Handmade Horseshoes

Barstock in forge.

About two years ago I quietly transitioned from using machine-made horseshoes to exclusively using handmade horseshoes. By this I mean each shoe is made from straight barstock for each specific hoof. This gives me several advantages over the mass-produced, machine-made horseshoes.

The most obvious advantage is fit. By starting from scratch, I am able to use the exact amount of steel stock needed to fit the individual foot. This means no adapting a shoe that is the closest I can find to what the hoof requires. Instead the shoe is exactly what I need.

The location of the nails is also more flexible with handmade horseshoes. If there is a weakened area of the hoof, I’m not committed to a nail hole in that location because a manufacturer did not give me any other option.  I can place my nails where they will be the most effective in the stronger areas of the foot of that particular horse.

The most technical advantage is section. Section describes the dimensions of the barstock steel. I can choose to apply a wider or narrower shoe depending on the individual needs of your horse’s foot. This makes for stronger feet and sounder horses.

I originally started handmaking my horseshoes to improve my skill for the WCF Associate exam. It rapidly became apparent that my horses preferred truly custom footwear as much as anyone would.  After all, who wouldn’t want bespoke shoes?

  • Cutting Barstock

    Cutting the barstock to a custom length to fit the foot.

  • Marking Center

    Providing landmarks for the center of the toe.

  • Heating Barstock

    Bringing the steel up to working temperature to begin shoemaking process.

  • Forging Heels

    Forging the heel of the shoe to the shape of the horse's heel.

  • Toe Bend

    Beginning to shape the shoe.

  • Nail Holes

    Positioning nail holes in the strongest parts of the quarter of the foot.

  • Pritchelling Nail Holes

    Finishing the nail hole.

  • Drawing Toe Clip

    Using a hammer to start the clip.

  • Heating Other Side of Shoe

    Heating the medial branch to finish forging the shoe.

  • Measuring

    Checking width of the shoe versus width of the foot.

  • Taking to the Horse

    Taking the hot shoe over to the horse for fitting.

  • Hot Fitting

    Checking fit and seating the clip to the foot.

  • Grinding

    Removing any sharp edges for safety of the horse.

  • Nailing Up

    Nailing the new custom shoe on.