Business Strategy: Information and Customer Service

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A successful commitment to customer service requires some planning. There is no doubt you have to be quick on your feet in dealing with your customers but you can’t overlook the advantages of thorough planning.

In the early stages of this planning you need to develop an information base. This can be a basic journal or notebook done manually, or a simple database on a computer system. The computers and software in the market today are relatively easy to work with and can make it much easier to keep your information base current. They also provide options for improving your customer service by allowing you to do mailing labels, form letters and other communication functions.

Customer information

  • Customer name(s)
  • Category – owner, trainer, rider?
  • Addresses – both billing and horse locations
  • Phones – get all of them; home, barn, cellular
  • Billing Method – Cash, open account, credit card?
  • Veterinarian (for specific customer or horse) and number
  • Comments – keep relevant notes about the customer and their horses

The customer info is pretty straightforward but invaluable as you move forward to improve your service level.

The next step would be development of the horse information. You need to determine what information is important to you. It may be that too much info creates unnecessary work but the information you gather and develop can be used to enhance your relationships with your customers. In a worst case scenario, suppose a problem develops with one of the horses you have worked on. The information and history you have on file can be used to support your position. It can help you explain to a veterinarian, owner or other interested party exactly what you know about the horse. Information on the horse – accurate information – can only help you.

Horse information

  • Name of horse(s)
  • Breed, age, other specific info
  • Basic owner/trainer/rider info
  • Veterinarian
  • History /comments

Once you have compiled your customer and horse information you can then put it to work. Communications using the database are the next step.

Billing. This may be the most important “communication” you have with your customer. Without it, you’re out of business. Make sure your billing is prompt and accurate. Try to do your billing by invoicing, at least once a week- don’t wait to do monthly statements. Monthly statements can be helpful – to be sure your customers know you know where they stand. The improved cash flow of billing as you go will be important to you. Make sure your customers understand the terms and meet them.

Maintenance issues. You need to communicate regular maintenance issues to your
customers as well as any special instructions for individual cases. You may not see the owner when you shoe the horse but you need to be sure they are aware of what’s going on.

Education. As you get more comfortable with the use of your database you can expand your services by sharing educational information with your customers. This can be something as simple as a single page on hoofcare tips or reprints of articles, newsletters or website information. Your position will be much stronger if you have tried to help your customers understand what you do to help their horses. You can start by sending information with invoices or doing two or three mailings a year.

Don’t expect the gathering and entry of data to happen all at once. Do it as you have time but work to complete the process in a reasonable timeframe. You are building a foundation, take your time and do it as thoroughly as possible.

The database information you assemble will be helpful as you work to get your customers accustomed to scheduling.

This article is from The Natural Angle Volume 4, Issue 1. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

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Basic Shoeing: Shoes For Traction

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by Dave Farley, CF APF

Most equine breeds and disciplines require some degree of traction in order to perform. A horse’s ability to perform would be extremely limited if you took away all traction. The natural concavity of the sole and the hoof wall provide a certain degree of traction when barefoot.

Under domesticated conditions we normally apply horseshoes so we have to be prepared to provide adequate traction with the shoes. In the past, most traction devices had to be hand forged into a shoe. Advances in manufacturing technology have led to a number of ready made traction shoes and other simple methods to modify the factory shoe.

The majority of horseshoes manufactured today are flat shoes. These shoes often have a crease from just in front of the toe nail to just behind the heel nail. For our purposes we’ll refer to these as plain shoes. Your challenge is to decide if you need more traction than this shoe provides. I’ll work through a selection of choices you might make to get the job done if you decide you need more.

The simplest device might be the selection of a factory shoe that already has a crease through the toe area or around the entire surface of the shoe. These shoes are often referred to as rim shoes. A shoe creased through the toe or from heel to heel can be used on the front or hind to add traction. The photos below show a factory shoe creased through the toe and a plain factory shoe being creased on the job. The determination you can make is whether you require the extra traction provided by the crease often enough to warrant carrying the ready made rim shoes in your inventory. If there is only an occasional need a quick one heat modification with the creaser to your plain shoes is probably more cost effective for you.

I have a modification that I use for horses that need medial-lateral traction. The in-line jar calk helps with quick turns but doesn’t hinder the forward motion like a block heel or heeled shoe might. I use this most often with the jumper that needs to have speed and traction in turns as well as the straight to perform best. Other disciplines that can be helped with this modification are the hunter, polo and cutting horses. This  is a one heat modification that only requires the hammer and anvil.

