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Main Content

Cold Shoeing Method

by Diamond Farrier Co

There are any number of reasons someone may choose to cold shoe a horse as opposed to hot shoeing. Sometimes the choice is a financial one – because the forge work of hot shoeing requires a larger tool investment. Sometimes a horse simply won’t tolerate hot shoeing.

But whatever the reasons, cold shoeing is a skill that – with a little bit of work – can be used to provide a perfect fit.

It’s important to remember that every shoe has to be adjusted for every hoof. Because not only are the front feet very different from the rear, but the left are also different from the right. And any manufactured shoe will need to be adjusted to fit properly.

To begin, you’ll need your hammer, the tongs to hold the shoe, and the anvil.

Remember to follow the same sequence every time when shaping a shoe – starting at the toe, (between the first nail hole on either side), moving to the toe quarters, then to the quarters, and finally to the heel. 

Start by aligning the shoe with the hoof to determine where you need to make adjustments. Then address the toe of the shoe. 

To broaden the toe, place the shoe on the horn of the anvil, with air space between the anvil and the toe (to allow room for the metal to move). Holding the shoe firmly in position with the tongs, and bracing the toe quarters on the horn, use the flat side of the hammer to hit straight down on the toe – slowly rocking it forward and back on the anvil to evenly distribute the space. If some portions of the curve have a sharper angle than others, continue making adjustments.

Check it against the hoof before moving on to the toe quarters – using your fingers to feel around and make sure it’s the right shape.

Count by the nail holes to determine where you’ll need to make your next adjustment.

If your heel is too wide, place the toe quarter flush over the horn of the anvil. You want complete contact with the anvil, up to the point of the shoe where you want to make the adjustment. Hit down, while dropping the tongs to ensure that your blows move toward the heel.

Go to the other side, and measure to the same nail hole. Then make the same adjustments.

Patience is required, as this can (and will) take multiple passes.

This is a good time – before making the finer adjustments – to begin flattening the shoe. So look horizontally down both the toe and the side, to determine in which way the shoe is bending. If there’s curvature, you’ll want to strike where the curvature begins, to bring the heel back up.

Set it on the flat face of the anvil, and strike down on the point where you want the bend to start, working your way all the way back down the heel 

Check for the shape again and make any necessary adjustments 

It’s also helpful to bring the horse’s foot forward – letting it stand on the shoe – in order to see what it looks like from above.

Beyond the bend in the quarter, you’ll want a small amount of room for expansion as the hoof bears weight on the shoe. (Enough to roll a dime along the edge will suffice.) Also, the heel of the shoe should extend to the heel of the hoof.

Once the shoe is adjusted, you’re ready to put the shoe on. So you’ll need to choose the appropriate nail, which will vary depending on the size of the horse, the heaviness of the shoe, and even the thickness of the hoof walls.

When inserting the nail in the shoe, look for the trademark stamped at the inside of the head of the nail. That trademark goes toward the inside of the shoe – or the middle of the foot. (It’s placed that way because the other end of the nail has a taper that defines the bend.)

When you’re ready to begin, hold the shoe with one hand and the nail with the other (with the trademark facing toward the center of the foot). Place a finger on the side of the hoof wall where you want the nail to exit.

Start the nail, then remove the finger holding it in place. Then hold the shoe while driving the nail in. Where it exits the hoof wall, you’ll want to either wring it off or bend it over. To wring it off, use the back of your hammer to bend it out at a 90 degree angle. Then push the claws of the hammer all the way up onto the nail shaft, and spin the hammer around to bust off the nail. Move to the other side of the shoe and repeat the procedure.

Once all nails are in and wrung off, you can clinch them up using a clinch block.

When holding the clinch block, the curved edge goes over your hand, with the flat end lying flush against the hoof.

Place the edge directly underneath the spot where the nail exits the hoof wall. Then hammer down on the base of the nail to drive the tip out at a 90 degree angle.

Take the foot forward and, where that nail exits the hoof wall, hold a clincher upside down to help bend the nail out at a 90 degree angle.

Using the smooth side of the clinching rasp, rasp underneath the nail to take the burr off. You should take it down to where it’s just about as long as it is wide.

Then using the clincher right side up, grab the nail at the end of the ridges to pull it down. Then drive it in.

Use the smooth side of the file at an angle to take any sharp edges off, and you’re finished.

(Most manufactured horseshoes comes with 8 nail holes. But you need only use the ones you feel are safe.)

To remove the shoe, begin by either cutting or straightening the clinch (the bent over part of the nail where it exits the hoof wall).

Then use a pull-off tool to pry between the heel of the shoe and the heel of the hoof, pulling back a little bit on both sides. Tap down on the shoe, and pull the nails individually.

Work from the heel toward the toe, loosening the nails as you go, until all are removed.