Hoof Care

Horseshoe Savvy

by Vicki Schmidt
Shoeing involves more than just getting a good fit. Knowing a little about the materials used will help you increase your horseshoe savvy.

Horseshoe nails are made from soft steel and are designed specifically for attaching horseshoes to hooves. They usually have four sides and a tapered shaft, a tip beveled on the inside, and a head shaped to seat into the hole of a horseshoe. A pattern or trademark stamped on the inside of the head allows the farrier to distinguish the inside from the outside at a quick glance. For more information see Horseshoe Nails.

Frost nails are horseshoe nails with a head designed to provide temporary traction on hard surfaces.

Borium is made of grains or chips of tungsten carbide in a steel or brass matrix. A horseshoe is heated in the forge and then borium is applied to the ground surface with an acetylene torch or arc welder. Borium provides the ultimate traction on hard, slick surfaces such as pavement or ice (see Winter Shoes. It also increases the wear life of the horseshoe.

Calks are any projections that are forged, welded, or brazed onto the ground side of a horseshoe, or inserted into a hole in the shoe. Calks are used to increase traction, alter movement, or adjust the horse's stance. Heel calks provide braking traction only as the hoof lands, but cannot provide grip due to the breakover of the hoof.

Clinches are the parts of the nails visible on the outside of the horse's hoof after it is shod. The clinch is folded down against the hoof to help clamp the shoe to the hoof. To reduce damage to the hoof, clinches should be rasped off, straightened, or otherwise removed before a shoe is pulled off.

Clips are flat projections, usually round or triangular, extending upward from the outer edge of a horseshoe. When fit correctly they lay flat against, or set into, the outer surface of the hoof wall. Clips are either welded onto the shoe or drawn from the metal of the shoe. They are used to prevent the shoe from shifting on the hoof, to stabilize the hoof wall, and to reduce the number of nails needed. Sometimes clips are added for purely cosmetic reasons.

Hot fitting is holding a hot shoe against the prepared bottom of the hoof until it scorches the hoof sufficiently to indicate high spots of horn that need to be removed to make the surface of the hoof level. Proper cold fitting is possible, but requires closer observation and more skill. For more information see Hot Shoeing.

Scotched, as in Scotch-bottom shoes, identifies a style of horseshoe with an outer edge that is sloped down and outward from the hoof, at an angle to match the hoof. This style is most often seen in draft horse show shoes to give the horse a greater base of support.

Rockered toe is a style of horseshoe that has been bent upward toward the hoof at the toe to ease and direct breakover. The hoof must be specially prepared to receive a rocker toe shoe.

Rolled toe is a style of horseshoe that has been rounded or beveled on the outer edge of the ground surface at the toe to ease breakover. Because the hoof side of the shoe is left flat, no special hoof preparation is needed. rh horse logo

Vicki Schmidt owns and operates Troika Drafts, a 150-acre farm in western Maine featuring Shires for work, sport, and show. Visit them online at  troikadrafts.com, or plan a visit by calling 207-890-4590.
This article appeared in the Holiday 2000 issue of Rural Heritage.

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