Fun fact: The earliest form of a horseshoe was developed in Asia and was a simple piece of hide that was sewn around the entire hoof. It wasn’t until the sixth and seventh centuries that metal horseshoes made their appearance.
Why do some people use horseshoes?
Horseshoes come in a great variety, and for many different purposes. Horseshoes offer protection and support to a horse’s hoof. A horse might benefit from horseshoes if they have tender hooves, if they perform lots of riding and exercise, or if their hooves are cracked. Some choose to give their horse horseshoes if they spend all day standing in a stall, which can weaken a hoof over time.
Horse hooves are made of a protein called keratin, which is the same protein that our nails are made of. Sometimes horses can have naturally softer, and therefore more tender, hooves. Certain climates, such as moist areas, can cause your horse’s hooves to be a bit softer. Likewise, horses that live in dryer climates will have hooves that are tougher and more calloused. Horses that are readily exercised my also have more calloused hooves, simply because their hooves have more contact with the ground.
If your horse has tender feet, shoes can prevent injuries by avoiding direct contact between the hoof and the ground, rocks, or anything else that could hurt it.
As previously mentioned, some might put shoes on their horse if their hooves are cracked or damaged. If a horse has a cracked hoof that goes untreated, it can splay, which could create balance problems for the horse as well as serve as an opening to the hoof, creating the risk of infection from bacteria or viruses.
A sample of the many kinds of horseshoes:
- Corrective shoes – Similar to the relationship between flat feet and orthotics, corrective horseshoes can help relieve painful conditions in the feet and legs of a horse, and even improve posture, balance, and gait.
- Patent Bar horseshoes – sometimes referred to as rest shoes, are used to keep a horse from bearing weight on an injured leg.
- Fullered front horseshoes- these are the most popular kind of shoe and are often used on horses that are used for recreational purposes, such as trail riding. This type of shoe has a crease in the center that helps the horse have more traction.
- Rim horseshoes- much like the fullered front horseshoe, this type of shoe is designed to increase a horse’s traction. Instead of a center crease, though, this shoe has a metal rim that runs the entire length of the shoe.
- Sliders- also known as sliding plates, this shoe is used for horses that participate in the reining discipline and helps them make exaggerated sliding motions.
- Barred horseshoes- Usually designed to protect a specific part of the foot.
- Straight bar horseshoe- a straight bar, usually made of steel or aluminum, extends between the heels of the shoe. This prevents expansion on damaged hooves, and protects the heel area, the frog and the bulbs of the heel.
- Egg bar horseshoes- This is like a straight bar horseshoe, but it extends farther back, and therefore protects a larger range of the heel.
- Heart Bar horseshoes- this type of shoe has a metal “V” in the center, that is attached to the shoe at the heel points. This shoe was made to support the coffin bone in foundered horses and prevents the bone from rotating downwards.
We hoped this help teach you a bit about horseshoes! Subscribe to our blog and newsletter for more information about horses and horse health.
Abel, C. (n.d.) “The Purpose of Horseshoes: Complete Beginner’s Guide.” Equine Helper. https://equinehelper.com/purpose-of-horse-shoes/
Henry, M. (April 6, 2022). “Horseshoes: Why Horses Need Them plus Facts, Uses, and Types.” Horse Racing Sense. https://horseracingsense.com/horseshoes-types-uses-need-facts/
Jammu, S. (January 20, 2018). “Types of Horse Shoes.” Veterinary Surgery Topic, found on https://www.slideshare.net/Raufulhasssan/types-of-horse-shoes