A traction device that has been popular for years in Canada and Europe is the drive-in stud (calk). There are various brands and styles but generally the drive-in studs have a carbide center that give additional grip even on the hardest surfaces. They can be almost flat with the ground surface or you can select studs that are elevated above the ground surface. The photos show a typical application for my work.  I have used these on general purpose riding horses, hunters, jumpers and trail horses. I find they are a fairly easy device to apply (drill and drive) and are often reusable. Be sure to have an annealed face on your hammer to avoid chipping. The carbide will be harder than any hammer face you might have.

The screw-in calks are most often seen on the hunter/jumper circuit, particularly for the three day event horse and dressage. There are many different drive-in studs providing a wide range of traction possibilities. They should be used carefully as there are some very severe calks available. The taller calks might be used for very wet, muddy grass surfaces but on hard surfaces can create undesirable impact in the calk area. The photos show two common sizes of calks that I see used by my customers. I generally only drill and tap the shoes for the customer and let them decide when and what to use. One big advantage of the screw-in calk is that it is easy to put in and take out and therefore can be applied only for the length of time it is determined to be useful.

These are some ideas for you to consider when evaluating the needs of the horse for the job he has to do.

I am always cautious about applying traction devices that may not be necessary. Over the years I have seen a number of problems that are a result of too much traction- causing lameness that could have been avoided.

Start with the least severe option and work your way up until you have reached the level that gets the job done for you but keeps your horses sound as well.

1. Kerckhaert Standard – creased through toe.

2. Kerckhaert SX-8 Clipped being creased through toe.

3. Making in-line jar calk by turning
inside of heel at edge of anvil.

4. In-line jar calk.

5. In-line jar calk positioned on foot.

6. Center punch your drive-in
or screw-in calk positions.

7. Two common sizes of
drive-in studs.

8. Drilling is all that’s necessary
for the drive-in calks. Most
have tapered shanks

9. When driving in studs with head,
be sure not to bottom out, leave a
slight gap between shoe and
shoulder of stud.

10. Use a steel hammer with
|an annealed face to avoid
injury from chipping

11. Smaller studs driven flush used
in toe with slightly taller studs in heels.

12. When drilling for screw-in calks
be sure to countersink. This
makes application much easier.

13. Use appropriate tap for the screw-in
calks you will be using.

14. Screw-in calks should normally
not be placed at end of heel. Slightly
more forward than the studs in this
photo would probably be preferable
in most cases.


15. Two different size calks. Choice will usually
be made based on surface conditions.


This article is from The Natural Angle Volume 3, Issue 1 – written by Dave Farley, CF APF. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

Dave Farley, CF APF

Dave-Farley-4Dave Farley, CF APF of Coshocton, Ohio has been shoeing horses for over 40 years. He has shod for a broad range of disciplines, including Western horses, Reining, Dressage, Hunters and Jumpers. His business today is focused on Hunters and Jumpers on the “A” circuit.

Throughout his shoeing career he has participated in educational functions. For a number of years he has been doing shoeing clinics in the US and Canada, many sponsored by FPD but also as a guest speaker and clinician at events like the AFA Convention and the International Hoof Care Summit. In 2000 he received the Clinician of the Year Award from the AFA, in recognition of his contributions to the industry. In 2008 he was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame.

Dave is known for his willingness to share his knowledge and experience with farriers throughout the industry. His dedication is obvious to those who have heard him speak in the past. Dave is a founding member and Immediate Past President of the American Association of Professional Farriers. This is a national farriers association focused on continuing education for the trade.

He also partnered with Roy Bloom to form a video company called Hot Iron Productions. The goal of the company is to produce top quality video footage to help explain shoeing and forging concepts, including their latest issues, 12 Points of Reference – Balancing the Equine Hoof and Shoeing the Jumper.

