Interview with Joe Painter

by Richard Klimesh (photos by Joe Painter, drawings by Richard Klimesh)

published in ANVIL Magazine, July 1997

He was working for a veterinarian in Huntsville, Alabama, when the demand for a farrier arose, and that set Joe Painter on his path. He took an interest and went to farrier schools and apprenticed. Once out on his own, Joe found himself once again associating with vets, this time at Auburn University. He would go there to visit with Hank Joseph, who was the attending farrier at the time. When Hank moved on to work on the race track, Joe began consulting for the vet school. And ever since, for the past 20 years he has been working closely with veterinarians to provide hoof care for horses. As a result of this long-standing association, Joe recently found himself at the 1996 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention as a main speaker and demonstrator. He presented his pvc cuff, an ingenious adaptation designed as a glue-on shoe for foals - a simple, inexpensive way to provide support, yet allow for expansion.

ANVIL: Joe, do you have a private farrier practice?

JOE: I am self-employed in Auburn, Alabama, and I've been working at Auburn University for 20 years.

ANVIL: Do you work on a will-call basis?

JOE: That's right. We are consultants for Auburn University. I have a private practice outside of the clinic, but I am on call with the clinic for anything they might need. We shoe mostly veterinary referrals, and a great many hunters and jumpers, as well as numerous foals and young horses in general.

ANVIL: Do the horses in your area have problems with wet feet?

JOE: Quite a bit of problem with fungus of various types; to date, there seems to be no good answer for it. We've treated it with just about every known thing you can imagine and haven't found a good solution yet. Just open the infected area and let sunlight and air to it. This works as well as anything right now. Merthiolate has helped some. There are some you can treat, but as a farrier, my job is to shoe them and keep them as functional as possible - the veterinarian treats the infections.

ANVIL: And the manager is supposed to keep them dry after that.

JOE: That's the horseman, yes. He is supposed to take care of that part. Everybody has his own part.

ANVIL: One problem I have always had is with the post care. After you shoe the horse, you really don't have any control.

JOE: I have very good clients and I also have very bad clients. They go both ways.

ANVIL: You have to sympathize with the client, though, because it's just physically impossible for some of them to keep the feet dry during the wet season.

JOE: We really are doing everything that we can. And there is still not a good solution.

ANVIL: Does Auburn University have a farrier on staff?

JOE: No; I was on staff there for seven years. But my practice outside the clinic had grown so that I now service the clinic as a consultant and my practice is my business.

ANVIL: How did your pvc cuff come about?

JOE: We needed an inexpensive way to make a glue-on shoe for foals. We had been using wooden blocks and the Dalric cuff, and Baby Glue. All of them had their useful applications. I was concerned with the sole of the foot not being in contact with the ground. All of those use a block or something similar to keep the foot off the ground - we even tried glueing a little «" x ¬" piece of oak block to the foot for an extension. That worked fine, but their feet were staying too small. They weren't allowed to grow. The pvc is flexible and grows with the foal. It is inexpensive and very simple; anyone can apply it. And it solves the problem.

ANVIL: And you just use the diameter that you need?

JOE: Yes. I will carry anywhere from a 2" to a 3«" piece of pvc schedule 40 pipe.

Image coming soon! Image coming soon!

ANVIL: What is the largest horse that has worn this cuff?

JOE: We have some draft foals come in with very big feet, a lot of angular leg deformities, and medial/lateral balance problems. If we use the Equilox or any of the other adhesives by themselves, it seems to generate too much heat on the foal's foot for the mass that you need to use to take care of your problem. Instead of that, we can use a smaller amount of the adhesive along with the plastic pvc and achieve the same goal with fewer problems.

ANVIL: Yes, that makes sense. I was interested in the fact that you use it sometimes without an extension, just as a cuff.

JOE: Correct. If all we need to do is replace the foal's toes, if he's worn his toes off and his tendons are getting a little tight, all you need is the cuff to replace the hoof wall that he's lost. The idea is to keep him as normal and as natural as possible.

ANVIL: And how does pvc wear?

JOE: It wears just about like the hoof wall, actually. It does pretty well. It's quite successful.

ANVIL: Do you find that you can heat and reheat the pvc many times?

JOE: Yes, you can. The material is very forgiving, and it can also be bought in sheets.

ANVIL: Where can you buy it in sheets?

JOE: Magnolia Plastics in Atlanta, Georgia has it. Any of the plastics companies that provide plastics for industrial use have it. The cheapest source is the pvc pipe at the hardware store or plumbing shop - 20 feet for $10. You can make a lot of splints out of the pvc. You can form it to the foal's leg. Bend the corners away from him to avoid pressure and problems. Just heat it with a heat gun and shape it the way you need it. When it cools, it holds its shape.

