If you're at the track and you see a horse wearing colored horseshoes, you can do your part to support the plastics industry by placing a wager on it. Not only that: according to the supplier, these new horseshoes offer their equine wearers improved traction, increased comfort, an improved gait and faster running speeds, among other positive attributes. If it's all true, then your bet may actually pay off.
Marketing these shoes is Nanoflex Inc. (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), a company formed by former horse trainer and entrepreneur John Filipelli. As a trainer he recognized that horses run better without shoes, but also that allowing them to be ridden, much less race, without shoes, was neither practical nor humane. Hooves - comprised of hair - need to be protected.
Filipelli's firm has patented and now produces and sells one-size-fits all horseshoes made from a custom polyurethane grade sold by Alliance Polymers & Services LLC (APS), North America's largest distributor and technical resource of BASF's Elastollan brand of thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs). "My first attempt," recalled Filipelli, "was to develop a polymer boot, not a horseshoe. Polymers at that time deemed possibly suitable for a horseshoe didn't fit the bill in terms of processability, flexibility, durability and the basic ability to be affixed to a hoof, and stay on." The boot didn't work, but he contacted Roger Huarng, a former BASF technical materials expert and now a principal with APS, and together a TPU suitable for horseshoes was developed.
The proprietary grade of polyurethane offers consistency and uniform density across the shoe, toughness, durability, a certain level of flexibility or cushioning and can be molded at a cost comparable to a metal horseshoe. The Nanoflex shoes can be applied in with nails or with adhesives used for securing horseshoes. The TPU horseshoes stay on longer than traditional metal shoes and one size, when trimmed, fits any horse. Plus, polyurethane horseshoes can be injection molded in any custom color desired.
Filipelli's product is fighting against centuries of using metal horseshoes but he says that inquiries are starting to come in from around the globe. "Our approach has been that, if anyone promises to shoe a horse with our products, we'll send them a free pair. This has worked remarkably well," he said.