Why Do Horses Wear Horseshoes?

Home & Garden Garden Do Horses Need Horseshoes? Are horseshoes human vanity or equestrian necessity? By Katherine Gallagher Katherine Gallagher Writer Chapman University Katherine Gallagher is a writer and sustainability expert. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Chapman University and a Sustainable Tourism certificate from the GSTC. Learn about our editorial process Updated August 2, 2021 Treehugger / Julia Cook Share Twitter Pinterest Email Garden Urban Farms Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Insects Proper hoof care is essential to a domesticated horse’s overall comfort and health, but the question as to whether or not they need shoes depends on the individual horse itself. Horse owners use shoes for various reasons, from protection and therapy to performance in equestrian events. Depending on factors such as how they are used and what type of terrain they live on, there are also reasons why horseshoes wouldnt be needed. Horse owners should consult their veterinarians and dedicated farriers to determine what best suits their horse and its health. What Are Horseshoes? Treehugger / Julia Cook A horseshoe is a U-shaped plate usually made of steel (though it can also be made of aluminum, titanium, cooper, rubber, or synthetic materials like plastic and composites) designed to protect horse hooves from wear on hard surfaces. A farrier, someone specializing in horse foot anatomy and horseshoes, often forges them from steel after examining the horses feet to provide a customized fit. Nail holes are added during the forging process using a tool, and sometimes a fullering groove is added to create the traction needed for specific activities and equine events. Horseshoes attach with small nails that pass through the shoe into the outer part of the hoof. But dont worry, since this part of the hoof has no nerve endings, the horse doesn’t feel any pain during the process (it is similar to cutting your fingernails). What Is a Farrier? Treehugger / Julia Cook Farriers are professional experts in horse foot and leg anatomy who manage the health of a horses hooves by trimming and shoeing. Most farriers complete farrier school or apprenticeships and have blacksmithing knowledge to help them adjust prefabricated horseshoes to fit precisely to a specific hoof, Some are skilled enough to make their own horseshoes. Your large animal veterinarian will be able to recommend a good farrier in the area, or you can always ask around among fellow horse owners. History of Horseshoes Treehugger / Julia Cook Horseshoes were a need-based invention, stemming from the domestication of wild horses as working animals. Early domesticated horses were often exposed to conditions differing from their natural habitats as humans began using them for traveling, hunting, and pulling plows. The shoes provided protection from sharp objects and breakage or damage to the hoof. It is hard to pinpoint when exactly horseshoes were first used; horseshoes made from cast iron, for example, are difficult to date since valuable metal materials were usually repurposed. In 1897, a series of horseshoes made from bronze scraps were found in an Etruscan tomb that dated back to 400 BC, but archeologists have also found evidence of early forms of temporary horseshoes made from materials like leather or cloth. In 2018, a rare full set of well-preserved Roman horseshoes called hipposandals were found in England dating between 140 AD and 180 AD. Why Are Horseshoes Considered Lucky? Treehugger / Julia Cook It’s a common belief that horseshoes are lucky, though it is unknown where exactly the superstition originated. The early Western Europeans thought that evil fairies were driven away by iron, which was a common material used to forge horseshoes back then. Early pagans saw the crescent moon shape of horseshoes as a symbol for fertility and luck. The people of the Middle Ages believed that witches traveled by broomstick because they were afraid of horses, so a horseshoe was to a witch the equivalent of a crucifix to a vampire. Images of the devil with cloven hooves certainly contributed to the legends, as well. St. Dunstan, a blacksmith and bishop from the beginning of the Middle Ages, was said to have fitted horseshoes on the devil himself, making the process painful so the devil would be afraid to enter a house with a horseshoe hanging over the door. During the Crusades of the 12th century, horseshoes were accepted as a form of tax payment and horses were often adorned with a lucky silver shoe before a big parade. Horseshoes and Horse Health Treehugger / Julia Cook Horseshoes can improve traction for equestrian events, protect hooves from wearing out, and even provide therapeutic relief. Although some horses can self-maintain their feet, horses who routinely perform repetitive motions from working or showing almost always require shoes to prevent lameness (abnormal gait that can diminish quality of life). While horses in the wild can maintain trimmed feet naturally as they move many miles a day across different surfaces, most domestic horses require regular hoof trimming to stay comfortable, pain-free, and to prevent foot distortion. Again, the variations depend on the individual horse, as more athletic horses may grow their feet faster than horses who are more sedentary. The need can range anywhere from maintenance every four weeks to up to two months. Excessive growth can even cause the hoof to deteriorate or lead to injuries, fungal infections, bruising, or abscesses. Studies have shown that the foot’s internal workings, from the tendons and ligaments to the animal’s overall movement, will all be affected by unbalanced hoofs. Can Horses Go Barefoot? Treehugger / Julia Cook There are more than a few critical factors regarding whether or not a horse can go barefoot. For example, some horses have diseases or conditions that may require shoeing to relieve pain or stress, while others naturally have tough, smooth hooves without deformities, bone, or muscular issues. Wild horses can keep their hooves in good condition as continual movement across a variety of abrasive surfaces and foraging for feed wears down hooves naturally. Domestic horses, on the other hand, require regular hoof maintenance regardless of if they wear shoes or not. Unshod horses who live on the soft surfaces of pastures and stables rarely move enough to wear down their hooves correctly, while shod horses do not wear them down at all. Horses with good hoof and leg conformation who have limited workload and are able to forage for most of their feed may be able to live happily without shoes. In fact, many farriers prefer that their four-legged clients go barefoot for part of the year, since cold weather can sometimes slow hoof growth rates. No matter the circumstance, horse owners should always speak to veterinarians or farriers to customize a plan for their horses overall hoof health. View Article Sources Bates, William N. Etruscan Horseshoes From Corneto. American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 6, no. 4, 1902, pp. 398403. Panagiotopoulou, O., Rankin, J. W., Gatesy, S. M., & Hutchinson, J. R. (2016). A preliminary case study of the effect of shoe-wearing on the biomechanics of a horses foot. PeerJ, 4:e2164. doi:10.7717/peerj.2164 Lynden, Jenny, et al. Contracting for Care the Construction of the Farrier Role in Supporting Horse Owners to Prevent Laminitis. Equine Veterinary Journal, vol. 50, no. 5, Sept. 2018, pp. 658666., doi:10.1111/evj.12950

