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Extra hold
Thursday, March 10, 2011 - By Steve Stanley

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Sometimes people wonder why I use clips on a horseshoe. A well-made and correctly fitted clip can dramatically reduce the stress the nails place on the hoof wall. I have used clips on hinds of many horses, just because they had a very powerful rear end.  Conway Hall, Donato Hanover, and Miss Easy all fit that category, and wore clips on hind shoes at one time or another.

Photo by Mark Hall
2007 Horse of the Year Donato Hanover benefited from wearing clips on his hind shoes.

As far as stabilizing the shear forces that come to bear on the shoe, one clip is equal to two nails. Very often I will use a toe-clipped hind shoe with only four nails. This can significantly reduce the wear and tear on hoof walls.  Kerckheart Shoe Company now manufactures most of the hind race shoes with a toe clip.  Those seem to be very popular with farriers today.  The reason I like the manufactured clips is because they are made with added metal.

As farriers and craftsmen, we can forge a very nice clip on any shoe; however, those come at the price of using the existing metal in the shoe profile, thereby weakening the shoe. When a shoe with forged clips wears down, it becomes evident where the clip was pulled from—that can become the weakest part of the shoe. A shoe with clips manufactured from added metal has no such limitations.

When it does become necessary to forge a clip into the shoe, I prefer to pull it from the hoof side of the shoe.  I do this so that it won’t affect the ground-bearing surface of the shoe. If you take a full-swedge shoe, for example, and hammer out a clip from the ground-bearing side of the shoe, a void in the swedge is created. This can affect the interaction between the shoe and racetrack.

Types of Clips

A toe clip is a single clip oriented in the center of the hoof wall.  Care must be taken to set the clip into the dressed hoof wall and not exaggerate the thickness of the hoof wall there. This can (over time) cause hoof balance problems if not done properly, because the hoof wall is left to become too thick. Abnormal thickness in the toe portion of the hoof wall delays break-over and this can become a major problem since the moment of break-over is the highest stress point on the dorsal hoof wall. However, it is not a reason to avoid toe clips. Properly balancing the hoof and setting the clip isn’t a lot of extra work and is well worth the time.

Quarter clips usually consist of two clips on each hind shoe between the first and second nail in each branch of the shoe. Quarter clips are very helpful for a horse that hits the track hard with the hind feet. This could be because of gait, soreness, or both.  Quarter clips keep the shoe from being driven back away from the toe as the force of impact with the track come through the shoe.

Front shoes might have to be clipped when using a full pad.  It will help take the shear force off of the nails that comes with the application of such a pad.  Another application of clips is side clips. These are on both branches of a shoe at the widest part of the hoof.  Side clips can be used for therapeutic reasons such as restricting hoof capsule expansion for the purpose of healing a broken coffin bone.  Care should be taken not to restrict the expansion of a healthy hoof, especially with an active horse.

Clips are a little extra work and expense, but can be of great benefit against the wear and tear on your horse’s hoof wall during the long grind of a racing season. Whether you have a powerful horse that wears a light shoe, or one that kicks the walls of his stall at feed time, or you just need a little help with poor quality hoof walls, clips are a very useful tool a farrier uses to keep your horse’s hoof in good condition.

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The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

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