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The Canadian Farrier’s Team in England

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Guest Blog from Sara Vanderpol

Each year the Canadian Farrier’s Team is selected to represent Canada’s farriers on the world stage. Jack Ketel (Kelowna, BC), Justin Fountain (Kamloops, BC), John Dixon (Abbotsford, BC), Sara Vanderpol (Elora, ON) and alternate Johnny Edwards (Navan, ON) successfully passed team trials at the beginning of May near Montreal, QC to make the team. They competed together at the ‘Rumble in the Broncs’ Contest near Toronto, ON at the beginning of June. Several practices and the ‘Forging in the Rockies’ Contest later, the team was headed to the UK 2017 World Horseshoeing Classic, an international farrier competition held yearly in Stoneleigh, England.

Sara Vanderpol recounts the trip’s events and the team’s results through the following journal entries

SEPT 19 – We arrived in Gatwick airport in the morning on separate flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. We met, found our rental vehicles and headed out for the two and a half hour drive to Ely. We are staying at spacious Airbnb cottage. After a few tumbles down the stairs and head bonks on the door frames we have settled in.

SEPT 20 – This morning began early with a Starbucks breakfast and the 25 minute drive to the O’Shaughnessy’s forge. We worked on our specimens for the shoeing classes in Stoneleigh. The metal in the UK is slightly different dimensions so it is important to sort out how it stretches to make adjustments in sizing. Later in the morning, Will O’Shaughnessy came out to the shop and brought in two horses from a nearby pasture. They were tied in the two standing spots in the shop. John and I had a run of the short shoeing class first, followed by Jack and Justin.  We were very tight for time but decided that the heat of the moment in competition would pull us through when we competed in Stoneleigh. We had a run through of the gas forging which Johnny gave us plenty of pointers on.  The evening ended with a dinner at a local pub with the O'Shaughnessy’s.

SEPT 21 – Today started with Starbucks again. We headed to the shop where shoeing rounds began immediately. They went much more smoothly than yesterday for both pairs and we were all done in time. We had one more run through of the gas class, then packed up our tools and headed back to the cottage. The girls picked out a delicious pub for dinner in the nearby town of Ely. We spent the rest of the evening walking around town and packing.

SEPT 22 – This morning we left early to make the 2 hour trek to Stoneleigh Park. We were one of the first teams to arrive. This allowed us to get in a solid 4 hour warm up in and to prep our tools for the next day. We checked into the hotel and went out to a nearby pub called Saxon Mills for dinner.

SEPT 23 – We started early with Jack and Justin in the first 2 hour shoeing round. I quickly recognized the horse we were given as the same one the CFT shod last year. All of our rounds went well as the horse had very solid feet.

Our specimen shoes were not exceptional but they finished and cleaned up well enough. Johnny completed his alternate class and was a little disappointed as one of his shoes didn't come to size. After a quick lunch we completed the 90 minute Gas Class. It went as planned and our shoes were tidy.

SEPT 24 – We were in the second round, and were able to get up a little later today. We took advantage of the time and watched the round compete before us. Our horse had decently sized, shelly and slightly weak feet. Justin and Jack were a bit tight for time in the end but finished. John and I had a pretty rushed run. My hind foot ended up being more of a front shape and John was a little bit short on length on the foot. We had been worried about getting this class done in decent time, and it felt great to successfully complete it. It was late afternoon by the time we packed up the tools and left. After a bit of socializing, we headed to the Hilton for the banquet.

The evening consisted of dinner, an auction and awards. Jokes flew around the tables and a good time was had by all. We were slightly surprised to be called up for third place in the gas class and fifth overall! This is the Canadian Farrier Team’s best placing at Stoneleigh in the last 10 years!

SEPT 25 – Today our team drove into London. John went home while everyone else managed to take time off to tour the UK. I ventured off on my own to walk and take the train through London. I climbed 311 steps up to the Monument to the Great Fire of London, and walked by the London bridge, Hyde Park, Oxford Circus, St. James Park, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Cavalry and Big Ben.


SEPT 26 – I woke up this morning and flew home. It feels great to be back on Canadian soil!

Reflecting on the Canadian Farrier Team’s 2017 trip to Stoneleigh, I am so appreciative of everyone who made our trip possible. Without our sponsors, our trip would not have been a reality. It takes a lot of time, effort and support to bring every team member to this level. I am also grateful to have Sean Elliot as team manager. Without his direction, we would not be where we are today.

On a personal note, it has been a huge honour to travel across the world representing the Canadian farrier industry. It amazes me how many opportunities I have had to meet amazing craftsman and people through farriery. This is truly a fantastic industry to be involved in. I look forward to seeing where the team heads in 2018. If 2017 is any indication, they will continue to represent our great country and make all Canadian farriers proud!