Do horseshoes hurt the horse?

Since there are no nerve endings in the outer section of the hoof, a horse doesn’t feel any pain when horseshoes are nailed on. Since their hooves continue to grow even with horseshoes on, a farrier will need to trim, adjust, and reset a horse’s shoes on a regular basis.

Why do wild horses not need shoes?

Wild horses don’t need shoes; the main reason is that they move a lot, running long distances, and the running wears down their hooves. Plus, they don’t have the need to walk on roads or concrete-like domestic horses.

Are horseshoes actually good for horses?

Domestic horses do not always require shoes. When possible, a “barefoot” hoof, at least for part of every year, is a healthy option for most horses. However, horseshoes have their place and can help prevent excess or abnormal hoof wear and injury to the foot.

Why do horses need shoes but not cows?

Unlike horses, oxen have cloven hooves meaning their hooves are split down the middle. This means that when an ox is shod it wears eight shoes instead of four like horses. … Cattle do not like having their feet off the ground and will not stand on three legs like horses do during shoeing.

Have you ever wondered why horses wear shoes? What the purpose of horseshoes are? Well, we at Mountain Creek Riding Stable are here to give you some quick answers!

Hoof health determines whether or not a horse needs shoes. Diet and terrain play a role in the reason for horse shoes in domestic horses but not wild ones. On a farm, horses do not have to forage for food and they will never go hungry.

Rubber can be placed between the hoof and the shoe for extra cushioning as well, common in carriage horses trotting along pavement.

A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse hoof from wear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface (ground side) of the hooves, usually nailed through the insensitive hoof wall that is anatomically akin to the human toenail, although much larger and thicker. However, there are also cases where shoes are glued.

Horseshoes are available in a wide variety of materials and styles, developed for different types of horse and for the work they do. The most common materials are steel and aluminium , but specialized shoes may include use of rubber , plastic , magnesium , titanium , or copper .

[2] Some horseshoes have ” caulkins “, “caulks”, or “calks”: protrusions at the toe or heels of the shoe, or both, to provide additional traction. Since the early history of domestication of the horse , working animals were found to be exposed to many conditions that created breakage or excessive hoof wear. Ancient people recognized the need for the walls (and sometimes the sole) of domestic horses‘ hooves to have additional protection over and above any natural hardness.

