California Riding Magazine • August, 2013

Flexible shoe allows hoof to
function as nature intended.

by Monique Craig

My years of research on the hoof went into formulating a composite shoe that is easy to apply, is flexible (both physically and in its application and use), and allows the hoof to function as intended. Very early in my trimming and shoeing career, I noticed that many horses could not be helped with regular metal shoes and could not stay barefoot either. I did not want to create a composite rim shoe because this type of shoe tends to cause the frog and bars to drop through the shoe thickness.

My goal was to design a shoe that provided support to the frog and bars, while allowing the entire hoof to function as intended. In other words, I wanted to create a shoeing prosthetic that was truly an extension of the hoof.

I really wanted to design a shoeing system that is the healthiest alternative for the horse's foot. I believe that the EponaShoe design, utilizing three specialized polyurethanes and small internal steel stiffeners, has allowed me to achieve this goal.

The basic idea behind using a flexible horseshoe instead of a rigid metal shoe makes a lot of sense. In nature the hoof flexes, and so a rigid shoe will constrain the hoof unnaturally. When this is explained to the average horse owner, and even to farriers who have "done metal" for 20 years, they generally all say it makes sense. So why haven't flexible shoes "taken off" in the market place? Why aren't they more widespread in usage?

Figure 1: In this case applied with traditional nailing, but EponaShoes can also be glued on, which is a great option for any less-than-ideal hoof.

The answer is that there have been "practical problems" with their utilization. These problems have revolved around issues like: "do they stay on?," "how long do they wear?," "how much do they cost?," "are they difficult to apply?," and so on. The issue has not been "what's better for the horse" – more and more serious horse people know that a flexible shoe is better for the horse.

The EponaShoe has overcome these "practical problems" that have limited the use of flexible shoes in the past. For example, most other plastic shoes really don't nail successfully – the material is too soft and the nails will "work out" or "pull through" the shoe. Also the shoe itself, if too flexible, will not keep its shape over a six-week interval, or will "flip-flop" at the heel. The EponaShoe uses special, and quite hard, polyurethane where the nails go. There are also two specially designed steel stiffeners inside the polyurethane. This design leads to the best possible nailing of any flexible shoe: nails will not work themselves out, and absolutely will not pull through the shoe.

Today the EponaShoe is the premier composite horseshoe on the market. The success of EponaShoe has been proven with case studies on hundreds of horses since 2003. While the therapeutic cases are always the most astonishing, performance horses all over the world are having success with EponaShoe everyday. From team roping champions to the world champion dressage horses, EponaShoe benefits horses of most disciplines. We think they make horses more comfortable, and a comfortable horse will perform better and have a longer career.

Figure 2: The EponaShoe – for the health, comfort, and performance of the horse.

Epona Podiatry Center

With the success of the EponaShoe, it has become evident that there is a serious need for an Equine Podiatry Center that is fully utilizing this system along with modern radiography tools and lameness analysis tools.

Located in Paso Robles, the Epona Podiatry Center specializes in extreme cases of laminitis and other lameness issues, as well as helping to maintain sound performance horses and to maximize their comfort and performance. We also provide preventative hoof care evaluation. At the Center we encourage our clients to take preventative radiographs and photos of their horses' hooves. It is always easier to fix minor hoof issues before they become a serious problem. We offer full lameness exam and biomechanical evaluation along with nutritional and other advice.

I am proud to have Dr. Kristina Grewal as the veterinarian associated with the Podiatry Center. Dr. Grewal came to us after graduating with honors from Texas A&M in 2006, and spending one year in a medicine and surgery internship at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center. She is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Texas and California, and has an extensive local client list.

Author Monique Craig is the founder of the Epona-Institute, she has a degree in Computer Science Engineering with a minor in Mathematics and Physics. She was aiming at a PhD in Computational Linguistics at Stanford when she purchased her Holsteiner Stallion, Smirnoff. His chronic hoof problems made her take a very different direction in her career. Monique has spent many years researching, trimming, and shoeing the hoof. She has authored many articles about the hoof for equine and farrier magazines, both in the USA and Europe. She has been a speaker at the International Hoof Care Summit in the USA and at the Luwex Symposium in Germany. For the last six years, Monique has been a visiting scholar at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, teaching Introduction to Biomechanics to pre-veterinarian students.

For more information on EponaShoe and the Epona Podiatry Center,
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