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Tool Corner: Tong Maintenance

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By Roy Bloom, CJF APF-I

Tongs are used to hold material too hot to hold with our hands. Maximum control is possible only if the tongs are set to the size of material being used.

Tongs 1Photo 1 shows the jaws set correctly for the material. Compare this with photo 2 & 3. Photo 2 shows the jaws too wide for the stock. Only the tips are touching. Photo 3 shows the jaws too narrow for the stock. The tips are gapped. Any gaps will allow the material to slip and make it extremely difficult to control.

If your tongs have either of these gap problems you need to reset the jaws. Place the tongs in the fire and heat the jaws. Place a piece of the desired stock size between the jaws. Place only the jaw area on the anvil and lightly tap the jaws against the stock as shown in photo 4. When you have them making full contact set them aside and allow them to air cool. Don’t quench them.

Tongs 2_4

Tongs 5A helpful hint.

In photo 5, the pencil is pointing to a very critical area in any pair of tongs. If this area does not have adequate bulk it will bend too easily. This bending will occur in use from the heat absorbed from the hot material and even a slight squeezing of the reins. You will continually have to reset your tongs if they do not have enough material in this area.

Once your jaws are set you can address the reins. All tongs should be made from some form of spring steel. This adds a certain amount of memory to the reins and strength to the jaws. Without this memory or strength your jaws or reins can not hold the set you put on them.

The gap between the reins should allow a grip that matches your hammer handle grip. Photo 6 shows a good tong gap. If the dimension is too narrow, as in photo 7, the rein ends meet before firm contact is made with the material. If the dimension is too wide (photo 8) your hand is spread too far to effectively and easily grip the tongs. Either problem forces you to squeeze the reins to be able to hold your material. If this is occurring you need to set or fix the rein gap.

Tongs 6_10

In photo 9 the pencil points to the area where you should bend the reins to adjust the gap. Don’t just heat this area and squeeze the reins to set. Unless your heat is even, one side will move more than the other. If your heat is too high you can distort the rivet.

To widen the reins, place a piece of 1/2” stock in the area shown in photo 9 and set the jaw to the dimension of the stock. If 1/2” is not enough, use a larger size until you get the rein gap you need.

If the gap is too large put a piece of stock in the jaws and then place the tongs (photo 10) on the end of the anvil horn and tap just behind the shoulder of the reins. Switch from rein to rein as necessary to keep the reins even until you have the proper gap.

A final note.

In addition to setting the proper gap of the jaws and the reins you have to consider the condition of your rivet. If your tongs start to bind, won’t open or close freely or are extremely loose it’s time to change the rivet. Heating the rivet and working the tongs or hammering the rivet will never fix it. It has become worn and needs to be replaced.

This Tool Corner is from The Natural Angle Volume 2, Issue 3 – written by Roy Bloom, CJF APF-I . For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

Roy Bloom, CJF APF-I

PhotoELF Edits: 2013:10:30 --- Saved as: 24-Bit JPEG (EXIF) Format 98 % --- batch crop --- cropRoy Bloom has been shoeing horses since 1973. He has been a member of the American Farrier’s Team on two different occasions and for many years served as the manager of the team. Roy has always been willing to share the extensive knowledge he’s gained over the years with members of the farrier industry. In addition to his farrier background, he developed a strong interest in blacksmithing and tool making and for many years has been manufacturing a broad range of farrier and blacksmith tools. He also has a fully equipped shop and the ability to do a wide variety of ornamental and artistic work. Roy’s work as a clinician has earned him the Educator of the Year Award from the AFA and a position in the Horseshoer’s Hall of Fame.

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Tool Corner: Using the Undercut

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by Roy Bloom, CJF APF and Dave Farley, CF APF

The undercut, sometimes called a hoof gouge, can be used in place of the rasp when clinching. The photos give an excellent view of the steps involved. Like all new methods, the undercut may seem awkward the first few days of use.


Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 3.45.43 PMI think the undercut gives me a stronger clinch with a smooth finish. The sketches illustrate the results of clinching with and without the undercut. In sketch A, you can see that after clinching, either with a clincher or a hammer, the nail is rasped or filed to eliminate burrs or jagged edges. This process takes material away from the clinch, weakening it. In sketch B you have the nail that has been clinched after undercutting. The undercut provides a pocket to fold the clinch into. The end of the clinch is also resting within the pocket, lessening the chance that it will loosen. Because it is not protruding from the hoof wall it does not need to be filed as aggressively. A sanding block may be all that’s necessary to finish.

I also think that the horizontal mark or scratch that is often caused by the rasp is weakening the wall, a bit like the process of cutting glass by scratching the surface. The undercut minimizes the area disturbed in the clinching process. The undercut requires very little maintenance. If it feels like it is becoming a bit dull just use a small flat file to touch it up. A couple strokes following the angle of the end of the tool is all you need. You need to be sure your undercut has the angles as shown in the photos.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 3.46.08 PMUsing the Undercut

1.  After cutting the end of the nail fairly close to the wall, strike the undercut straight into the wall. You should be approximately 3/16” under the nail on the first hit.Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 3.46.25 PM

2.  Tilt the undercut (about a 45 degree angle) on the second hit.

3.  The last blow at a high angle should finish the removal of the pocket.

4.  Use the clincher with a very light squeeze to start the clinch over.

5.  Now push the clinch back into the pocket produced by the undercut. Do not use a severe pulling motion, just a squeeze and push.

6.  Place your clinch block on the nail head and set the nail with the heel edge of your hammer.

7.  A light flat blow with the hammer completes the steps of clinching. You’re now ready to sand or lightly file finish the foot.

Tool Tips:

Sharpening the Undercut

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 4.00.53 PM

This photo shows the file stroke and angle used to sharpen the tool. A 6” flat file works well for touching up the tool. Sharpening should only require a few smooth strokes following the angle shown in the photo.



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Tool Corner: Tips for More Efficient Creasing

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by Roy Bloom, CJF APF

Is the shoe creased or fullered? I use the term crease if the bottom of the groove is sharp or V shaped. If the bottom is flat I consider it fullered. Call it what you want, there are two reasons to crease.


1.  To allow access to the nails for easy removal.
2.  To produce an area where dirt can collect and produce traction


A creaser replaces the forepunch that is used for plain stamped shoes. The crease follows the same positioning pattern of the forepunched nail holes (figure 1). The first nail hole is generally in the middle of the stock if you are using 3/4″ stock and gradually moves to the outside of center when it reaches the last nail hole.

Figure 1_3There are many details to address when creasing.

The inside angle of the crease is more upright than the outside angle. The width of this crease should match the nail you are creasing for (figure 2). Because of the difference in inside and outside angles and the fact that the crease runs to the outside of center, there is a significant amount of distortion to the branch.

If the creaser is simply driven into the steel there is no way to fix the distortion (figure 3). As the creaser is driven in, the outside angle pushes the material down and away with little resistance. The inside angle is steeper, it cuts down but meets resistance from more stock and pushes material up and in. If you run the hammer down the outside edge to push the distortion in you simply close up the crease. If you run the crease again you end up with the same distortion. You must first put extra material where the crease will be. This is called hemming or knocking up the branch. The edge is hammered at the opposite angle of the outside angle of the creaser (figure 4). The outside angle of your creaser is the angle the edge should be hammered. Angle it all the way across the edge of the branch.

Figure 4_5After hemming you will be ready to crease.

Before you start you need to look at your creaser. There should be no sharp edges on the creaser. Sharp edges cause coldshuts and cracking of the bottom of the crease. The creaser needs to flow when you are working it and sharp edges will cause the creaser to stick. Even the bottom edge of the creaser should have a slight radius (figure 5).

Once you’ve hemmed and made certain of your creaser edges you should be ready to crease. Starting from the heel or the toe, depending on the branch you start with, the creaser should be struck in the center of the head. Some have a tendency to lean the creaser away to be able to see better or to produce a straighter angle on the inside. If you do this you still need to make sure you strike the tool in the center. Striking the inside edge of the head will cause the inside edge to mushroom and even break. It can also cause the cutting edge of the tool to curl.

You can begin by making a marking run. You can then start the actual creasing. Once the creaser is struck, pick up the handle, pull and slide to the next position. Overlap your positions, pulling the creaser until the center of the tool is over the end of the previous impression. Continue until the desired length is reached. The depth of the crease will be determined by the nail you will be using.