ANVIL: Do you split it before you put on the splint?

JOE: Yes. It's just two-thirds of a pipe, usually. Put it a full length from the elbow to the ground and you can put a light bandage on his leg. Heat up your pipe - I use two heat guns because there's a lot of area to heat. Hold the pvc up to the leg as it's cooling and apply a leg wrap. It will form to the leg.

ANVIL: You mentioned that one thing you like about the pvc cuff is that there is nothing on the bottom of the foal's foot, so you are not disrupting the moisture balance and you don't have to worry about thrush or frog pressure.

JOE: It allows the feet to expand. A foal is growing so quickly at his young age that any restriction on him will have an influence on his foot.

ANVIL: And do you think that a heel extension, like the toe extension, will allow the foot to expand?

JOE: Yes, it does. In order to allow the foot to expand, a small space is left between the heels of the foot and the extension. This space allows expansion of the foot in the same way the open heel on the toe extension shoe allows expansion. PVC is a somewhat flexible material, and will also bend slightly as the foal puts weight on the foot.

ANVIL: And when you're removing the cuff, does it comes off easily?

JOE: Yes, it comes off quite easily. You nip off the material with a nippers - it just pulls off.

ANVIL: So do you destroy a cuff when you take it off?

JOE: Not always. Normally the foal's foot is growing enough and there is enough wear on the cuff that we make another pair. I'll have several pairs made up ahead of time. In ten minutes you can have them off and new ones put on. It's a very simple process.

ANVIL: You mentioned also that you don't want to interfere with the hairline. Do you use duct tape to protect it from adhesive?

JOE: Normally I just use the white tape that I get at the clinic. Duct tape is alright too, or any other kind. Even wrapping it with gauze is fine. You want to make sure that you don't get acrylic on the coronary band, and you don't want the cuff to be too high up on the hoof wall.

ANVIL: You mentioned that you sandpapered and applied acetone several times. Is that necessary?

JOE: Yes, it is, definitely, to work on a clean surface. If you don't, the material will not bond well.

ANVIL: Have you ever had a heel extension - or any other extension - break?

JOE: Yes, we have. I was making some of my extensions too long and the attachment of the cuff to the extension was a little weak. Just make them a little thicker with a bit more mass to them. That usually takes care of the problem.

Image coming soon!
Preparing the PVC cuff
with toe extension.
Image coming soon!
PVC cuff with heel extension.
Image coming soon!
PVC cuff with lateral extension.

ANVIL: Can you weld with pvc to build up an extension?

JOE: There are some processes you can use if you want to build up. You can just fold the material under itself or you can drill holes in it and add Equilox and a block of wood. You can put on wedge pads and install them with screws.

ANVIL: Have you ever felt the need to reinforce the junction where the extension bends off the cuff?

JOE: I haven't really had any problem with it; the pvc is quite strong because there is no welded joint there - nothing to break; it's an extension of the cuff. The cuff will flex and you can see it spread as the foal loads his foot. Pretty simple.

ANVIL: How long have you been shoeing, Joe?

JOE: Twenty-five years. I went to Bob Gerkin's School in Houston, Texas and Don Canfield's school. I also go to as many short courses as I can. Continuing education is extremely important, in my opinion.

ANVIL: I've always said that your education starts when your schooling ends. By the way, how did you get into shoeing?

JOE: I worked for a veterinarian in Huntsville, Alabama, and there was a demand for a farrier. I took an interest in it and started going to school and I apprenticed.

ANVIL: How long was your course?

JOE: Bob Gerkin's school gave a six-month course. I stayed a year and a half with Don Canfield; I was his apprentice. I went to his school and then stayed on and apprenticed with Don and his wife.

ANVIL: How did you get involved with the university?

JOE: Hank Joseph was there before me and I'd go down and visit with him. He decided to go to the racetrack to work, and so the position opened up for a farrier there.

ANVIL: So you were in the right place at the right time. Back to shoes for a moment, you also use other types of glue-on shoes, don't you?

JOE: Yes, I think they all have their own application. I think the cuff works well with the foals and some horses with very small feet. Baby Glue is a good product. When I need a little more support in a foal's foot, I'll put him up on the block. I still cut out at the bottom surface of his foot where I just have a shoe with an extension or whatever I need. Tabs are a little harder for the foals to keep on. There's more maintenance to them. My clients come into the clinic and they go home. Home can be 100 miles or more - a long way to run to, to reapply a shoe. They are concerned about their foals and they want them taken care of now.

