Thursday, March 22, 2018

When less does more: New DE Hoof Taps unshoe the horse while tapping into a healthier future hoof

The yellow dotted lines outline a DE Hoof Tap, a stainless steel, zinc-coated barbed wall insert that sits flush with the trimmed wall in this severe heel wall separation. Taps can be difficult to see. This was the second installation of Hoof Taps in this separation. The same hoof is shown further down on this page after this cycle, when the tap was trimmed out of the foot, to show the improvement. (Doug Ehrmann photo)

And now for something completely different.

When a six-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare scored 80% at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Florida last month, people were impressed. That’s a great score, at any level. And she did it without shoes.

But she wasn’t barefoot. Her hooves were "tapped".

Meet DE Hoof Taps, the hoofcare innovation that you may not even be able to see...but make no mistake, the horse will know it’s there.

If horseshoes are from Venus, and hoof boots are from Mars, the idea for Hoof Taps is from beyond our galaxy. Instead of adding features to hoofwear, or what holds an appliance to a foot, Hoof Taps take almost everything away.

And that is exactly what some farriers--and horses--like about them. Hoof Taps are quickly becoming a go-to solution, and developing into a system to re-grow a tight white line, or help a newly-unshod horse transition, or just to survive the abrasion of a week or a month or a life on showground pavement.

DE Hoof Taps

Hoof Taps aren’t visible until you pick up the hoof; at first glance, you might even think the horse stepped on a big staple, and it’s become embedded in the hoof. Once installed, they look a bit like a raceplate’s toe grab or wear insert: a 1.25-inch length of zinc-coated stainless steel sits just outside the white line.

DE Hoof Taps heel quarter
Hoof Taps don't mind how muddy the horse's
pasture is. They can be helpful for horses with
disproportionate wall growth. (Doug Ehrmann
The taps have a very slight curve to follow wall contour. They are driven into the hoof with a few taps of a farrier’s driving hammer; three barbs enter the wall margin and anchor the length of it. The zinc coating both retards rust and offers antimicrobial protection.

The choice of application points and how many to use is critical for Hoof Taps; a farrier needs to be familiar with the typical wall deformities like a stretched white line (“seedy toe”) or an actual wall separation in the heel quarter. Some hooves need help with excessive wear, caused by conformation, gait, or work on abrasive surfaces.

No special trimming is required for Hoof Taps, other than the usual level foot.

Designing how and why and when and where to install Hoof Taps takes some strategy: some horses wear only one in a hoof. Some horses wear three per hoof. Some horses have shoes nailed over their taps, others are otherwise barefoot.

DE Hoof Taps
Hoof Taps can be adapted for smaller-footed horses. Here you see two cut-down taps after being removed from a horse and one full tap. (Doug Ehrmann photo)

Cornell University farrier instructor Steve Kraus
Steve Kraus, farrier instructor at 
Cornell vet school (Cornell photo)
Steve Kraus, farrier instructor at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, was an early tester of DE Hoof Taps; he soon was an early adopter, as well. He describes Hoof Taps as “a less costly way to keep barefoot hooves from falling apart, or to help grow out cracks.

“They are not a horse owner ‘do it yourself’ item,” Kraus cautioned. “After trimming, the farrier simply cuts a small groove where the tap needs to go. Hold the tap in place, just outside the white line, and lightly hammer each end of the tap, alternating until it is flush.”

Put the hoof down, you're done.

Removing the Hoof Tap is a simple matter of prying it out with a rocking motion, using a nail cutter (not pull-offs). At times, they can simply be trimmed out with the new wall growth. The tap's anchor barbs are so shallow there is no damage to the hoof capsule once the new growth is trimmed, and there is no penetration of the hoof wall.

Heel quarter wall separation
This photo shows the improvement in a hoof with a wall separation shown in the top photo. Wall separations are one of the most common hoof problems for DE Hoof Tap installation. (Doug Ehrmann photo)

Hoof Taps were developed by New York farrier Douglas Ehrmann; they are his seventh patent for horse-related equipment. The Hoof Taps US patent was awarded this fall.

Farrier Doug Ehrmann, inventor
Doug Ehrmann, Hoof Taps inventor 
and farrier in New York
Doug is known for his creative thinking and powers of observation, whether related to hooves or horse management. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is a question he hears often, when people see his products. They're practical and each one solves a problem that most of us have had to work around for years, like lead lines and lunge lines that don't twist the halter, or the lethal-looking "Power Pick" for cleaning out hooves.

Doug worked with Peter Wilkes of Vale Brothers Brush Ltd in Walsall, England to bring the taps to market in the US and UK. Hoof Taps are manufactured in England.

K C La Pierre, IAEP
K C La Pierre of the Institute on Applied
Equine Podiatry.
“Hoof Taps show great promise in rehabilitation podiatry,” said K C La Pierre of the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry, a training program known for its shoeless approach to helping horses attain optimum soundness.

He is now a distributor for DE Hoof Taps.

Many horse owners are happy to opt for DE Hoof Taps to keep their a horse with a wall problem barefoot, but "shod" with taps.  Ehrmann stresses that taps are not a replacement for a shoe, when one is needed. Taps have been proven successful for specific hoof conditions or management solutions.

Xray view of DE Hoof Taps in a toe quarter
Veterinary radiologists may think that a horse stepped on a staple if they see a radiograph of a Hoof Tapped barefoot horse. (Doug Ehrmann image)

Dr. Brendan Furlong,
veterinarian for USEF's Land
Rover US Eventing Team
New York horse owner June Evers said that Doug, her longtime farrier, installed taps in one of her horses with a wall separation. "The horse was a bit ouchy," she said. "With the taps, the horse was running all over the place! Four weeks later, I was amazed that the wall separation was gone (grown out). Don't ask me how it works, but it did."

And meanwhile, back on the Florida dressage scene, Drs. Wendy (Leich) and Brendan Furlong of B.W. Furlong & Associates, report, "We are also using the DE Hoof Taps on another dressage horse as she transitions from being shod to being barefoot and she has been very sound so far. We think the DE Hoof Taps are a great solution for many horses." Dr. Furlong has served as Team Veterinarian for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team since 1994.

K C La Pierre cases
Case examples from K C La Pierre of the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry.

Hoof Taps are sold in containers of 25 or 100, with a directional script. The price to farriers is about $1 each. No special tools or supplies are needed.

To learn more about Hoof Taps:

Click this link to see how-to videos and interesting cases posted on the DE Hoof Taps Facebook page

DE Hoof Taps is presently adding distributors; contact Doug Ehrmann for more details.

Current distributors:

The Sound Equine LLC (Doug Ehrmann)
Vale Brothers, Ltd. (UK)
IAEP, Inc. (Keith "KC" La Pierre)
Jacks Inc./Jacks Mfg.

To learn more:

Do you have a new product or service that would benefit from being featured on The Hoof Blog. Please get in touch to discuss sponsorship opportunities to reach a large audience of farriers,  trimmers, veterinarians, equine health professionals and horse owners.

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