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Event Report 2009

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Handmade Shoes (UK) Ltd Spring Clinic with Jim Quick
Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th April 2009




Ever increasing in popularity the Handmade Shoes (UK) Ltd Spring Clinic 2009 saw over 250 farriers and apprentices attend over the two days. Fresh from success at the World Championship Blacksmiths Competition in Madison, Wisconsin, guest clinician Jim Quick proved a very popular choice. A highly regarded competitive farrier and manufacturer of his own range of shoemaking tongs, Jim is to judge this year’s 30th Anniversary World Championships at Calgary, with clinic host and friend Billy Crothers.

Shoeing for Weight Bearing and Break Over

The morning kicked off with an interactive lecture; “Shoeing for Weight Bearing and Break Over”. In the UK a lot of emphasis is now put on assisted breakover style shoeing, following the US. Defining break over as when “extension ends and flexion begins” Jim believes that hind limbs don’t break over but “push off”. The horse is a two wheel drive vehicle with the hind quarters exhibiting a far larger muscle mass than the front quarters to provide power and motion from ‘behind’, hence the use of the phrase ‘push off’. The difference in the way that the limbs work is further confirmed by stating that as the knee flexes forwards in the front limb, the hock flexes backwards in the hind limb.

As Jim pointed out horses are shod for the work that they do; but when they are only working for an hour a day should more emphasis be put on weight bearing for the remaining 23 hours when the horse is in the stable or field?

The bony column, laminae, the hoof wall and the ground all have a vital role to play in weight bearing. Jim likened a horse’s ability to bear weight with building the foundations of a house – you wouldn’t build a house on soft foundations. Given this analogy weight bearing for the horse should occur more in the front part of the foot where there is a larger amount of hoof wall compared with the back part. The positioning of the shoe should therefore be at the point of maximum weight bearing ability, with adequate break over.

Factors affecting the point of break over are considered to be toe length, heel to toe length, HPA, age conditioning, surface condition and toe shape. Jim suggested that in a perfect world a horse would break over at any point he chose - horses don’t have straight limbs and may break over at different points, assessing shoe wear is therefore important.

Trimming is carried out to a safe and acceptable length, dressing the dorsal wall in a straight line and taking into consideration HPA and Duckett’s Dot. Jim utilises a contour gauge applied an inch below the coronary band to reflect the shape of the coffin bone and trims to that shape. The frog is described as an “underused tool in weight bearing” and when trimming the consideration should be what can be left on as opposed to what can be taken off.

It was suggested that shoe selection was more for performance than weight bearing; it is unlikely that the horse will know what is on its feet but will know if the fit and trim is right. Endorsing simple shoeing methods supported by sound and practical theories, Jim provided a powerful insight into his shoeing beliefs.

Practical Shoeing

Following the lecture was a chance to put theory into practise with six year old event horse, ‘Riley’. Following trimming Jim selected HMS Concave with side clips to support the use of double stud holes. The inside of all front shoes are ‘safed’ and ‘boxed’ with a definite inside and outside. Shoes are fitted to the widest part of the frog (the origin of where the heel grows) and Jim nails on with two nails and examines his work before nailing on further, choosing to twist nails off instead of bending them over after witnessing too many injuries with nails so exposed. The use of a push clench groover was employed to maximum effect and the foot finished effortlessly. Throughout the shoeing Jim demonstrated all the theories he endorsed coupled with an empathetic shoeing style to ensure the experience is a comfortable and safe one for both horse and farrier.

At home in the States Jim begins his day making shoes in his own ‘shop’. The toes are left open to allow for fitting to individual horses. Good quality concave shoes are not as readily available in the States compared with the UK and, coupled with the high cost of coke (the cheapest source involves a ten hour round trip to Albuquerque!), chooses to make many of his own from gas. Jim prefers to shoe one foot at a time, (hopefully decreasing the risk of a horse pawing the ground after trimming), and believes in this way he can work most efficiently to get the job done. Many horses are shod without the use of clips; the feet are drier and there is a decreased risk of shoes being pulled off. Believing in simple shoeing Jim stays away from “gizmo’s, gadgets and products”; all horses are shod on a regular six weekly cycle. Quite often just four nails will be used citing heel nails as being the more important. Fronts are regularly shod with “flat stock” with hinds in concave to allow for the increase traction in the ground to ‘push off’.

Shoemaking demonstration

Following lunch the afternoon continued on a practical theme with a shoemaking demonstration. Various skills were displayed over the two days including a pair of quarter clipped concave hinds made from 7/8” x 3/8”; the conversion of a HMS Concave to an assisted breakover shoe, a rocker shoe and a rolled toe shoe; a three quarter fullered shoe, a heart bar and a straight bar with a frog plate.

For both heart bars and straight bars, Jim has carefully calculated formulae to allow for material length and section for the desired shoe. With egg bars every ½” increase in stock bar results in a ¼” increase in length; with heart bars every 1” in stock bar results in a ¼” increase in length. The frog plate in the straight bar was demonstrated to apply support and not pressure and would be positioned for the tip to be 33% of the length of the bone behind the tip of the bone. Upon fitting the exposed frog would be removed so that it doesn’t bear weight.

In all demonstrations Jim exhibited a simple, effortless style of shoemaking employing a ‘system’ in his work, knowing at each stage of forging what should be achieved. The result? Amongst a selection of highly crafted shoes were two purposefully matching shoes with identical shape and daylight shining through every precisely placed nail hole!

Tong Making

As manufacturer of his own range of shoemaking tongs, Jim undoubtedly understands tongs and how they work. Farriers frequently sharpen their knives, fullers and punches but how many regularly check, tighten and reset their tongs? Jim demonstrated the making of a set of tongs with the use of ‘billets’. At home Jim is inclined to use ‘sucker rods’, which is essentially a medium to low grade tool steel used on oil rigs. The two reins of the tongs must be a pair, and “want to be a pair”, and should swing freely without binding at any point with the rivet being stuck to one half. Stating that it is better to open a tong than close one, Jim has a personal preference for reins being closer together and stated that short, tidy jaws will always have far more strength than bigger jaws. If more than a red heat, they should never be quenched but allowed to air cool.

Making many of his own Jim firmly believes in the understanding of all tools in order to be able to employ their use correctly. Tools are dispensable and don’t have to last a lifetime - as skills develop your needs and therefore your tools will change too.


Throughout the day Jim’s repertoire displayed a lot of what he does on a daily basis and demonstrated quite clearly his belief in simple practical methods that not only work but are consistent. Delivered in an eloquent and extremely humorous manner, with many questions from the audience, the clinic undoubtedly provided plenty of food for thought.

To compliment the informative clinic provided by Jim, the weekend was an opportunity to showcase the range of products, old and new, offered by Handmade Shoes. A perfect occasion to catch up with friends and a chance to put faces to names for both Handmade clients and staff alike a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all who attended.