Nov 26 / Shoeing Technique for Horses with Thin Walls

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blacksmith, Arthur Lisi has been applying this technique to Thoroughbreds coming off the track to Leighton Farm. Horses who either have thin walls naturally or have had their walls damaged through improper shoeing are experiencing very positive results.



There are many who say that Thoroughbreds and retired Thoroughbred racehorses in particular have bad feet. There is much evidence to back this up, but like any blanket statement, there are many exceptions.  Not all Thoroughbreds have bad feet, in fact many have exceptional feet. What is important to understand is why so many people hold this belief and what is it about Thoroughbred feet that makes them bad?

In general, Thoroughbreds have thinner hoof walls and soles. Add to this the fact that while they are a racehorse, they have spent much time in an environment with wonderful footing in and out of the stall.  What this means is that like the child who has worn shoes all winter and now runs outdoors barefoot must spend some “ouchy” time toughening up their feet, so must the retired racehorse. This article addresses the other factor—thin walls.

Art says, “We have to admit that we are causing the horse pain and discomfort when we nail into a thin hoof wall. Even if the nail does not push outside of the wall, it puts pressure on the sensitive lamiae of the inner hoof. “  If the horse jumps or fidgets when the blacksmith is nailing the shoes on, the horse is telling you the nails are too close. If the horse stands quietly, the nails are good.

Art says, “Listen to the horse.”


The hoof wall expands and contracts with each foot fall. Even more so with a thin wall. This “works” the nails back and forth more.

This mare’s hoof walls are too thin. The technique outlined here will give her what she doesn’t have, adequate buffer to protect against the movement of the nail. Each step she takes, she can feel the movement of the nails in the hoof wall.

Art Lisi builds out the hoof wall so it can support the nail being driven into it.  


If you examine the picture above, there is not adequate room to drive a safe nail. The two red arrows on the right demonstrate the very thin walls. The red arrow at the bottom with the white circle shows the thickness of the nail with regard to the wall. You can also see previous nail holes that were either in the white line or actually “quicking” her.

***Before beginning, a word of caution: It is very important if the horse has close or bad nails that you do not patch over them with the acrylic because the heat produced while drying will fire up the abscesses that want to happen in response to the bad nails. If the horse is very sore or has been quicked, it is best to pull the shoes and wait until the feet calm down.


Now lets get started with Art’s technique.

  1. Be sure hoof wall is dry and clean. Just rough the surface with a dremmel so the acrylic will adhere to it.3Surfacerough
  2. Drill pilot holes to accurately place the set nails. This is done so that the hoof wall does not crack from the nail pushing through the wall and to prevent quicking the horse. The forward most nails are the safest spot. These nails are set very low on the hoof. They would never hold the shoe on, they are only there to hold the shoe in place for the acrylic and subsequent nailing into it.4DrillSetHoles
  3. When driving the “set nails”, if possible, catch the corner of the wall. This is dependent on the thickness of both the wall and the nail being used. Art feels that small nails should always be used on Thoroughbreds.5Readyacrylic
  4. Next you must prepare the acrylic you will used to build up the hoof wall.  It is important to add an adequate amount of chopped Composite Cloth to the acrylic.  This step provides the added strength the acrylic needs to support the nails and the natural expansion and contraction of the hoof wall.  Without it the acrylic will crack.6FiberSupplies
  1. ***When applying the acrylic you must use a little imagination. Be sure the width of the acrylic will be enough to take the nail. Enough thickness that when you clinch the nail down it is not pulled into the sensitive part of the hoof.

Avoid getting acrylic on the sole. It creates an uneven surface when the hoof hits the ground.9ApplyAcrylic


  1. Wrap the hoof in plastic wrap and move on to the next foot while each hoof dries.10setUpAcrylic
  1. Nail the shoe on as you normally would, but through the acrylic or “built up hoof wall”, instead of the horse’s hoof wall.11NailonShoes2


  1. File as you normally would.13file


  1. You can do a bit of clean up with the dremmel for asthetic purposes.`4CleanUp


  1. It takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours to be completely dry. Use black shoe polish to get rid of “obvious” look.`5finishedfeet2

I would just like to say that Art has taken horses with lameness that cannot be diagnosed and made them sound with this technique.  He has also improved the movement of many more.  I believe this is something that can be done to improve countless Thoroughbred’s performance both on and of the racetrack.
Download a pdf. version of this primer outlining Art’s technique.