Building a Shoeing Stock, with an Update
by Doug Beck of Arcadia, UT
reprint from SFJ Summer 1998
Many small farmers and horsefarmers can attest that one of the attributes contributing to success and satisfaction of the farming endeavor is being able to do more for yourself and reducing the amount of off-farm, hired, or purchased services and equipment required to run the farm. As so often expressed on the pages of Small Farmers Journal, a lifestyle of true frugality and thrift becomes a blessing rather than a burden. A few years back there were frequent discussions about how to get the information out about “animal powered” technologies including equipment, implements, devices, etc. As a result, the plans for building a horsedrawn “workboat” appeared in SFJ with “no strings attached.” Anyone could use the plans or modify them to build this useful piece of equipment. More recently photos illustrating a seat for a horsedrawn hayrack were presented. I’m sure there are dozens of other useful, necessary, and/or clever tools, implements, or pieces of equipment that could be readily built and used by many.
I recently built a shoeing stock and thought that there may be some others who could benefit from the design information or gain some ideas for construction of a stock of their own design. All the time I’ve owned workhorses, and even saddle horses, frequent hoofcare has been one of these non-pressing tasks which often seems like it can be put off one more day or until the weekend. Then before you know it there are several horses needing attention at the same time. The task of catching up becomes more pressing and in some prolonged cases even seemingly overwhelming.
I am not an accomplished farrier by any means, but over the years have acquired a few tools and skills to get by. I work my draft horses barefoot and don’t require shoeing. For shoeing the saddle horses I get a local farrier to help. To improve my abilities in this area I have already made arrangements with a neighboring farrier to receive some additional training and lessons as partial payment for a Jersey heifer I’m selling him.
I have found working on the older draft horses or the saddle horses to be much easier as they tend to stand more patiently. However, some have a tendency to lean on you. Even with a relatively calm horse, one leaning on you tires you much quicker and makes the back ache much sooner. With young horses or if you have one a little nervous or rowdy, it becomes much more difficult to do a good job without the risk of injury to yourself or the horse. During the summer months flies can frequently be a nuisance when the horse is trying to balance on three feet. I can recall my Dad relating to me his experience as a boy when it was his job to keep the flies off the workhorses with a switch as they were working on their feet. This works fine when you have extra help. Since construction of the shoeing stock I have found it to be much safer for both myself and the horse and much easier on my back. The stock can also be used for restraining a horse for a variety of other purposes – shots, vet examination, medicating, wound treatment, grooming, etc.
When I first contemplated getting a shoeing stock, I checked around with several of the advertisers in SFJ. They were very prompt and helpful in sending information and prices for my consideration. The problem I encountered was the total expense. With the stock costing four to five hundred dollars and half again that much for shipping halfway across the country, I found it was going to be a BIG expense.
I continued checking around with some local horsemen and farriers to see if they were using stocks for shoeing draft horses. A friend and neighbor is a farrier of the first order and does a lot of work on draft horses. He shoes the draft horses at the local historical farm and also shod many of the horses used on the centennial wagon train crossing from the Midwest to Utah last summer. He even made a couple trips out along the trail to meet the wagon train enroute during the three month trek to reset or replace the shoes on many of the horses. Over the years he has used many different styles and types of shoeing stocks. I found his experience, knowledge, insight and suggestions to be highly valuable.
There are probably as many different styles and types of shoeing stocks as there are styles and types of forecarts. The wide variety of stocks is probably, to some degree, the result of differing needs, type of building materials readily available, construction skills, abilities and available money.
After several conversations with my farrier friend and looking over different types of stocks, I decided to build my own. I would use the farriers as a basic model with some design changes and changes in the material used. The majority of the materials used were those I had on hand or were readily available. Other types and sizes of materials may work better or equally well.