ANVIL: A lot of foals that need these shoes haven't had much hoof handling. How do you handle the foals in order to put the shoe on?

JOE: If it's a quiet foal, someone can hold its head and tail and just press him against the wall and he will stand rather well. If he is very rambunctious, the veterinarian gives the foal some medication and he stands well. We prefer to put them on while they are standing, rather than on the surgery table. Normally if we're cutting the check ligaments, I'll go ahead and glue on the shoes before the process. Then they'll do their surgery and the foal can wake up with its shoes on and everything is done. That way I'm not messing with him after surgery. I've found out that he's tired of fooling with people by that point!

ANVIL: Do you find there is a problem with the foal walking on these shoes before the surgery?

JOE: Not really. If we can get the foals early enough, the shoe is often enough to correct the problem and we don't have to perform the surgery. If the contracted check ligament stays more than a week to ten days, it's not going to stretch back. It will have to be cut. You can pry on his foot all you want, but the ligament is not going to stretch. We'll go in, cut the ligament, put a little toe extension on him and that foal will be on his way.

ANVIL: Do you give clinics for farriers or for vets or horse owners?

JOE: We have a continuing education course for veterinarians and farriers the first weekend of April; it's a two-day clinic at Auburn University. This will be our third year, and we draw about 200 people.

ANVIL: That's impressive! Is there a charge for the clinic?

JOE: It's about a hundred dollars. These clinics count towards continuing education credits for the veterinarians - the state association requires that veterinarians receive continuing education on a regular basis. Part of the courses are for the veterinarian, some for the farrier, and some are offered for both professions together. We think it's very important that the veterinarian and the farrier work together. Personally, I've found it very productive.

ANVIL: Do you have farriers from the surrounding area come in to help with that?

JOE: Yes, we do.

ANVIL: Do people who attend the clinic bring horses in to use in the clinic, or do you use the horses that have already been admitted to the hospital there?

JOE: These aren't client horses; they are clinic horses that are used in teaching. Most of them benefit from the clinic.

ANVIL: Have you ever done any contesting, Joe?

JOE: No, I haven't. I would like to, though. I am a member of AFA.

ANVIL: What do you think of the new Guild of Professional Farriers?

JOE: I feel that anything that promotes the farrier throughout the country is good. It looks like they have very high standards. I would like to have seen them work within the AFA; however, since it didn't work out that way, I'm sure they have their own reasons. I'm a proponent for any of the organizations whose purpose is to serve the needs of the farrier and to increase knowledge. I realize that it takes a lot of work to keep these organizations going forward, to keep them viable.

ANVIL: How many are in your local Alabama chapter?

JOE: Alabama Farriers Association has about 60 members. It's a very active group, and they have some contesters among them who are doing very well. Six went to the Georgia contest and four came back placing very well. One won in a division, there was a second place, and the rest won ribbons.

ANVIL: Ever think of retiring?

JOE: I'll always shoe lame horses, because I enjoy doing them. I'll slow down a little bit, but I didn't know you could make enough money shoeing horses to retire!

ANVIL: Do you hand make many shoes, or do you mainly modify keg shoes in your practice?

JOE: I modify a lot of shoes. I use a lot of Kerkhaert shoes. I would like to make more of my shoes and would, if time permitted it. Quite a few of the horses I shoe at the clinic are shod with handmade shoes when I don't have something on my truck that I can modify.

ANVIL: So it's something you enjoy doing, but you don't really have the time to do.

JOE: Right, and I don't really have the technique up to where I could make a lot of them easily to my satisfaction. I still need to continue working on my forging skills.

ANVIL: Do you use a welder in your work at all?

JOE: I am a certified welder. We use welding quite a bit. I like to work with a lot of aluminum, and we make some rather creative braces and shoes. If I can make it in the forge, I do. However, if I need to make it with a welding torch, I have no problem with that.

ANVIL: I don't think the horse cares.

JOE: He really doesn't care at all, if we can just give him a little relief one way or another.

ANVIL: There were many exhibits devoted to the hoof in the exhibit hall at the AAEP Convention this year, and a whole afternoon was devoted to the horse's foot.

JOE: There was a lot of participation.

ANVIL: It was standing room only.

JOE: A very good response - and they had other options for lectures and presentations. Many chose to attend the segment on the hoof because it's such an important part of the horse. They have some excellent programs in the AAEP in this regard.

ANVIL: Thank you for your time today. I've enjoyed talking with you.

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