For the past five years I have been trialling a revolutionary new horseshoe. Testing has been on selected horses in three main areas –
Racehorses in pre-training
Warm blood pleasure or dressage horses.
The results have been quite amazing.
Imagine, if you can, finding a shoe almost as light as aluminium but with a wear factor three times as strong as steel.
Made of pure titanium these horseshoes are not for everyone until people realise their relative value to performance is really, in the end run, very cost effective.
The first test was on a racehorse in training, which by the process of elimination could only be kept sound by wearing bar shoes. He was a light framed horse with very upright pasterns, boxy feet and who trotted out with extreme action. We tried him in aluminium bar shoes which he regularly destroyed every two weeks, then he went into steel bar shoes which proved to be too heavy and caused jarring up in his joints, always just before race day.
When fitted with the new titanium shoes, this horse trained into the race completely sound, and went on to win his next three races, after which he was turned out for a spell.
I retrieved those shoes and fitted them onto two other horses with similar problems, both with positive results, and I still have those shoes, which have considerable wear left in them.
Next I found an endurance horse, quite heavy footed, which was having to be reshod far too often simply because he was wearing out shoes, thus his hoof walls were becoming perforated and weak. Fitted with wide web titanium flat shoes, this horse moved out much better, and because of the greater wear factor he was able to return to a normal reshoeing cycle.
The latest trial was on a warm-blood mare that had mild laminitis and dropped soles; she needed to be shod with wide flat shoes and under pads, always looked bumble footed and had lost her action, I suspect partly due to the weight of her shoes.
When fitted with titanium shoes of exactly the same dimensions, but not padded, the titanium shoe weighed two hundred grams per shoe, as against the steel padded shoe at five hundred grams. This mare is now working totally sound, looks like the athlete she used to be and eight weeks later there is no visible wear to her titanium fronts, but I have had to replace the steel hind shoes already. Her owner is ecstatic.
Working with titanium shoes is quite different from a farrier’s point of view. Because of its strength, titanium definitely cannot be worked cold, however it requires only about one third of the heat to attain red heat, at which time it is easier to shape than steel. It cools down like aluminium and it can be re heated and cooled as often as required and still retains its original tensile strength. Rasps do not react kindly to titanium so the shoes need to be very well fitted in the first instant.
To sum up, the titanium shoe has the soft cushioning effect of an aluminium shoe or better, and a much greater tensile strength than a steel shoe, and is considerably lighter. They can only be fitted hot, and when refitting you will notice they never warp or buckle. They are about three times as expensive as steel shoes, but can you imagine fitting a set of concave titanium shoes to a racehorse that will last all his pre-training and then be able to race in them, eliminating any interference before or after the race!!
The benefits are far reaching to every form of competitive horse sports and pleasure pursuits. And no, the farriers won’t all be put out of business, because Mother Nature makes sure that the horse’s hoof just keeps on growing.
FOOTNOTE 2014 – CSIRO scientists have custom made and 3D printed a set of titanium shoes for one Melbourne race horse in a first for the sport.