New technology for horse foot wear

March 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many horse lovers are spending more time shoe shopping these days--for their animals. Technology is presenting them with the choice of two different replacements for the old horseshoe. "These are all-plastic shoes. It does have a composite metal core. This one has polyurethane foam," said Kirk Atkins, Equithotics.

The horseshoe has gone through more changes in the last 10 years than in the last 1,000. Kirk Atkins in Vacaville tested a thousand high-tech alternatives, before patenting a complex sandwich of aluminum and advanced polymers to meet the stringent demands of a horse foot.

"We have chunk tear, elongation, creep, rebound, Mono- di-ocal, isocyanates or tri- but anyway, big ol' long chemistry names," said Atkins.

A farrier since the age of 15, Atkins lectures at the largest veterinary schools in the US. His equithotics are a boon to ailing animals -- and to trophy-winning performance horses like trainer Gaelin Arbios' "Garrett".

"He's an all-around sport athlete and the shoe has held up this well for 4 months. In that time, he would have been through 3 or 4 pairs of steel shoes," said Gaelin Arbios, horse trainer.

The new materials not only last longer, they cushion the animal's foot. The new materials make it possible for a horse to spend the day barefoot in the pasture, and to put on shoes only to go out.

At Pacifica's Shamrock Ranch, Bonnie Hellevig explains, "They grow the foot they need, and if they're given the chance, by taking those shoes off, they can really grow a strong, healthy foot." Bonnie Hellevig's profession, Natural Hoof Care Provider, is relatively new, trimming instead of nailing, all part of a diet-and-exercise philosophy.

"There's a lot of different boots out there. Sometimes, horses have hoof problems, they maybe foundered. There are special boots for them. There's Boa boots that work good for high heeled horses, and lower-heeled horses go for Epics more," said Bonnie Hellevig.

The buckle on the Epics looks familiar, because much of this is based on snowboard boots. The latest model is even hinged like one.

Helpful, says Bonnie, but, "It would be a great thing if all horses could live out in the pasture instead of a stall. One thing about horses: They don't really need a lot of technology."

------- Links -------

  • Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners
    Training and education in natural hoof care
  • Kirk Atkins
    Equithotics "Sneakers for Horses"
    Vacaville, California
  • Easy Care
    Developers of Easyboots, Boa, and Epic
  • Shamrock Ranch
    Pacifica, California