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Friday, November 23, 2007

New "Duplo" German Horseshoes: The Concept is Change

The foot surface of the German Duplo shoe.

Something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend: clever people keep trying to build a better horseshoe so I always have fodder for articles.

I think mousetraps are over-rated. The horseshoe is certainly the world's great design-improvement challenge. The latest new shoe concept to catch my eye is the "Duplo" shoe, a fine example of German engineering, and the latest entry in the 3-D horseshoe design challenge.

Before I even looked at this shoe, I was sidetracked by the sizing system. They make two models: round and oval, which roughly translate to front and hind. And each shape comes in 13 different sizes...and the company apologizes for not having shoes big enough for some warmbloods and draft horses.

I know the Germans like to be precise; the diameter increases by 4 millimeters from one size to the next. (For the metrically challenged, that's about 3/16" increments.)

The choices don't stop there: the 26 sizes are available in three hardnesses. (I can see some of the farrier suppliers starting to twitch now.) So now we are up to 78 possible configurations of this shoe. There are also winter models and closed therapeutic models, so I think that must take them well over 100 models and sizes.

Another interesting thing is that this is a plastic shoe with a metal insert for stability. The horseshoe is made of soft plastic, which is cast around a plate of laser-cut sheet-metal. This metal insert provides purchase for the nail heads.

This view shows the height of the teeth that grip the wall. This is the foot surface of the shoe.

But the piece de resistance of out-of-the-box thinking is that there are no clips. Instead, the profile is textured or "studded" on the foot surface to prevent slippage. Any "studs" (more like teeth) close to the sole can be ground down. The thicker the hoof wall, the more rows of studs (teeth) you'd leave in the shoe.

And the manufacturer says that the nail holes are "punched" perpendicular to the white line. I've read the literature about the shoe but I'm still foggy on this one. (Do the nails come back out?) There's also an inverse inner plastic rim.

Hubert Frank, the shoe's designer, is a farrier in Germany and he has managed to engineer a shoe that goes where none has gone before. His intriguing horseshoe concept is not a prototype; it is for sale in Germany. I wish him and all the other innovators out there the best of luck. Keep the ideas coming!

Note: Hubert's website is: is in German, French and English.

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Nick said...

For the nails to be perpendicular to the white line I think they would have to come back out of the hoof wall. I wonder if perhaps they mean that the nails are at more of an angle to the bottom of the hoof than a standard horseshoe.

I'd also be curious what kind of durability the shoe has if it is made of soft plastic.

Fran Jurga said...

Hi Nick, they did have trouble with durability, especially in the dry summer months, which is why they added the two other levels of hardness of the plastic. They also mention heat issues with plastic shoes in the hot summer and I wondered about that. How hot would it have to be to melt a horseshoe?

Nick said...

Thank you for the reply. I was thinking in terms of normal wear and tear, the summer heat would certainly add a whole new dimension for a plastic shoe! Even so, just the weight reduction over a traditional shoe has me interested.