You should now run your hammer down the back edge of the branch. Then take a good flattening run down the foot surface of the branch. You can now make another run through the crease to clean it up.


1. Prepare your creaser before you begin (no sharp edges).
2. Do your hemming of the branch.
3. Make a quick run to mark your crease.
4. Crease.
5. Lightly hammer back edge.
6. Make flattening run.
7. Do your clean up run through the crease.

This Tool Corner is from The Natural Angle Volume 2, Issue 1 – written by Roy Bloom, APF CJF. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

Roy Bloom, CJF APF

PhotoELF Edits: 2013:10:30 --- Saved as: 24-Bit JPEG (EXIF) Format 98 % --- batch crop --- cropRoy Bloom has been shoeing horses since 1973. He has been a member of the American Farrier’s Team on two different occasions and for many years served as the manager of the team. Roy has always been willing to share the extensive knowledge he’s gained over the years with members of the farrier industry. In addition to his farrier background, he developed a strong interest in blacksmithing and tool making and for many years has been manufacturing a broad range of farrier and blacksmith tools. He also has a fully equipped shop and the ability to do a wide variety of ornamental and artistic work. Roy’s work as a clinician has earned him the Educator of the Year Award from the AFA and a position in the Horseshoer’s Hall of Fame.

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Tim Cable, APF and the Red Mile

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Tim shaping the Kerckhaert Half Swedge

Tim Cable, APF

Guest Blog from Rob Logsdon of FPD

The Red Mile in Lexington, KY has long been referred to as “The World’s Fastest Harness Track.” Established in 1875, this track is the second oldest harness track in the world and holds many world record times. Many Standardbred horses have achieved their personal best times on the soft, but fast, red clay surface. Every surface presents different challenges for the farriers of these marvelous equine athletes. Recently, during the Red Mile’s Grand Circuit race meet, I was able to spend the afternoon with farrier Tim Cable, APF and discuss the particular challenges of the Red Mile.

Tim is a third generation farrier with many relatives who are farriers, as well. It’s always a pleasure to watch him work. His horsemanship, skill and attention to detail are why he works for such clients as top stable, Lindy Farms and top trainer, Chris Oakes.

We began the morning watching the training of some of the horses Tim would be shoeing later in the day. Tim evaluated the movement of each horse during the training; looking for clues for what he could possibly do to help the horse.

Afterwards, we worked our way to the blacksmith shop where Tim works. Tequila Monday, one of the top 3 year old pacing fillies, was waiting to be fitted with her new Kerckhaert shoes. Tim fitted her nicely with a leather wedge pad and Kerckhaert Half Swedge hind shoes.

I wish the best of luck to Tequila Monday, trainer Chris Oakes and Lindy Farms during the Grand Circuit Meet and safe travels throughout the year. Big thanks to Tim Cable for the photos and video clips.


Tim Cable Shoeing Tequila Monday

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Basic Shoeing: Basic Hoof Preparation

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by Mitch Taylor, CJF AWCF APF

The foundation of any shoeing job is the foot preparation.

One statistic that all farriers should be aware of is that most

chronic lameness is caused by poor or improper foot care.

Look at it this way. The horse is stuck with the job you do until the next time he’s shod. Unfortunately, if the work is hastily done and the feet are out of balance that’s what the horse has to work with as a base of support.

There are three characteristics of the hoof capsule that you can always count on.
1. It is constantly growing.
2. It is elastic and yields to loading.
3. It will change shape according to how it must bear weight.

By following some basic principles, you can significantly reduce the incidence of chronic lameness.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 8.27.45 AM

Develop a game plan.

Know what you would like to do and how you are going to do it before you start. Don’t just look at the feet from one point of view. Look at the legs and feet from the side, front, back and bottom. Learn to read the hoof. It will give you a lot of information on its health and any stresses it is dealing with.


Begin with the length of the foot.

Don’t feel you have to take every bit of foot away. My general rule for the active horse is to remove as much foot as possible without compromising the strength and protection of the foot. This can become a little tricky when you are dealing with a poor quality foot. When in doubt, leave foot (wall and sole). If the foot is changing shape or showing signs of stress such as prolapsed bars or frogs, don’t weaken them more by trimming for cosmetic purposes.

Look at the toe to heel ratio.