The base is constructed of 8 inch diameter pipe of ¼ inch wall thickness (steel “I” beams could also be used). Overall length of the two pipe skis is 8 ½ feet. (Refer to Figure 1.) The front ends of the pipe are beveled and cover plates welded to close both front and rear end. Loops of ¾” steel rod are bent and welded to the front ends of the skids. These provide a hitching location when the stock is to be moved. The loops are also a handy place to tie a lead rope if the horse’s head must be kept down. The two cross braces between the skids are constructed of 3 inch diameter pipe with a piece of 4 inch channel welded to each end. A small gusset piece is welded to each side of the cross brace pipes and the channel. The cross braces are then welded, top and bottom sides, to the skids.
A piece of 4 inch channel is intermittently welded on top of the skids for nearly the entire length. (Refer to Figure 2.) The channel provides a flat bearing surface for the four vertical corner posts and also for attachment of the floor boards. A short piece of angle iron is welded flush with the top of the channel and along the inside edge at each corner post location. This provides additional width of the bearing surface for the corner posts and also a support for the floor boards adjacent to the corner posts. Two ¼” vertical plates are welded to the sides of the skid and to the top of the channel at each corner post location. The plates have been predrilled with ½” holes for bolting on the corner posts. Be sure the bolt holes are at different heights so the bolts do not intersect. (Note – The angle iron welded to the outside edge of the entire length of the channels on top of the skids as shown in Figures 2 and 3 can be omitted due to a design change I made during construction.)
Depending upon the quality of railroad ties available, approximately six or seven ties will be required. (Refer to Figure 3). The ties used here are 7 inches by 9 inches by 8 feet long. Good square cuts of the ties can be made using a skill saw and cutting around each of the four sides. The remaining uncut center portion is then cut using a hand saw. A carbide tipped “nail blade” is recommended due to the occasional piece of gravel embedded in the ties. The overall length of the corner posts is 7 feet. After cutting the four corner posts the two horizontal members are cut approximately 46 inches long. The corner posts are notched with a 2 inch inset into which the horizontal members will be installed. On the side of the stock the outside to outside distance between corner posts is 5 feet.
Drill two ½” bolt holes at the base of each corner post. The heads of all bolts on the inside of the stock are countersunk to avoid injury to the horse. The countersunk holes are drilled oversized to allow use of a socket wrench for tightening the bolts.
Position two of the corner posts and bolt them in place. The horizontal member is then fit into the previously cut notches. For cinching up the fit of the horizontal member a come-along or chain and load binder is wrapped around the upper portion of the two corner posts and tightened. The corner posts and horizontal member are tied together and reinforced using pieces of 3/8 inch by 3 inch steel flats. On this stock the chain latches were installed on the near side. The reinforcing steel strap on the near side cannot be continuous along the full length of the horizontal member if the chain latches are to open properly. On the far side the reinforcing strap along the horizontal member is continuous and is welded to the vertical portion of the reinforcement at each end. The ½ inch holes in the steel reinforcing are all predrilled prior to installation. The reinforcing strap is clamped in place while the first couple of bolt holes are drilled through the ties. The bolts are installed and then additional bolt holes are drilled through the ties and bolts installed insuring a good tight fit. Once again the heads of all bolts are countersunk on the inside surfaces of the stock.
The other two corner posts are installed in similar manner and two “T” shaped reinforcing straps are built and attached to the horizontal member and corner posts on the near side. The inside width of the stock is 30 inches.
The front bar is constructed of ¼ inch thick by 3 or 4 inch square or rectangular tubing. The 2½ inch diameter diagonal pipes serve two purposes: 1) to further brace and reinforce the framework and 2) to aid in preventing the horse from turning his head around sideways inside the stock. The diagonal pipes are welded to ¼ inch thick flat plates on top and then to the top of the front bar. The flat places (predrilled) are bolted to the corner posts with 3 bolts. The end plates on the front bar are then welded to the vertical portion of the side reinforcing straps.
The floor boards are 3 inch thick bridge planks, or a double layer of 2 inch thick dimension lumber may be used. (Refer to Figure 4.) The boards are attached to the channel, previously welded to the top of the skids, using “floor board screw.” Holes are drilled through the wood and the steel channel then the flathead self tapping screws are drilled into place to anchor the floor boards. The length of the wood floor is 8 feet 4 inches.
