Hot Shoeing vs Cold Shoeing
I can remember being very nervous the first time I fit a hot shoe to a live horse. The combination of hot metal, sharp tools and live horses seemed risky, surely there was good reason. Why do some farriers hot shoe and others opt out from all the smoke and flame?
In my schooling, apprenticeships and first years on my own I almost exclusively hot shod. About five years in, I became involved with the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry. For a variety of good reasons explained later, most race stock, especially, the sales yearlings, and horses in training and racing are shod cold.
I have shod horses well with and without the use of the forge. One way isn’t inherently better for every situation, but having a choice lets me bring more options to my clients.
The benefits of hot shoeing
1. Hot metal is more malleable
Heating the metal prior to trying to change its shape is like letting the butter defrost before serving it with rolls. The metal is much easier to work with; the bends and dimensions can be controlled with a much greater degree of precision when the steel is red hot. If the horse needs a shoe with any sort of modification, ( ex. rocker toe) hot shoeing is in order.
2. Create a perfectly level hoof
A perfectly level foot will hold a shoe much better than one that is almost level. Imagine a table that isn’t exactly level, and the wobble just a fraction of an inch creates. It’s the same thing with the shoe except you can’t fix it with a coaster.
If the foot or shoe isn’t level, it’s obvious, if you are hot shoeing.
3. The ability to “hot fit”
When I set the hot shoe onto the hoof, a.k.a. “hot fit,” about 1/8″ of horn is melted. This creates a perfect marriage of hoof and shoe. The hot shoe has evened-out any variation in the hoof wall and creates a gasket like seal with the shoe.
4. Clips work best when “hot fit”
I like to use clips on most horses. Nails are a necessary evil that damage the hoof wall, to some degree, no matter how skilled the farrier. Clips help secure the shoe and help reduce the stress on the nails and the hoof.
Hot fitting, clipped shoes create a divot that locks the shoe in place.
The case for cold shoeing
Some shoes are not made to be heated up and doing so could be dangerous. The shoes worn by the majority of thoroughbred racehorses become very brittle when heated, and could easily break under the weight of the horse.
Hot shoeing may not be practical. Some clients may not want the fire risk involved with hot shoeing. Having any kind of open flame in a barn setting requires safety precautions. If a horse must be worked on in a stall or if the barn is littered with hay, I would rather not take the risk of introducing a flame or red-hot metal.
With cold shoeing, the farrier is more nimble and able to service horses without as much equipment. A skilled farrier should be able to level and fit most shoes accurately, without the luxury of a mobile shop.
Lastly, some horses are “non-smokers.” Some horses may come completely unglued by the sights, sounds and smells of hot-shoeing, even though, the process is painless. The hoof is an excellent insulator. Tests have shown that the heat used for hot-shoeing does not harm or involve live tissue, however, some horses still take issue with the process.
In conclusion, there are as many ways to shoe a horse as there are farriers. I hope hot shoeing versus cold shoeing has answered some questions you haven’t had the opportunity to ask or given some insight of the possibilities of more advanced hoof care. As long as attention as been paid to fit, form and function the end result will be a well-shod horse.
Don’t forget the number one cause of lost shoes is not following Elizabeth’s Farrier Service via your social network of choice.