by Fran Jurga | 26 April 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
When I heard that Bridgestone Tires was to be the 2010 Title Sponsor of the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event, I chuckled and went to my image archive file for this little gem. I knew I was saving it for a reason!
First of all: Japanese tiremaker Bridgestone bought out the US rubber giant Firestone in 1988 and with it came an equestrian legacy that Bridgestone executives may not even have in their corporate history.
Before tires were the main product for Firestone, the Akron, Ohio company made hoof pads, which they marketed for use on the freight horses that plied the city streets. Many of these horses suffered badly from heel corns, navicular pain, and laminitis.
This is a full pad from the early 20th Century. It may be a Firestone. It is from the collection of Michael Wildenstein, FWCF (Hons), Adjunct Associate Professor of Farrier Medicine and Surgery at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Sorry I couldn't find a photo of an open pad.
In the early 20th century, rubber was a miracle product, and anything that could soften the pounding of these horses' hooves on the cobblestones meant they could work longer hours and be more productive. A lame horse was a liability to a freight company or a delivery man.
Firestone's rubberized hoof pads were about an inch thick and looked a lot like the rubber and synthetic shoes worn by the Disney World and other street-pounding horses today. I guess those horses have Firestone to thank for a good idea that still works.
This is the shoe that has been traditionally used by the Disney World horses who pull the trams. It was designed for those horses and is manufactured specifically for them. But it shares a lot of characteristics with the rubber pads of yore. (Wildenstein collection)
I wonder if Bridgestone even knows how far back their company's involvement with horses goes!
The ad at the beginning of this article is from an old issue of American Ironsmith, from 1907. One of my special interests is the history of horse products, especially tack and horse health products (and especially farrier and lameness products), and I love finding gems in old journals. So if you have a stack of old breeders, farriers, or harness-makers journals or a trove of links to them (or their ads) on the web, feel free to share! I find the most amazing things sometimes!