Horse Shoeing

(General Concept)

     When I asked most horse people why do we shoe horses, just about most of them replied: “To prevent premature wearing off the foot”. Though the answer seems to be correct, but when taken from that perspective, one will not keep focused on the real reason. The main reason why we shoe horses is for work, which then determines the style and the type of shoeing for the individual working horse. Therefore, when we are shoeing a horse, we try to shoe him in such way to improve his working capacity, make the work easier on him and safe, hence not only to prevent premature wearing off the hoof.

Various types of historical horseshoes. Please note the caulks already in those days, as it was very much about the traction as well as about the premature wearing of the hoof.

     The free-living horse keeps the wearing off the hoof in certain natural balance. As soon as the horse is forced to work (they are not volunteers) on too hard surface, the wearing off the hoof is often greater than the growth. The sole of the hoof gets thinner and the risk of damaging it is greater. For most part, the damage to the sensitive part of the hoof causes the horse to go lame and puts him out of work/use.

    The attempts to protect the hoof from premature wearing off by the working horse where for a long time unsuccessful.  It was in the sixth century when finally this problem was resolved by the invention of the horseshoe that was fastened to the hoof with nails. Before that time, there were already used various protective contraptions for the hoof (hippo-sandals), which were fastened to the foot with straps and buckles, but served mainly for the protection of the already damaged foot.

    As much as it is important to keep the working horse's hoof from premature wearing off, so is equally important the traction factor in shoeing horses for draft, carriage or riding purposes, where the various (suitable) caulks, or other traction adjustments, are added to the shoes.

    The invention of the new age shoe greatly increased the pulling power and expanded the uses of horses for work.
    The look of the horseshoes was changing through out the centuries before it stabilized to the way we know it today.
    During the 18th and 19th century, the horseshoeing reached higher level of technical perfection, which was theoretically supported by the research of the veterinary science. Today the horseshoeing does not serve only for working purposes of the horse and the protection of his hoof from premature wearing off, but it also became a great part of the veterinary orthopedic science in prevention and therapy of equine limbs diseases and injuries.

Related Articles:
The nature of the hoof

Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek