Interview with John Wright, the industrial designer behind GluShu, glue on horse shoes
14 Jun 2016
Horsescience.co interviewed John Wright, the UK based industrial designer and creator of GluShu, a glue on horse shoe.
Nailed on horse shoes have been common for centuries, in recent times, other options have also become popular such as horse “boots” and barefoot trimming. The idea of glue on shoes for horses has been around for decades (Adjustable size horseshoe patent, 1971), but it has taken time for a practical, working shoe and appropriate glue to be developed. There are now several glue on shoes available on the market. John Wright talks us through the thinking behind GluShu.
Tell us a bit about yourself John, and how GluShu came to be?
I trained as an Industrial Designer at St Martins London and I worked in various practices designing all sorts of white goods, hardware, figurine character bubble bath bottles and toys. I made the prototypes, and I was very good at the hand making bit.
My best friend at the time, a farrier, came to me and said, would I like to design him a glue on horse shoe, a copy of an American one. I said, well, I’d rather not copy it but basically yes, I’d like to have a look at it, and that’s how GluShu started.
I came up with a cuff design, that was built around a metal shoe, and we tried it, and it worked quite well. He (my friend) was trying to copy a glue on shoe which had a fabric cuff, and farriers didn’t particularly like this shoe because: one, it’s expensive, and two, it’s very messy, it takes a long time to set, and sometimes the horse needs to be sedated. It takes a long time for the farrier to actually fit it and you need gloves up to your elbows.
So basically I said, let’s no go down this route, let’s try and come up with a simple solution. And I think in those days, which was probably five years ago, my expectations of glue were higher than the glues were actually performing.
Also, my farrier friend was very interested in going down the urethane glue route, and I believe this was a mistake. It hasn’t done the industry any good because urethane glue doesn’t bond to the hoof very well and most farriers will tell you that a glue on shoe comes off after three weeks.
In the meantime, a glue manufacturer in Holland approached me and said he’d like to help me. The thing is, he’d just designed a new glue, an acrylic glue, and he was looking for a shoe. Of course, I was looking for a glue. So, after a few discussions, we decided to go a 50:50 partnership and it’s worked very well from there.
The acrylic glue takes 5 minutes to set, in Australia it takes about 3 minutes to go off, it’s pretty fast. You have to hold the hoof off the ground but it easily stays on for more than 6 to 8 weeks. So that’s where we are at the moment, so we have a GluShu.
Great, so that leads to our next question, what is the GluShu and how does it work?
Well, a GluShu has an aluminium insert, which is a very strong shoe and very light. It’s a forged aluminium insert and a rubber over mould with a flexible cuff. So basically inside there is a normal metal shoe with half the weight of a steel shoe.
My belief is that we should have an alternative to nailing shoes onto a horse after 500 years, we really should have a better way of attaching a shoe to a hoof. I believe now that the glues are such that you can glue on the horse’s hoof without damaging the hoof, without being detrimental to the hoof or horse. Then, at the end of the shoe’s life you can cut it away and glue another shoe on.
We’ve had a girl testing these now constantly for two years. The trouble now is that some people are saying, “oh well, your hoof is going to get smaller” or “your hoof is going to get bigger,” or “the glue leeches into the horse’s hoovers and damages the blood supply” None of which are true.
Give us an example of a horse with a common hoof problem that can be helped by GluShu
We have a client, and her horse was very hoof sore and you couldn’t get near it with a nail. She tried GluShus for the first time and she’s saying “they’re wonderful” and she’s totally sold on it and now we’re working with this horse as an example of what the product can do. I think we’re conquering one person at a time and everybody that’s used them thinks they’re brilliant.
We had another horse, a young horse, that was hoof sore and stable bound for three years. He got GluShus on and within hours it skipped into the field and was running around the field. The owner couldn’t believe it, she said they were magic.
The downside was, the farrier that took them off wasn’t the regular farrier, and used a hammer and buffer to knock them off, and the horse was down on its knees, because it was hoof sore (in the first place).
So, are they typically hard to remove?
Nope, they’re not if you use a draw knife. Basically, what you do is, you cut the main part of the shoe off to start with, which just leaves the cuff on the hoof. Then, you put the hoof on a stand and you literally slice off the cuff with a knife. So you go down the glue line with a knife. Don’t remove any hoof wall. You can be as careful or as bold as you want. I’ve seen farriers do it in 5 strokes and I’ve seen a girl do it in 250 strokes. Basically, you just cut it off, finish it with a file and it’s ready again. It takes literally seconds to do.
The problem that we have is that the draw knife is a tool that the farriers’ don’t have in their toolbox. We will be selling draw knives to take the shoes off in the next few weeks.
Talk us through what the GluShus are made of in terms of the rubber and the outside and how it wears.
