Borium | 2006

Q. Dear Mr. Smith,

I overheard a conversation regarding a product called Borium, that apparently is placed on the shoes to make them last longer in heavy usuage.

Can you explain what it is, how it is applied, and in what circumstances you would want to use it? There must be some negative issues or I would think many more people would be using it.

Steven M.

A. Hello Steven,

Borium is a generic name for tungsten carbide crystals embedded in a carrier material. The crystals are usually imbedded into 1/4" in diameter and 14 inch long steel or brass tubing. Borium is usually applied to the horseshoe using the forge or an oxy-acetylene torch.

The Tungsten carbide crystals come in many sizes from very fine, sand-like, to coarse, gravel-like material. The smaller the crystals of tungsten carbide, the higher the screen number. Horseshoe Borium is usually screen size 8 to 10.

Screen sizes over 10 are unsuitable for application to horseshoes since the particles are so small that even though they may prevent wear of the horseshoe it produces a very smooth surface. Most of this fine particle Borium is used to 'hard face' tools and farm cutting implements.

The main purpose of horseshoe Borium is to aid in traction. Increasing the life of the horseshoe may be a byproduct of Borium but it is not recommended for this purpose. The use of Borium to extend the life of shoes usually proves to be disappointing since the shoe often wears out next to where the Borium has been placed, and the nail holes become too large to effectively hold the shoe in place for longer than the normal life expectancy of the shoe.

Borium "pads" are place at the heel of the shoe and/or at the toe. It is important that the pads are the same height and size. One high pad and one low will cause a twisting of the foot with the potential for serious fetlock injury.

Horses that require traction on hard surfaces benefit from Borium on their shoes. Police or Park Service horses that spend a lot of time on asphalt need traction. The Rose Parade in Pasadena, California has required that all horses have Borium on their shoes before they are allowed to participate in the parade.

Borium is expensive to purchase and therefore expensive for the client. Current prices, for the farrier, are $25 to $30 per pound. Add to that the expenses of the application and the mark up for the farrier and Borium may be cost prohibited for a lot of horse owners.

The tungsten carbide crystals can have sharp edges, especially in screen sizes 6 and under. This enhances the traction but also becomes a dangerous 'weapon' for the horse.

For instance, base-narrow horse will have a tendency to scramble in a horse trailer, particularly in turns. If your horse has a habit of stepping on his own feet then the Borium shoe may mean a substantial vet bill along with the potential for permanent damage to the horses coronary band or lower leg.

Horses that kick during feeding or whenever another horse is near can inflict some very serious damage when the hind shoes have Borium applied.

Horses that paw can wear through trailer mats, flooring and even dig a crater in concrete if left alone with Borium on their shoes.

Borium should be used judiciously. Talk with your farrier and be aware of the dangers and Boruim can have a place in the shoeing of your horse.