Horseshoe Nails

How to match the nail to a horseshoe

How to match the right nail to a horseshoe

You would think that a horseshoe nail is a nail, right? Well not all nails are the same, and horseshoe nails are a precision nail, which in the wrong hands can cause significant damage to the horses’ hoof. 

Horseshoe nails differ in style, size, material, coating and as well as quality and there are several factors to be considered when selecting the right horseshoe nail for the job.

To begin with, the raw material used for making horseshoe nails is critical to how the nail performs.  The nail is the main securing device of a horseshoe to a horses’ hoof.  If the raw material used in the production of horseshoe nails is not high quality, it can lead to the nail shearing and the horse losing a shoe, which is extremely dangerous for the horse and rider, particularly, when the horse is running at speed.

How are horseshoes applied to a hoof?

Did you know that a horse hoof has a ‘white line’ that runs very close to the circumference of the hoof?  The nail must always be placed outside the white line.  If you nail inside that white line or in that white line, you will ‘prick’ the hoof and likely draw blood causing significant distress to the horse.  To give you an idea of the pain the horse may feel, if you get a nail and drive it in between your fingernail and the quick of your finger – it would hurt! This is why it is highly recommended that a Farrier is engaged to fit horseshoes and drive horseshoe nails into your horses hoof, as Farriers are skilled professionals who have the welfare of the horse front of mind while servicing the horses Hoofcare needs.

Horseshoe Nails are very cleverly designed.  Due to the shape of the hoof, nails are designed with a flat back and a precise shank and point of nail, so that as the Farrier is driving the nail, the nail bends outwards towards the outside of the hoofwall.  As it exits the hoof, the farrier is then able to wring off the nail point and use a Clinching tool, like a Mustad Clincher, to fold the nail over so that the nail clamps tight to the hoof and the shoe remains fixed to the hoof. This means the horseshoe is providing protection to the horses’ hoof.  A hoof wall grows like your finger nail, therefore the horseshoe should be removed every 4-6 weeks so the hoof is trimmed and then the horseshoe is either reset (refitted – depending on the shoe wear) or a new shoe is fitted to the hoof.

How are Horseshoe Nails Made ?

Horseshoe Nails are generally produced in two different manufacturing methods:

  1. Forged – generally forged from steel raw material into the shape and size required. This method is the more popular method of how horseshoe nails are produced.
  2. Rolled – the nails are formed through a series of rollers into the shape and size required.

How do I choose the right nail for my horse?

Choosing whether to use a rolled or forged nail will depend on your geographical location and the type of horses being shod. 

In general terms, Rolled nails are popular with farriers who are shoeing thin walled horses, and is a popular nail of choice for speed horses like Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses for example.  Farriers do notice that a rolled nail drives differently than a forged nail.  They say a rolled nail feels a little more malleable/flexible than a forged nail, which some farriers do prefer.  This is a result of the way the nail is manufactured with a rolling process, it effectively changes the flow of the raw material of the nail, which in turn, changes the way the nail performs when driven with a hammer by a farrier into the hoof wall and then clinched off by the farrier.

Examples of Rolled horseshoe nails produced by the Mustad Group are the Derby City Head, Race and ESlim horseshoe nails.

Forged horseshoe nails are more popular with medium to thick walled horses, however this is not always the case as the Mustad HammerHead Nail is a forged nail that has become extremely popular with farriers in many Thoroughbred racing markets around the world.  The forging manufacturing process is more flexible in terms of the size of nail that can be produced from small nails to draft horse nails, with slim shanks and many differing varieties of features.

All Mustad branded nails are forged nails, such as Mustad ESL Pitch, BH, E Slim.

Rifle Nails are also forged horseshoe nails.

What brands do Mustad produce ?

Both the Forged and Rolled process of producing horseshoe nails are used in the Mustad Hoofcare Group factories. Mustad’s nail product portfolio is second to no other brand.   The Global brands include :

  • Mustad Horseshoe Nails – which are all Forged, enabling the Mustad brand to produce the most comprehensive portfolio of Mustad Horseshoe Nail products globally.
  • Capewell Horse nails, which are all rolled nails and the most popular brand of Horseshoe Nails in the USA.
  • Derby Horseshoe Nails, are available in both Forged and Rolled versions and very popular in many countries around the world
  • Rifle Nails – are all forged nails and are a good entry level nail, that is strong and won’t let you down.