The wood blocks for the foot rests are 17 inches in height with 3 of the 4 on each side sloping downward to 14 inches. The rear blocks for the front feet do not slope and are constructed of two separate blocks. Through these two blocks a ½ inch hole is drilled vertically. Prior to installation of the floor boards a piece of ½ inch threaded rod is welded to the top of the channel 6 inches behind the front corner post on each side. The floor board immediately behind the front corner posts must also be drilled to slide down over the threaded rod. After installation of the floor boards the front horizontal foot rest blocks may be installed. The sloping front foot block is attached by drilling a ½ inch hole completely through the front block, the corner post and the top horizontal block. The length of this hole is approximately 29 inches and must be done in stages or using a long drill bit. A piece of ½ inch threaded rod is inserted through the hole and washers and nuts put on both ends. The hole at both ends of the threaded rod is countersunk. The two rear foot rest blocks are bolted to the corner post by drilling a ½ inch hole through both blocks and the corner post attaching the two blocks in similar manner.
The top frame can be made from either angle iron or channel iron. If the front and rear horizontal spacers of the top frame are of round pipe there will be less chance of injury if the horse hits his head on the frame. Three loops are welded on each side of the frame, one at the rear and two in the center. These loops allow attachment of pulleys for positioning of the winch cable. The purpose of the winch cable is to encourage a stubborn horse to lift his foot. A single hobble with a ring is placed around the fetlock and then the hook at the end of the winch line is snapped into the ring in the hobble. A couple of turns of the winch handle and the horse’s foot will come up into the desired position. My experience is that, although only rarely needed, the winch works well. More often after the single hobble is put on the horse’s foot, a cotton rope can be used to lift the foot of a hesitant horse.
The restraining chains include two belly chains, two back chains and two butt chains. The belly chains are necessary to prevent a horse from lying down and becoming wedged in or stuck within the stock. The back chains prevent a nervous horse from jumping up and causing injury. The butt chains keep the horse in the proper forward position within the stock. A 5/16 inch chain was used throughout. The length of the belly and back chains will depend somewhat on the size of the horse but will be on the order of 5 to 6 feet and 7 to 8 feet respectively.
The body of the chain latches is made from 2 inch by 2 inch by ¼ inch angle iron. A round hole which will allow the 5/16 inch chain to pass freely through, is cut in one side of the angle iron. The latch lever handles are made from ¼ inch by 2 inch flats with the end 1 ½ inches bent at 90 degrees. A 3/8 inch wide notch is cut into the handle to allow the lever to slide down over the chain and lock it in place after passing through the round hole of the angle iron. The latches for all the chains are constructed in similar manner. A friend used his milling machine to make the cuts for the latches which resulted in much smoother cuts than possible using a torch. The angle irons of the latches are then attached to the stock using ½ inch bolts passing completely through the horizontal member or corner post. The opposite ends of the chains are welded to the steel side reinforcing strap on the far side of the stock. When hooking up the chains I prefer to pass the belly chain under the belly of the horse and then back up over the top of the horizontal tie member of the stock and then through the top chain latch. When the horses’ weight is on the chain the load is transferred to the horizontal tie member and does not pull directly on the angle iron of the chain latch. The back chains are hooked up in a similar manner passing over the top of the horse and then under the horizontal tie member and through the bottom chain latch. In the event a problem occurs and the chains must be released, a quick upward motion of the latch lever handle will allow the chain to slide freely through the latch.
Heavy nylon straps approximately 1¾ inches wide and 40 inches long with a buckle on the end are used to strap the front or rear foot into position on the foot rest. This allows you to go about your work on the hoof without also trying to hold the foot at the same time. Only one strap is needed on the front while two can be used on the rear. To make the holes through the railroad ties for the straps, drill a ¾ inch pilot hole at each location. Then heat an old hoof rasp until it is cherry red and put the hot rasp into the pilot hole to burn the wood and make a slot for the nylon strap. Several reheatings of the rasp will be necessary to get the hole completely through the wood.
