A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse's hoof from wear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface of the hooves, usually nailed through the insensitive hoof wall that is like the human toenail, though much larger and thicker. However, there are many cases where shoes are glued.
Horseshoes are available in a wide variety of materials and styles, developed for different types of horse and for the work they do. The most common materials are steel and aluminum, but specialized shoes may include use of rubber, plastic, magnesium, titanium, or copper.
Steel tends to be preferred in sports where a strong, long-wearing shoe is needed, such as polo, eventing, show jumping, and western riding events. Aluminum shoes are lighter, making them common in horse racing, where a lighter shoe is desired; and often facilitate certain types of desired movement, and so are favored in the discipline of dressage. Some horseshoes have "caulkins", "caulks", or "calks": protrusions at the toe or heels of the shoe, or both, to provide additional traction.
Shoeing, when performed correctly, causes no pain to the animal. Farriers trim the insensitive part of the hoof, which is the same area into which they drive the nails. This is like a manicure on a human fingernail, only on a much larger scale.
Before beginning to shoe, the farrier removes the old shoe using pincers (shoe pullers) and trims the hoof wall to the desired length with nippers, a sharp pliers-like tool, and the sole and frog of the hoof with a hoof knife.
Shoes do not allow the hoof to wear down as it naturally would in the wild, and it can then become too long. The coffin bone inside the hoof should line up straight with both bones in the pastern. If the excess hoof is not trimmed, the bones will become misaligned, which would place stress on the legs of the animal.
Shoes are then measured to the foot and bent to the correct shape using a hammer and anvil, and other modifications, such as taps for shoe studs, are added. Farriers may either cold shoe, in which he bends the metal shoe without heating it, or hot shoe, in which he places the metal in a forge before bending it. Hot shoeing can be more time-consuming, and requires the farrier to have access to a forge; however, it usually provides a better fit, as the mark made on the hoof from the hot shoe can show how even it lies. It also allows the farrier to make more modifications to the shoe, such as drawing toe- and quarter-clips. The farrier must take care not to hold the hot shoe against the hoof too long, as the heat can damage the hoof.
Hot shoes are placed in water to cool them off. The farrier then nails the shoes on, by driving the nails into the hoof wall at the white line of the hoof. The nails are shaped in such a way that they bend outward as they are driven in, avoiding the sensitive inner part of the foot, so they emerge on the sides of the hoof. When the nail has been completely driven, the farrier cuts off the sharp points and uses a clincher (a form of tongs made especially for this purpose) or a clinching block with hammer to bend the rest of the nail so it is almost flush with the hoof wall. This prevents the nail from getting caught on anything, but also helps to hold the nail (and therefore the shoe) in place.
The farrier then uses a rasp (large file), to smooth the edge where it meets the shoe and eliminate any sharp edges left from cutting off the nails.
1. Rasp - used for, well, rasping. Think of it as a horse-sized nail-file.
2. Clinch cutter – Used to cut that the clinches. The part of the nail that pokes out (and is folded over) at the top of the hoof.
3. Pritchel - This is a scary looking metal spike that the farrier uses to hold the hot shoe. Also used in forging to create the nail holes in the shoes.
4. Toe Knife - once-upon-a-time used for trimming the hoof; now rarely seen as preference seems to be for the specialized tools of the drawing knife and the hoof trimmer.
5. Hoof Knife - used to trim the frog or pare away excess sole. This knife is easily recognizable because it has a hook on it.
7. Shoe Puller -- used for pulling shoes. Also sometimes called Pincers
8. Hoof Trimmer - Also sometimes called Nippers
9. Clincher -- for closing the part of the nail that sticks out, thereby making the clinches.