Click here to view the full range of Mustad Global Horseshoe nail brands sold in the Asia Pacific region. 

Horseshoe Nail Innovations

The Mustad Hoofcare Group has been producing horseshoe nails for 190 years. During that time there has been many innovations in terms of manufacturing improvements and product improvements.  Recent innovations over the past 30 years include:

  • Slim Shanked nails in both rolled and forged nails that allows the nail to be produced thinner, yet maintaining strength. The slimmer shank causes less hoof displacement to the hoof wall, which is an advantage for horses with thin walls.  If your horses hoof is particularly hard or has a strong wall, then you would not need to use slim shank as you may need the extra strength of the plain nail to drive into the hoof wall.

Examples of Slim Shanked Nails include Mustad ESL Pitch, E Slim, Derby E Slim, Rifle E Slim.

  • Mustad Copper Coated nails – copper coated nails have made a comeback over the past few years, however they are not a new concept. Mustad Copper Coated nails were available 3 decades ago, however there is a renewed demand on these nails.  The copper coating offers protection from rusting of nails, which is particularly useful in humid climates.

The Mustad Copper Coated Nail range includes HammerHead, ESL and Concave.

  • Mustad Endura Coated nails – The Endura coating on Mustad nails is our premium coating offering. The material we use gives the nail 30% extra strength and the feedback given by many farriers is that these nails drive so true and well that they are a pleasure to use. 

The Mustad Endura Coated nail range include HammerHead and ESL Pitch

  • Mustad Hammer Head nails – designed with the head that we liken to a Hammer Head Shark! These nails are specifically designed for horses with thin walls and they are particularly popular in Australia within the Thoroughbred Racing industry. These nails offer improved wear when used with our St Croix Concorde Xtra Aluminium Race plates.

Why do Horseshoe Nails have different shaped heads?

The main reason why horseshoe nails have different shaped heads is mainly due to the type of nail hole and fuller (or crease) shape in the horseshoe.  The aim of the nail head shape is to ensure the head of the nail locks in tight to the fuller and nail hole.  This ensures that the nail will not move and the shoe stays nice and tight onto the hoof. 

The many different types of Mustad group horseshoe nails types available through the Mustad Dealer network include, Mustad E-Head, Bevel Head, Hammer Head, Race Nails, City Head Nails and most have slim shank variations.

Why are there different sizes of horseshoe nails?

The difference sizes available in horseshoe nails is required to cater for the many different sized hooves out there.  Choosing the correct nail to use with a horseshoe requires you to be aware of the type of horseshoe being used and the breed of horse.  Many horseshoe manufacturers today will recommended the nail to use with the shoes.  However, from a very General point of view, there are three general types of horses hooves (this is not an all encompassing overview as there are many variations of horses hooves) that have a bearing on the type of nail used:

  • Thin walled Hoof – horses that have thin walled Hooves are generally Thoroughbreds, thoroughbred cross breeds and Trotters – generally smaller horses.  This means that the horseshoes that are used on these types of horses are horseshoes that have the nail holes punched closer to the outside rim of the horseshoe.  Nails that are appropriate for these horses are the smaller nails like, Mustad Hammer Head Size 0-2, Race 4-4.5, BH3-4, E2-E3 Slim nails
  • Medium walled Hoof – breeds in this category can be Warmblood/Thoroughbred crosses or Warmbloods themselves. In this category you are looking at heavier shoes that need bigger nails to support the shoe onto the hoof.  Nails Like Mustad E.5 to E7 and slim versions of these nails are generally suitable for the shoes for these types of horses. 
  • Heavy walled Hoof – this category is for draft Horses / Clydesdales, and the nails are large, to support the heavy weight of the shoe, however the hooves on these horses are bigger and stronger than other breeds and generally have a significant amount of hoof wall. Mustad10 & E11 sized nails (and above) are suitable for these powerful horses.

The smallest horseshoe nail that Mustad Australia sells is the HammerHead Size 0 and Mustad Bh3 which is 41mm in length. The longest is the Mustad E Head size 14, which is 80mm in length.

Click here to view the full size range of Mustad Horseshoe nail brands.

To learn more about the range of Mustad Horseshoe nails and all products available through Mustad, visit

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