In Belgium & Holland COARSE is Good
I have been shoeing imported warmblood sport horses for wuite a number of years. One of my observations was that after being here for a while the shape of their feet would change . They would go from a nice round wide foot to a medium width . Then some would go to a narrow width and then into the long toe - low heel land of no return or just the opposite, to an upright dished or clubfoot look . Other farriers reported similar problems in other parts of the country.
Last summer one of my regular clients showed her horses in Europe and when she returned, one of her horses was wearing shoes that I had never seen before and his feet were beautiful . I learned that he had been shod by inter national master farrier Rob Renirie from Nenjegen, the Netherlands . I then resolved that I wanted to meet this guy and see how he shod his horses . In May 2006 I did make my trip to Europe . One objective was to attend the 90th anniversary function of the Kerckhaert Horseshoe Company and the other was to spend some time with Rob .
Rob shoes primarily high end dressage horses and jumpers and is very much in demand . We discussed a number of things, far more than I can relate in this little article but I will attempt to describe his methods of maintaining strong healthy front feet . Rob maintains that being in North America has nothing to do with the fact that the feet do change after they get here . He says it has to do with our shoeing methods and shoe selection .
Rob’s credo is, “Protect the feet, do not try to correct the feet."
To do this I picked up on three key things that I think are the critical issues.
First, Rob’s shoe choice is a shoe common in Belgium and Holland but hardly exported anywhere else. Don’t laugh but they refer to it as the “fat or coarse” shoe . It is manufactured by Kerckhaert and is designated SN Vet/Gras. It’s not a shoe that needs to go on a diet, but is one that is one to three millimeters wider than what we usually use. The shoe is made in eight and ten millimeter thicknesses . Rob’s preference is for the eight millimeter thick version so it is not a heavy shoe but its wide web offers a lot of protection and heel support . Rob also prefers the version with a toe clip . This toe clip is what’s called the Olympic clip . It is drawn out of the existing web so it is set back into the shoe slightly . This makes it necessary to cut back the wall as much as the thickness of the clip so it fits nicely.
This is also something we are not used to seeing or doing. Rob believes the toe clip allows the foot to maintain its fullness unlike clips placed on the sides.
Secondly, the nail holes in the shoes are punched a little coarser than any of our commonly used shoes. This allows the foot full wall coverage and the advantage of nailing BEHIND the wall, really into the white line so you can get much higher nailing than what we are used to. Does it work? You bet it does. What you have now is a situation where the angle of the nail coming through the wall is a little greater, thereby creating less damage to the wall. Combine this with the fact that the nail is penetrating the wall much higher where the shank is thinner and - voilà! - you end up with a stronger wall.
The third thing that Rob does, is to forge a concave seated out rocker toe on his shoes. This allows the foot to break over any way it wants to and effectively shortens the toe up nicely. His rocker toe is different from what we normally see. Our rocker toe has a flat profile like that of the tip of a snow ski. His rocker is more bowl shaped allowing the shoe to be set back nicely but not applying any sole pressure. What all this does, I believe, is to change the mechanics dramatically.
One thing Rob stressed was not overdoing anything. He advises, ”Leave a little for next time.” All his feet were what I refer to as Goldilocks feet. They are trimmed not too high and not too low, not too long, not too short, and the rocker is not exaggerated. The only thing that took a little getting used to was the higher nailing.
I brought some fat shoes home with me and have them all on feet and they went on very nicely. These shoes should probably come with a warning that personal instruction is necessary before use because the potential for problems is high without knowing what you are doing. To use them properly, you need to use a forge, have some forging skills, and the patience to fit them precisely. This takes time, but I think it’s worth it.
Paint and clay are just that until they are made into art by the master’s hands. Rob definitely has that master’s touch for turning shoes and hooves into fine art.