Borium: Application

American Farrier's Journal | 2005

Borium is tungsten carbide particles in a brass or mild steel matrix. On the hardness scale it is just below the diamond. Borium can be purchased in 'sticks' as fine as sand and as course as a piece of gravel. Horseshoe borium is a screen size 8 or 10 and is usually applied with an oxy-acetylene torch.

Borium is the most popular traction device for road horses or horses ridden in very rocky terrain. It does not have an application for normal, pleasure riding on a trail or in arenas.

Borium can be applied to your horse's shoes in several ways. One method is to apply the borium in toe and heel spots. This application is for riding in ice or cross-country. The spots dig into the ice or turf and prevent slipping. It would be contraindicated for every day riding on normal riding surfaces. This application elevates the horse's feet on to three or four small areas of shoe/ground contact. Prolong wearing of shoes with this type of borium application can cause corns and other caudal heel pain problems as well as slips on very hard surfaces.

Another method is to apply the borium to the entire outer ground surface of the shoe. This method is used for horses traveling on the road, police or carriage horses. It provides traction and more shoe/ground contact than the spot method.

All traction causes stress and strain on the horse's joints. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the negative effects because traction can stop a dangerous slip or fall as on icy surfaces, on cross-country courses or in jumping events on turf. However, too much traction or inappropriately applied traction can be very harmful to your horse.

You are right in your understanding that horses feet 'slide' after ground contact, hind feet much more than front. Traction devices hold the horse's foot in place and create stress in the fetlock joint and more seriously the hock. You can observe professional football players changing their shoes to gain more or less traction depending on the surfaces where they are playing. Many an athlete's career, man and horse, has ended with the foot holding to the ground, not giving or slipping because of too much traction, as the body passes over it causing tearing of ligaments and cartilages.

Because of it's hardness borium can also be a hazard to those horses that interfere, overreach or scramble in the trailer. A misstep can cause an injury to the lower leg or coronary band. A coronary band that is severed by the horse stepping on himself with borium shoes will produce a lifetime of scar tissue on the hoof.

Your horse's five-year old bow should not be a factor in having or not having borium. I do not see any reason why your horse would have a problem making the transition from borium to plain shoes unless you are asking him to aggressively 'crash' through any and all terrains.

Horses that are ridden on a variety of surfaces are better off having their shoes drilled and tapped so the owner can add or remove the traction devices as needed. Screw in caulks come in a variety of sizes, shapes and heights, including borium tipped. The horse owner can apply and remove them with a simple wrench.

Don't expect your farrier to carry caulks for you. Unless your farrier works a lot of jumping shows he/she is unlikely to carry an inventory.

I would have difficulty justifying any type of traction device on a dressage horse. I very rarely apply any type of traction shoe to a dressage horse. Once in a great while there may be a young, lower level horse that needs to be shod with concave stock (like a rim shoe) to give him some confidence in movement, but after several shoeings this type of shoe is removed and a plain shoe is applied. Dressage horses spend their lives working off their back end. Traction just increases the potential for injury in fetlocks and hocks.

In defense of your farrier you need to decide what type of discipline you would like participate with your horse. It is very difficult and quite unfair to ask your farrier to shoe your horse one way for any and all types of riding. If you have a dressage horse and expect him to last a long time and progress through the levels then treat him like a dressage horse. Take it easy on the trails and on the roads and you should be fine with plain shoes.