The last thing to add to the stock, and one of the most important, is a toe board. To help the horse keep his hind feet under him if his feet start sliding, a 2 inch by 4 inch board is securely anchored on top of the floor boards.
The toe board extends all the way across the width of the floor boards and is located approximately 16 inches in front of the rear corner posts. Figure 5 shows the completed stock. Figures 6 and 7 show a horse in the stock with chains hooked up and rear foot strapped in place.
Although more expensive and time consuming to install, construction of the stock using bolts and threaded rods rather than lag bolts will allow the nuts to be retightened, if and when the parts ever become loose.
You may want to consider making the stock a couple of inches wider than 30 inches. I have had some pregnant Suffolk mares in the stock which were a tight squeeze. One added advantage of the stock is that it places the horse about a foot higher off the ground and the amount you have to bend over is reduced. Also, when the foot is strapped into place, both your hands are free to work on the hoof without worrying about holding or restraining the animal. This makes it safer for both you and the horse. The stock really turned out to be heavy duty, much like the proverbial “brick outhouse.” I doubt even a rowdy horse could do any damage to it. The only problem I have encountered is that it does take some time to get the horses accustomed to entering the stock, particularly young horses. But a little grain usually works wonders.
The cost of building the stock will vary according to what materials you have on hand. For this stock the pipe used for the skids was salvaged from an old well where the pump was pulled; the railroad ties were left over from fencing and a stall floor project; most of the steel came from the scrap pile; the bridge planks were extras from a trestle bridge we recently rebuilt, the winch was salvaged from the neighbors junk pile; and the chains were some extra old log chains. Only a minor amount of steel had to be bought. The main items purchased were the long ½ inch bolts, nuts and washers, the two pulleys and the two nylon straps. Out of pocket expenses were probably on the order of $125.00. Only working on the stock sporadically when the other farm work allowed and after dark, it took about three months to complete.
It became quite an item of interest to visitors to the front driveway of our farm. I now have a slight idea of how Noah must have felt when he began his much larger building project under sunny skies.
Ten Years Later –
Since construction of the previously described shoeing stock ten years ago, it has been put to good use and has served very well. I am sure that it helped greatly to prolong the wearing out of my back, but the inevitable aging process seems to be happening sooner than I would like.
I offer a few observations from its use over the past ten years. Considering that the floor boards are nearly a foot higher than the ground surface, I found that a short ramp, three or four feet long, leading up to the stock made some horses less hesitant to enter the stock. Particularly with young horses or when first using the stock with older horses, I would slowly lead them up to the stock, let them smell it and check it out, then walk them up the ramp and into the box. If they were hesitant, we would go slower or use a little grain to coax them all the way into the stock. Once in the stock one of the butt chains would be hooked up to prevent their initial thoughts of backing on out.
One important factor in the construction of the stock was the use of long bolts or threaded rods, rather than lag screws, for joining the wood members and attaching most of the steel parts. Even though aged railroad ties were used, there was still some shrinkage or loosening of the bolts and threaded rods over time. This could be corrected by an as needed tightening of the nuts to cinch the parts up tight again. Had lag screws been used, shrinkage or splitting of the wood and repeated tightening of the lags to cinch the parts up tight again would probably not have been as successful.
Following publication of the original article on building a shoeing stock, I received numerous phone calls and letters from people across North America about getting a set of plans or drawings for the stock. I never had any printed plans or drawings when I built the shoeing stock, only sketches and ideas. I recently took the time and made a couple of drawings of the shoeing stock and included dimensions of the major components. The dimensions presented on the drawings are not precise, considering the variations between individual railroad ties used. However, with careful measurements and “squaring” things up as construction proceeds, the stock will come together properly.
The chain latches have worked very well. They are quick and easy to both hook up and unhook. Although I have never had the unexpected need to quickly release a chain because a horse was in trouble, it was good knowing that if the need arose it would only take a few seconds to pull the latch handle.
We will see now how well the shoeing stock works during its second decade of use.