[4] From archaeological finds in Great Britain , the Romans appeared to have attempted to protect their horses‘ feet with a strap-on, solid-bottomed ” hipposandal ” that has a slight resemblance to the modern hoof boot . [6] Because iron was a valuable commodity, and any worn out items were generally reforged and reused, it is difficult to locate clear archaeological evidence. Existing references to the nailed shoe are relatively late, first known to have appeared around AD 900, but there may have been earlier uses given that some have been found in layers of dirt.

[4] Hot shoeing, the process of shaping a heated horseshoe immediately before placing it on the horse, became common in the 16th century. In China, iron horseshoes became common during the Yuan dynasty (12711368), prior to which rattan and leather shoes were used to preserve animal hooves. Remnants of iron horseshoes have been found in what is now northeast China, but the tombs date to the Goguryeo period in 414 AD.

The earliest reference to iron horseshoes in China dates to 938 AD during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period . While horses in the wild cover large areas of terrain, they usually do so at relatively slow speeds, unless being chased by a predator. The consequence of slow but nonstop travel in a dry climate is that horses‘ feet are naturally worn to a small, smooth, even and hard state.

A hoof boot can be used in place of a horseshoe or as a temporary substitute for a thrown shoeDomestic horses do not always require shoes. The nails are shaped in such a way that they bend outward as they are driven in, avoiding the sensitive inner part of the foot, so they emerge on the sides of the hoof. They were originally made of iron, a material that was believed to ward off evil spirits, and traditionally were held in place with seven nails, seven being the luckiest number.

[22] The superstition acquired a further Christian twist due to a legend surrounding the 10th-century saint Dunstan , who worked as a blacksmith before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. Dunstan eventually agreed to remove the shoe, but only after extracting a promise that the Devil would never enter a household with a horseshoe nailed to the door. In heraldry, horseshoes most often occur as canting charges, such as in the arms of families with names like Farrier, Marshall and Smith.

The flag of Rutland , England’s smallest historic county , consists of a golden horseshoe laid over a field scattered with acorns. The massive golden horseshoe structure is erected over the shopping mall of the Tuuri village in Alavus , a town of Finland .

The Purpose of Horseshoes

Horseshoes are quite ubiquitous: it would rare to come across a person who does not know what they look like. But why are they a thing? And why is it that nearly all horses (except wild ones) wear them?Horseshoes are used to help aid in the durability of the hoof on working horses. The hoof itself is made up of the same stuff as your fingernail, called keratin. However, the hoof has a soft and tender inner part called the frog (circled in the picture above) that can be injured. The hoof will naturally wear away when horses walk so adding a shoe onto the hoof helps to diminish that and keep the frog in healthy condition.

Of what material are horseshoes are made?

Horseshoes are made out of steel in most cases, though there are some exceptions to this. Racehorses usually wear aluminum horseshoes because they are lighter and thus perform better when speed is the top priority. There are also “boots” that horses can wear in the case that they have a hoof or foot injury. These “boots” are made of rubber and have a rubber horseshoe built into it that provides a much softer walking surface and more significant support.

How horseshoes are put on the horse

People who put horseshoes onto horses are called farriers (also spelled ferrier). Farriers use nails (like the ones pictured above) to affix the horseshoe to the hoof. Like we said before, horses’ hooves are made of the same material as your nail and, just like when you cut your nails, the horses don’t feel anything when affixing the horseshoe to the hoof. Once the nails are put through the outer edge of the hoof, the farrier bends them over, so they make a sort of hook. They will then file away the sharp points that are left and a part of the hoof to ensure a good fit. As the hoof grows out it will eventually overlap the shoe which is how you know when they have to be re-shod.

Barefoot horses

Now and then you may come across a horse that doesn’t have any horseshoes. Additionally, wild horses don’t wear shoes. In the working world, horses who don’t wear shoes usually as a result of having a problem with their feet. Sometimes their hooves are too brittle, or they may have broken off a piece of their hoof, and so the shoe could not be adequately affixed. These horses can still do trail rides or work the farm, but they will have greater limitations on how much they work.The reason wild horses can exist without shoes is twofold: firstly they do not “work” as hard or as often as a horse with an owner. Therefore, they wear away their hooves slower than the hooves grow. Secondly, they do not have anyone to look after their well being, so if they have an injured frog or another situation where a shoe would be put on an owned horse – they have to deal with it.