Yes, it’s a rubber over mould, just like a car tyre. You’ll notice that on the metal shoe, it has lumps on it, so basically, as it wears through the thick skin of the rubber, it ends up: metal, rubber, metal, rubber. So it has lumps of metal showing for grip, for traction. So for traction it’s great on hard surfaces, it’s good on rocky ground. It’s basically a great all-round shoe.
I had a guy that races carts on roads and he’d get through a pair of metal shoes in 3 weeks. He said “they’re amazing, they’re like having a tyre on a horse.”
How often would you change them? Would you change them every 6-8 weeks like a normal shoe?
Yep, it’s just like a normal shoe. It depends on the growth of the hoof. If your horse has very slow growth you can change it on a longer cycle, if it’s got fast growth you can change it on a shorter cycle.
How much do GluShus cost?
In the UK for a pair of shoes they cost £30 including tax. I think in American they are $30 and I think in Europe it’s €30. That’s also plus gluing, so we will do a pair of shoes with the glue as a pack for £48.50 . But we have special offers on where we’ll do free shipping
Did you have much trouble getting the rubber right, like how thick it needs to be and the shape of it?
(Laughs) Yes. Which is why I’ve been very cagey as to what that rubber actually is. It was a compounded rubber and it was specially formulated for this shoe.
Is there a particular horse or rider discipline that GluShu suits?
Not really, I would say, I know this is going to sound terrible… it suits everybody. And I really mean that. I’ve had horses doing dressage, I’ve had horses doing show jumping, I’ve had carriage horses pulling carts on roads, I’ve had horses doing eventing. You name it, they do it.
We’ve just developed a shoe for the racing industry. (Goes and gets shoe). Right, it may look exactly the same but it’s about 1/3 of the weight and see the teeth pattern on the bottom? That is just an amazing shoe.
Yes, that could be especially useful as Thoroughbreds have a bit of a reputation for having bad feet.
I think that so long as the shoes are safe and not dangerous for when the jockeys come off and when a horse tramples on them, eveything’s rounded and not too spikey.
How would you say GluShu compares to other glue on shoes in the market?
Well I’m biased, I’d say they’re the best! I think they’re the best because I’ve tried everyone else’s shoe.
Obviously, as a designer, I had to go and try everyone else’s shoe. I got feedback from all the farriers, anyone I could speak to, the vet, everybody. Anybody in the equine industry who would talk to me.
The biggest problem was the glue and that the shoes wouldn’t stay on, that was the major problem. Glue-on shoes come off. But once you get over that hurdle, well then they say, I don’t like this one or this one because of various points. I made a note of all those points and tried to solve all of those points, the problems in the various shoes, which I think I’ve now done. You can fit a shoe now… well in Australia you can fit a shoe in 3 minutes because the glue goes off at a nice warm temperature.
So it’s warm temperature that sets the glue?
Yep, it’s a nice warm temperature that sets the glue. In Dubai, we can’t sell our standard glue, we have to sell a slower glue, it’s really hot. But in the UK you have to hold the shoe for up to 6-7 minutes when it’s zero degrees.
If you wanted to get the GluShu in Australia, what would be the best way to get it?
Yep, you can buy it online and if you buy two packs you get free shipping. We are just about to do a deal with a major distributor in Australia.
They are in New Zealand in a very small way. We’re all over the world but we’re in the process of setting up major distributors in each country. So one in America, Canada, South America, Europe’s covered off already. We’ve got the Middle East and we’re talking to somebody about Australia.
Wow, so a very exciting time for you then?
Well, I hope so. It’s a matter of persuading people.
I guess it’s the farrier’s you really need as your evangelists?
Yes. They’re not used to glue. Glue doesn’t stick to moisture and dirt. Especially the back of the hoof, you really need to wire brush the dirt off and coarse rasp it to give the glue something to key into as well. Now farriers, when they’re normally shoeing, they only rasp the front of the hoof. They don’t go around the whole hoof. So they put glue in the shoe, and all of a sudden they realise, oh the shoe’s gone loose after 3 weeks, and that’s because you can pull the back of the cuff off the shoe. So I have so ask them: Did you clean the hoof? Was it damp? Did you dry it? And it’s normally down to the farrier, because he’s not used to doing the preparation. Once the farrier’s used to using them, 2-3 times, no problem at all.
It’s that drip, drip effect. We’ve got a few farriers around who are converted, who believe that this is the right way to go. I must admit that most of them are younger farriers, rather than the older farriers. You know, they’ve got Facebook, they do all the modern things. They have modern technology and they’re interested. The other way into this, is that they’re superb for laminitic horses because they cushion the hoof. And we’re designing an insert which is totally going to revolutionize the laminitic shoe.
Well it was interesting to learn about the GluShu! Thanks for your time John.
For more information, you can visit GluShu’s website at www.glushu.com.