The Horseshoe Store and more

                                                                                    since 1978

The Horseshoe Store & More

PO Box 300912 Austin, TX      78703



Farrier Innovations

Shaping Shoes

With Leverage & Less Strain

By Pat Tearney posted on April 1, 2008 | Posted in Equipment

The Pocket Anvil and Shoemaster strive to find a place on more farrier rigs

The Pocket Anvil and the Shoemaster are both designed to allow cold shaping of horseshoes using leverage, rather than relying on hammering.

The Pocket Anvil Shoe Shaper isn’t exactly a new product — it’s been around for more than two decades — but Janet Bernson, who manufactures and markets the device with her partner, Max Middleton, think it is a tool that may become more popular as horseshoers age and look for new ways to save wear and tear on their bodies.

Leverage Vs. Power

The Pocket Anvil is the invention of Leslie Emery, a farrier who also wrote the book Horseshoeing Theory and Hoof Care. The Pocket Anvil was conceived as a tool that uses leverage to shape shoes while they are cold. Master it, Emery says, and you can shape shoes to fit any hoof, eliminating the need for hammering cold steel.

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I learned how to shape shoes on an

anvil, and if necessary, use my

propane fired forge.

However, a few years ago I came

across a horse shoe shaper called

a "Pocket Anvil." Initially, I was

very skeptical. I tend to be more

of a traditionalist. There is


about the sound and feel of the

hammer to the shoe on the anvil

and sound of the "hiss" when the

shoe is dipped into water to cool it off.

I did purchase a Pocket Anvil, despite my skepticism, mainly because it is lighter and can be packed into the mountains to shoe if necessary any shoes that are be lost while in the high country (I take special attention when shoeing so this rarely happens to me).

After using the Pocket Anvil, however,  I've now come to prefer it. It's lighter, easier to transport and is certainly quieter than the traditional hammer and anvil.  Of course, if I have any pent-up stresses that need to expend- there's no better therapy than pounding on a cold shoe on the anvil!

I still get my old forge out if I need to make custom hand-made shoes or if I'm doing something special such as forge-welding borium onto my shoes for extra traction on ice or slick rock. I enjoy forge and anvil work.

However, when all I need to do is get my horses shod, I take the easy route. I know, I know- it's not "traditional."

Sometimes, when my goal is to get the job done, I take "easier" over "traditional."


More Shoeing ...The pocket anvil. This great shoe shaping tool will become more popular.

Farrier Times - H. Pritchel

After years of being THE authority on horseshoeing, Dr. Doug Butler took a chance and tried something new.  In doing so, he caused a ripple among farriers, which is, today, a wave gaining numbers and influencing the entire industry.

It was just 24 years ago that a young inventor and farrier, Leslie Emery invented what he called "The Pocket Anvil".  After a bad elbow, a bad back and ringing ears, Emery decided there had to be a better way to shape a horseshoe cold.  Emery wasn't new to questioning the way things were; he and a couple of Oregon farriers wrote the book, "Horseshoeing Theory and Hoofcare."  He began experimenting with all sorts of bending devices, and used every bit of his available time and money to come up with a working model of the first portable horseshoe shaper - the "Pocket Anvil."

Pretty soon some of the guys who were watching him asked if he'd make one for them.   "Those were the secure ones who weren't too busy making fun of me.  Of course there were the other 'macho, gotta-beat-up-that-shoe-with-a-4- pounder-or-it-ain't-hand-made lookin' types, who I tried to ignore the best I could.  I also had to keep from laughing when they went off to the chiropractor in pain after lugging their anvils in and out of their trucks on a daily basis." says Emery.    

Thus began the story of the first horseshoe shaper.  In a limited way, the tool began to catch on, and Les began a small company called Advantage Products. 

All the while, the old time "dyed in the wool" guys just pointed their fingers, laughing.  Convention after shoeing contest, Emery displayed his tools, hearing praise from those who'd used them, selling a few more to those willing to take a chance.  Then, one day it all began to change.  Dr. Doug Butler walked up to Les at an American Farriers Association convention and said "Show me how it works".  Biting back the urge to say "Well, I'll be a..."

Emery demonstrated. Then Butler tried it himself.  For a time he practiced, and then said, "Well, I can see it will take some getting used to, but there are advantages to not banging cold steel on an anvil, and I think ultimately it could be a lot more accurate than an anvil, if not faster."

That was about 20 years ago.  Since then Dr. Butler hasn't used an anvil much, except for hand-mades, and an occasional adjustment.  Plus, he teaches with the Shoe Shapers from Advantage.

When Dr. Butler went to England to do certification work he put the tool before the Worshipful Company of Farriers, where he found the farriers to be a bit intimidated by the tool.  "Its not the Old Way." one said. To which Butler replied," That's right, its a new way and it is better in some ways."

"New," can be scary, especially after years of doing things in a time- honored tradition.  It means relaxing first, gently letting go of preconceived ideas, taking in the new information, seeing how it fits with one's way of working, allowing the information time to settle, and eventually adapting in a way that accommodates prior knowledge with the new information.

In reality, the knowledge of the hammer and the anvil is the BEST groundwork for using the Pocket Anvil Shoe Shaper.   A shoer needs to know the shape (s)he wants, and where the shaping should occur--the Pocket Anvil, and its even more adjustable version, the Shoemaster, are tools to effect the shoer's knowledge and intentions easier, faster and with less strain on horse, shoe AND shoer. 

Emery states,"The biggest problem "conventional" farriers might have when trying any Advantage Line Shoe Shaper is the tendency to use force, rather than leverage.  Experience and practice allow veterans in any profession to do more with less.  A little practice on your old shoes, which is all it takes to better apply the leverage principle, will get a lot of old shoes turned into funny shapes!"  

In the past ten years the farrier industry has become more accepting of these useful Advantage Line Shoe Shapers, though not all horseshoeing instructors have been as adaptable as Dr. Doug Butler.  There are, however, no other Phd's in Horseshoeing which does say something.

It took guts to take that first try.   Dr. Butler had to put aside not only a hammer and an anvil but years of doing things just one way. "I didn't have to throw away what I had learned, but I had to learn how to find a place for something new.