After 40-odd years in the horseshoeing business, Jack Roth is not only an expert at horseshoeing, he’s an expert at teaching others how to shoe horses.
“Most horseshoers don’t know how to make their own shoes, and most tend to use one kind of shoe,” says Roth, who founded the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School. “No matter what it is, no one shoe works perfectly on every horse.”
While Roth uses several brands of manufactured shoes, he more often builds his own sets and strongly encourages his students to do the same. Read on to learn what types of shoes Roth’s students learn to make and use, and the discipline for which each shoe type is suited.
Fullered Front Horseshoe
Fullered front horseshoes are the most common shoes, used on colts, trail horses and recreational horses. The center crease, made by a process called “fullering,” fills with dirt, providing more traction and grip.
“It’s a lot of work to learn to make this horseshoe properly, and to tell you the truth, a custom shoe is not much better than a plain creased horseshoe you can buy from the store,” Roth says. “It might seem like plenty of extra work for not much additional benefit, but once a young horseshoer learns this one, the rest are not quite so difficult. If he doesn’t, then the others are just about impossible.”
Rim shoes, which contain a groove that runs the entire length of the shoe, provide additional traction for horses traveling and stopping at high speeds. On an “outer rim shoe,” the rim on the outside is raised higher than the rim on the inside; on an “inner rim shoe,” the rim on the inside is raised higher. Rim shoes are often used on barrel horses and polo ponies.
“You start with concave steel with a rim from heel to heel, which gives the horse a lot of traction all the way around,” Roth says. “If you’ve ever watched a barrel race, those horses go at full speed, then stop and turn. They need a shoe that’s got really good traction, and these rim shoes have really good traction.”
Often called sliding plates, sliders are used on reining horses to help them achieve the exaggerated slides for which the discipline is known. A slider is built wider than a normal shoe, spanning 1 to 1¼ inches in width. The toe of the shoe is built to tip upward (called a “rocker toe”) and the heels of the shoe are built much longer and slightly turned out to further aid in sliding and to support the horse.
“A number of years ago, they liked to have sliding plates up to an 1½ inches wide,” Roth says. “But then Bob Loomis wrote a book and stated that if your horse needed 1½ -inch sliding plates, you probably need a different horse. That was a really appropriate comment, and since then, they’ve gotten away from the extremely wide sliding plates.”
Also known as a “baby slider,” sliderettes are similar to sliders but not as wide. Sliderettes are commonly used on rope horses to support some slide, as well as on young reiners to introduce them to the sliding maneuver.
Straight Bar Horseshoe
A straight bar shoe is made of aluminum or steel, and features a bar between the heels, which prevents expansion and protects the heel area from concussion. It can also be used to protect the frog and the bulbs behind the heel.
Egg Bar Horseshoe
The egg bar shoe is similar to a straight bar, but it extends further back, up to an inch behind the heel of the hoof. The egg bar shoe prevents impact to the rear portion of the hoof, and is used for horses with navicular syndrome or sheared heels.
Heart Bar Horseshoe
Heart bar shoes provide considerably more pressure than a straight bar, and are used on a horse that you want to bear more weight on the frog rather than the toe. Originally, the heart bar shoe was devised to help support the coffin bone in foundered horses by preventing the bone from rotating downwards, Roth says.
“It has since been found that the use of this shoe doesn’t work and can be detrimental,” he says. “In fact, some foundered horses have had their coffin bones rotate downward in spite of using this shoe, and the coffin bone became impaled on the point of the heart bar.”
Patent Bar Horseshoe
Also known as a rest shoe, the patent bar shoe is used to keep a horse from bearing weight on an injured leg. The shoe features a bar between the heels, which is raised 1 to 1½ inches to decrease the angle between the pastern and the cannon bone. In doing so, the shoe relieves stress on the flexor tendons and suspensory ligament. These shoes are only used on horses on stall rest.
A toe grab isn’t a shoe type itself, but rather an accessory attached to an aluminum plate. Like a cleat, the thin bar of steel digs into the ground to provide additional traction, especially at high speeds. Toe grabs are typically used on racehorses.
The height of a toe grab depends on the track surface and the amount of traction needed. High toe grabs have been said to cause lameness by putting undue stress on the flexor tendons and suspensory ligaments. They also pose an additional threat to jockeys that might fall on the track. For these reasons, Thoroughbred racing strictly limits the allowable height of toe grabs on race day, Roth says.
“Toe grabs are still used in Quarter Horses, but I don’t know how long that’s going to last. It seems the trend is to get away from high grabs,” Roth says. “I would venture to say as you see the toe grabs go down, you’ll see the injuries go down.”
Jack Roth is the owner and founder of the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School in Purcell, Oklahoma. Learn more about him in the December 2009 issue of Western Horseman. For more information about the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School, visit horseshoes.net. Send comments on this story to email@example.com.