes. It’s well worth a visit to see the displays here, and recognizing that very few ideas on horseshoes are actually new ideas. There are many specimens that show some “new” shoes of today are just new spins placed on old ideas.

I asked Reilly for his criteria when evaluating new products. He has three quick questions to accomplish this. First, he asks for the data. “Ideally I want to evaluate the data that supports the product claims,” he says. “In reality, very few products offer that.”

Secondly, can he grasp a basic understanding of the product — how it is supposed to work? A telltale sign to run away is if the exhibitor is incapable of explaining these principles to you.

Finally, what drives the marketing of the product? Is the manufacturer aggressive in claims of the products efficacy?  If the marketing seems like PT Barnum wrote it, Reilly says beware.

All good points. There is a balance between being open-minded and critical vs. closed-minded and cynical. How do you toe that line? What are your criteria for evaluating new hoof-care products or theories?