Generally, the farther forward the heels land from the perpendicular axis of the center of the cannon bone the more stress they take. The foot will tell you how it is handling the load. Remember that as the foot grows it will migrate forward. In doing so, the weight bearing surface is moved forward, creating an imbalance that makes the foot unable to bear weight properly. The heels often become underslung and the longer toe length requires more force to break over. When trimming to avoid this situation it is important to remove length of toe from the bottom and dress the toe back from the front. This will help restore a good hoof/pastern axis. The heels also need to be trimmed back as close as possible to the widest point of the frog. Be careful not to compromise the sensitive structures but remember that a long heel is a weak heel.

Level the foot.

Look at how the foot is growing and the wear on the shoe before you begin. Look at how the foot hits the ground before and after trimming. It is always desirable to have the foot land as flat as possible in order to distribute the shock evenly across the bottom of the foot and in the joint surfaces. Just as it is hard to determine if a shoe is level by viewing it from one angle, so it is when trying to sight a foot. In addition to the normal heel to toe view, look at the freshly trimmed foot from the side and toe to heel. You should realize that if the foot has been out of balance for some time it may be level when you put it down after trimming but not when you come back to nail the shoe on. It is not unusual to have to level the foot again.

Look carefully at how the feet are changing from shoeing to shoeing.

Look at the hoof from all angles. Pay close attention to the hoof/pastern axis, the condition of the heels and the length of the toe. As your eye develops you will be able to understand what the feet are telling you as you begin your hoof preparation. A good indicator for me in determining if the foot has reached a good equilibrium is when no reshaping of the shoes is necessary on a reset.


Basic Hoof Preparation is from The Natural Angle Volume 1, Issue 4 – written by Mitch Taylor. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

Mitch Taylor, CJF AWCF APF

Mitch Taylor is the owner and director of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School in Richmond, Kentucky. His program focuses on the anatomy and biomechanics of the equine limb as well as the mechanics of horseshoeing and forging. Mitch received the AFA’s “Educator of The Year” award for 2007 and 2011, as well as the Clinician of the Year award for 2012.

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Tool Corner: Use of the Drift and Pritchel

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In this article, we will look at the use of the drift and pritchel in the completing steps of the shoe punching process.

We’ll use the 5 City nail and 5/16×3/4″ barstock for the discussion. Figure 1 depicts the 5 City nail. Area A is the portion of the nail that will be projecting above the ground surface of the shoe. The forepunch displaces material for area B of the nail. Area B on a 5 City nail is 3/16″ long. After forepunching to this depth you have 1/8″ of material remaining to be punched through on a 5/16″ thick shoe.

Figure 1

The Drift

1/8″ is a lot of material for a pritchel to remove efficiently. In order to get the most life out of your pritchel you should move 1/16″ of the remaining material with a drift. The drift is used to displace enough material for the area marked C in figure 1. This 1/16″ doesn’t seem like much but the relief that this gives is just enough to make pritcheling easier and more efficient. The drift has two important areas, the shank and the tip. The tip should be the exact size of the nail shank (area C, figure 1) and should be flat, not pyramid shaped like the forepunch. The dimension of the drift’s shank must be smaller than the forepunch to allow the drifting without making contact with the forepunch area. On smaller nails and on City nails this dimension is quite small, making this tool vulnerable to abuse and breakage. You should be very careful in the use and maintenance of the drift to get the proper results and reasonable lifespan for the tool.

The drift should only take one or two quick, light blows to move the 1/16″ of material. Do not bottom out or drive the drift into the anvil. To avoid excessive heat buildup in the tool do not stay in the hole any longer than absolutely necessary. You now have the shoe set up for pritcheling, the final step.

The Pritchel



The pritchel’s sole purpose is to slug out a rectangular hole the exact size of the shank of the desired nail. The measurement of the shank area just below the head is the dimension the pritchel should be set for. In order to properly and precisely punch to the desired dimension you need to understand a few techniques.

1.  The pritchel should work like a mini punch press.
It must shear the slug from the stock. In order to do this efficiently the stock must be relatively cold. This would be a black heat approximately 400-500 degrees. The blow must be sharp and straight. If the heat is higher (if you detect a red coloration in the steel) the material is too elastic and will not allow a clean shear. Instead it will drag material down with the tip leaving a burr on the backside. Numerous blows to the pritchel will also cause the same result. You need to make a single sharp straight blow to get maximum shearing effect.

