Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
When Sue Blair established Carpe Diem Farms in 1997 with the motto, “Exploring the human potential through equines,” she never imagined that statement would pertain to her as well. Yet, she was motivated to invent and begin manufacturing specialized horse shoes on her property that are beginning to be sought after both nationally and internationally.
Blair’s 44-acre swath of land located eight miles from Highlands is a place where individuals learn, grow, heal, etc. through interaction with horses. A few years into establishing her farm, Blair’s Morgan horse, Delta, contracted a condition called laminitis, which causes fever. Since horses do not have a way to release fever in their bodies, it spreads into their feet. The inflammation and damage to the laminae causes extreme pain and leads to instability of the coffin bone in the hoof. If the coffin bone becomes irreparably damaged, a horse cannot survive. Delta did not survive.
However, Blair, an equestrian since she was nine years old, vowed to learn all she could about a horse’s hooves. A few of her other horses had hoof issues, so she began working with a farrier to experiment with horseshoes.
“My journey began in making cushions for their feet,” she said. “I used everything I could think of: rubber, insulation board, pool floats – all duct taped on their feet. The farrier would come in a few days and put the lost shoe back on, and we were good to go again. That process went on for years.”
The result of years of trial and error is a product called Easy’s Slipper. On Sept. 2, 2013, Easy’s Slipper received its first patent. Blair, who grew up in the construction industry, explained that creating the Easy’s Slipper required her to think about mechanics.
For centuries, many farriers, craftsmen who trim and shoe horses’ hooves (a blacksmith also creates objects from wrought iron or steel) “have often begun to think one size fits all, in my opinion,” said Blair. “Every foot is different. Some forget that a horse is a sentient being that may not want to or need to wear hard shoes and nails in their feet. They need to think of the whole, energetic feel of the foot.”
Many of the Easy’s Slipper models were tried on Carpe Diem Farms horses. Today, her nine horses benefit in some way from Easy’s Slippers.
Easy’s Slippers are made in a makeshift factory at Carpe Diem Farms. Blair describes her product as a “flexible horseshoe alternative, providing therapeutic benefits …a lightweight glue-on made from flexible durable material … The Slipper allows for the natural flexion of the hoof, while reducing pain and lameness.”
First an engineer makes a 3D print, which is used to make various molds. A composite rubber is poured into molds and allowed to dry. The final stage involves drilling holes in the shoes so that a special glue can be poured in to affix to the horse’s hoof. There are at least 12 of each size shoe and various styles. “There are hundreds of molds,” said Blair.
She has sold Easy’s Slippers to individual horse owners, horse farm owners, farriers, and equestrian product distributors.
“There is no telling how many horses have been helped so far or how their lives have changed for the better,” she said. “Not all may go back to the jobs they did before, but they are not in pain and have a better quality of life.”
Plus, she pointed out that the Easy’s Slipper can be worn by any horse, “regardless of discipline” – meaning how the horse is ridden or used.
“The material we use wears similar to aluminum, is slightly heavier, and dissipates approximately 220 percent more shock than a steel shoe,” she said. “It provides the perfect balance between shock absorption, weight, and durability.”
Currently, Blair has obtained 12 different patents, as the Slipper works on every size horse from a mini up to size 10 for Clydesdales. A newly developed shoe is for yearling race horses in training that need special hoof attention so that their feet are not ruined. One hundred pairs were sent recently to the United Kingdom for trainers to try. If successful, an order of 1,000 or more is expected.
Besides working on her farm alongside a few other employees and riding her horses whenever possible, Blair is often inside the factory making Easy’s Slippers. Farm employees also assist her in the factory. “In anticipation of the order of 1,000 yearling shoes, we are making as many as possible.
“I never imagined myself doing this,” said Blair, “but it’s so rewarding … so much joy.”