Horseshoe

AThe fitting of horseshoes is a professional occupation, conducted by a farrier, who specializes in the preparation of feet, assessing potential lameness issues, and fitting appropriate shoes, including remedial features where required. In some countries, such as the UK, horseshoeing is legally restricted to people with specific qualifications and experience. In others, such as the United States, where professional licensing is not legally required, professional organizations provide certification programs that publicly identify qualified individuals.Horseshoes are available in a wide variety of materials and styles, developed for different types of horse and for the work they do. The most common materials are steel and aluminium, but specialized shoes may include use of rubber, plastic, magnesium, titanium, or copper.When kept as a talisman, a horseshoe is said to bring good luck.

History[edit]

Since the early history of domestication of the horse, working animals were found to be exposed to many conditions that created breakage or excessive hoof wear. Ancient people recognized the need for the walls (and sometimes the sole) of domestic horses‘ hooves to have additional protection over and above any natural hardness. An early form of hoof protection was seen in ancient Asia, where horses‘ hooves were wrapped in rawhide, leather or other materials for both therapeutic purposes and protection from wear.Historians differ on the origin of the horseshoe.Existing references to the nailed shoe are relatively late, first known to have appeared around AD 900, but there may have been earlier uses given that some have been found in layers of dirt. There are no extant references to nailed horseshoes prior to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI, and by 973 occasional references to them can be found.Around 1000 AD, cast bronze horseshoes with nail holes became common in Europe. A design with a scalloped outer rim and six nail holes was common.By the 13th century, shoes were forged in large quantities and could be bought ready-made.In 1835, the first U.S. patent for a horseshoe manufacturing machine capable of making up to 60 horseshoes per hour was issued to Henry Burden.

China[edit]

In China, iron horseshoes became common during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), prior to which rattan and leather shoes were used to preserve animal hooves. Evidence of the preservation of horse hooves in China dates to the Warring States period (476–221 BC), during which Zhuangzi recommended shaving horse hooves to keep them in good shape. The Discourses on Salt and Iron in 81 BC mentions using leather shoes, but it’s not clear if they were used for protecting horse hooves or to aid in mounting the horse. Remnants of iron horseshoes have been found in what is now northeast China, but the tombs date to the Goguryeo period in 414 AD. A mural in the Mogao Caves dated to 584 AD depicts a man caring for a horse’s hoof, which some speculate might be depicting horseshoe nailing, but the mural is too eroded to tell clearly.The earliest reference to iron horseshoes in China dates to 938 AD during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. A monk named Gao Juhui sent to the Western Regions writes that the people in Ganzhou (now Zhangye) taught him how to make “horse hoof

Environmental changes linked to domestication[edit]

Many changes brought about by the domestication of the horse have led to a need for shoes for numerous reasons, mostly linked to management that results in horses‘ hooves hardening less and being more vulnerable to injury. In the wild, a horse may travel up to 50 miles (80 km) per day to obtain adequate forage. While horses in the wild cover large areas of terrain, they usually do so at relatively slow speeds, unless being chased by a predator.

Superstition[edit]

Horseshoes have long been considered lucky. They were originally made of iron, a material that was believed to ward off evil spirits, and traditionally were held in place with seven nails, seven being the luckiest number.Opinion is divided as to which way up the horseshoe ought to be nailed. Some say the ends should point up, so that the horseshoe catches the luck, and that the ends pointing down allow the good luck to be lost; others say they should point down, so that the luck is poured upon those entering the home.

Heraldry[edit]

In heraldry, horseshoes most often occur as canting charges, such as in the arms of families with names like Farrier, Marshall and Smith. A horseshoe (together with two hammers) also appears in the arms of Hammersmith and Fulham, a borough in London.The flag of Rutland, England’s smallest historic county, consists of a golden horseshoe laid over a field scattered with acorns.The arms of Espoo, Finland are Azure, a crowned horseshoe Or.

Monuments and structures[edit]

The massive golden horseshoe structure is erected over the shopping mall of the Tuuri village in Alavus, a town of Finland. It is one of the most famous monuments in the locality; however, it stands at number three in Reuters’ list of world’s ugliest buildings and monuments.

Sport[edit]

The sport of horseshoes involves a horseshoe being thrown as close as possible to a rod in order to score points. As far as it is known, the sport is as old as horseshoes themselves. While traditional horseshoes can still be used, most organized versions of the game use specialized sport horseshoes, which do not fit on horses‘ hooves.