2.  The tip of the pritchel should be prepped to achieve the best results.
All pritchels come with a straight taper. As the pritchel is driven in the material, the taper forces the hole to expand. The farther you go in the bigger the hole becomes. The tip of the pritchel should be backed up to produce a tip the exact size of the desired nail, leaving a slight recess behind it. By setting your pritchel in this manner, the tip will shear out the slug and the pritchel will end up in the recessed area. The pritchel will not enlarge the hole and will now also be loose in the hole.


Backing It Up

Heat the tip of your pritchel and then draw the end out until it is smaller at the tip than the dimension of the nail you will be using. Place it back in the fire and take a short heat at the tip only. Do not heat it too much, a dull red is fine. Now start tapping (upsetting) the tip with the flat of your hammer. Continue to take short heats and work the tip until a small amount of the material is upset. Keep the pritchel tip going straight, don’t let it get crooked or bent. Take another short heat, set the upset area on the anvil edge and tap down on it, producing small flats. Check the size now with the nail shank. Another tap or two on the end should finish it for you. It should match the nail shank exactly. Set it aside and let it air cool.

With practice and attention to the details of the nail shank and pritchel you will learn how much to back up and how much to flatten to get the desired result. Setting and using your pritchel in this manner (along with using a good drift) will allow you to use your pritchel for more shoes with less need for adjustment.


This Tool Corner is from The Natural Angle Volume 1, Issue 3 – written by Roy Bloom, APF CJF. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

Roy Bloom, APF CJF

PhotoELF Edits: 2013:10:30 --- Saved as: 24-Bit JPEG (EXIF) Format 98 % --- batch crop --- cropRoy Bloom has been shoeing horses since 1973. He has been a member of the American Farrier’s Team on two different occasions and for many years served as the manager of the team. Roy has always been willing to share the extensive knowledge he’s gained over the years with members of the farrier industry. In addition to his farrier background, he developed a strong interest in blacksmithing and tool making and for many years has been manufacturing a broad range of farrier and blacksmith tools. He also has a fully equipped shop and the ability to do a wide variety of ornamental and artistic work. Roy’s work as a clinician has earned him the Educator of the Year Award from the AFA and a position in the Horseshoer’s Hall of Fame.

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Katie Burnett of FPD Shares Fond Memories of Her Grandparents and their Connection to the Kentucky Derby

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Mark and Peytie Scearce

Mark and Peytie Scearce

Guest Blog from Katie Burnett


Each year, when it is time for the Derby, I am reminded of
how my grandparents enjoyed the celebration of this race – and how much I love the memories of my grandparents.

Mark and Peytie Scearce had a long and loving marriage,
and my grandfather was always looking for ways to surprise and delight Peytie. Nothing made him happier than seeing
my grandmother smile!

One year, Mark contacted a local artist named Eloise
Burnett (no relation to me) of Louisville, Kentucky. Her work has been displayed in The Speed Museum of Louisville, the Wakefield-Scearce Galleries in Shelbyville, Kentucky among many other places. Because Mark and Peytie were regular attendees of the Kentucky Derby, he asked Ms. Burnett if she would make a custom purse for Peytie – a one-of-a-kind purse that Peytie could carry in celebration of the Derby.


As you can see in the photos, the purse was so unique we haven’t been able, in our research, to find another like it. Years ago, after my grandparents had passed away, my mother received a request to sell the purse to the Churchill Downs Museum, but she couldn’t bear to part with this beautiful piece of history that never fails to remind us of how much we adored my grandparents. The purse is a reflection of how much character and charm they possessed.

Recently, when we pulled the purse out of storage, we found a personalized Churchill Downs Betting Book. Inside was the list of her top 6 horse choices for the 1976 race – the last Derby they attended together.

In this little walk down memory lane, I have also included a link below to an interesting article about my grandfather, Mark Scearce. He founded, along with Mark Wakefield, the world-renowned Wakefield-Scearce Galleries in 1947. Everyone who enjoys Derby history will find the story about my grandfather and the Julep Cups fascinating!

To this day, the Galleries remain in operation by my family in Shelbyville, KY and are enjoyed by people from all walks of life and all corners of the world.

Read more about Mark Scearce »

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