Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List

Save
Save
Save
Save
Save
Save
Save
HomeHot Shoeing



The Basics of Hot Shoeing

In some cases it's best to fit a horse with shoes fresh off a forge. By Laurie Bonner for EQUUS magazine.

"Hot shoeing," also called "hot setting" or "hot fitting," is a common practice among farriers. After the foot has been trimmed, rasped and is ready for the new shoe, the farrier will heat the shoe in the forge and place it briefly on the foot to sear the path where the shoe will ultimately lie.

The purpose is to create a smooth interface surface between the hoof and the shoe and to seal the cut horn tubules, making them less likely to dry out in a dry climate or take on moisture and soften in a wet environment. "The intense heat also tends to kill any fungi and bacteria that may cause problems in the hoof," says Paul Goodness, who manages a group farriery practice called Forging Ahead in Round Hill, Va. Goodness says he hot shoes nearly every horse in his practice, because the climate in Virginia is so moist.

Hot shoeing also helps stabilize shoes with clips. "This burns the base of the clip into the hoof wall and it's locked into place," says Mitch Taylor of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School. "It takes a little more time to hot shoe a horse but you get a better fitting shoe if you do it correctly."

Care must be taken not to damage the foot. "You want the shoe hot when you're searing it onto the hoof if you want the interface to be perfect," says Tia Nelson, DVM, a veterinarian and farrier in Helena, Mont. "You just barely touch it to the foot and take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

But hot shoeing is not always necessary. "I don't think you need to hot shoe a horse to do a good job," says Nelson. Hot shoeing may aid a smooth interface, but a good job of trimming ought to have already accomplished this goal. "What you do to the foot before you add the shoe is more important than what you put on the foot," she says. If the foot has been shaped and prepared properly for the shoe, the shoe does not need to be hot, she adds; if a foot is not balanced, hot shoeing won't resolve that. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

IS HOT SHOEING A GOOD FIT FOR YOUR HORSE?
 Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

From America’s Horse take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Hot shoeing just might be the perfect fit for your horse. Journal photo. You’ve seen old paintings, maybe a Currier & Ives print, of a 19th-century blacksmith? The village smithy stands, sweat on his brow, over a hot forge, pounding red-hot metal into shoes to protect the hooves of the working horses of the times. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

These days, the majority of farriers don’t fit that description. Time was, if a farrier needed a special shoe, say a heart-bar, he’d have to make it himself. Now, ready-made, or “keg,” shoes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, reducing the need for such self-reliance. And there are plenty of competent farriers who never use a forge at all as they go about their daily work. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

But forges aren’t exactly obsolete. About 30 percent of farriers in the United States use them much like their forebears did. Shoes that are hand-forged can be completely customized to a horse’s needs, and shoes that are heated before they’re shaped can be better contoured to match the horse’s hoof. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Would you like to earn awards while you ride? Enroll in AQHA’s Horseback Riding Program today and get rewarded for the hours you spend in the saddle. “You can really make it match,” says Dusty Franklin of Minco, Oklahoma, a certified journeyman farrier with the American Farrier’s Association. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Farriers who use forges to shape shoes can also use them to fit shoes precisely to the hoof. To “hot fit” a shoe, a farrier heats it in the forge and then, using tongs or other tools to pick it up, applies it to a horse’s trimmed hoof. The metal burns a seat into the hoof, leaving a perfect imprint. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

“One of the things that keeps shoes on the best is two flat surfaces,” Dusty says. If there are gaps between the shoe and the hoof’s trimmed surface, the hoof can move around on the shoe a little, possibly enough to wiggle it loose. A hot-fit shoe provides a better connection to the hoof and then is nailed on normally. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

“The more surface area, the stronger the bond,” Dusty says. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Of course, there are tricks to hot-fitting shoes. A farrier doesn’t want to burn down very far into the hoof, and he doesn’t want to get the hoof too hot, lest he risk transferring too much heat to the hoof’s sensitive tissues. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Another problem could come with young or spooky horses, who might not appreciate the plumes of smoke that waft up from their hooves. With those types of horses, Dusty says he’ll opt for “cold shoeing,” where he simply gets the hoof as flat as possible with his tools and then nails on the shoe. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

The spooky horses are reacting to the sight and smell of the smoke, not any pain. Horses’ hooves are just like our fingernails; as long as a farrier stays out of the “quick,” there is no pain when nails are driven or when shoes are hot fit. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

AQHA’s Horseback Riding Program lets you earn rewards for every hour you spend in the saddle. Have fun and earn great prizes at the same time! take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Hot-fitting is actually good for hooves. Dusty compares it to a nylon rope: “When you have a lead rope that’s fraying at the end, you burn the end and it stays together and makes it stronger.” take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Hoof walls are made of tubules, and hot-fitting essentially melts the tubules together and makes the hoof stronger, Dusty says. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

This style of shoeing is also easier on the farrier. When steel is heated, it moves and bends much easier on the anvil. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

“Not hitting cold steel year in and year out is easier on our bodies,” Dusty says. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

There’s also an educational aspect. When a hot, flat shoe is placed on the bottom of the hoof, the way it burns into the hoof tells a lot about how flat the farrier has trimmed the hoof. Flat spots will burn into the high areas of the hoof, and low areas won’t be burned at all. take it off again." Mistakes can produce serious sores and abscesses in the foot.

Those telltale signs help farriers learn their tendencies and, by correcting them, become better at their trade, perfecting their time-honored craft.

More Videos
Corrective Shoeing
Horse Foundering
Horse Lameness
Stomach Ulcers