We all know what a horseshoe is, but did you know there are different types of horseshoes?
In this article, we’re exploring the vast world of horseshoe types, giving you everything you need to know about each type and the materials – plus, a little extra on why horses wear shoes to begin with.
So, grab your hoof pliers, and let’s go shoe shopping!
The regular horseshoe is made from aluminium or steel, forming the classic U-shape. You may have noticed these above doorways as they bring good luck (well, hopefully).
Regular concave horseshoes are used for most riding. They provide fantastic protection for horses’ hooves, whether you’re clip-clopping around the stable or out in the open.
There are holes around the shoe where nails can sit comfortably on the hoof without causing damage while keeping the shoe in place.
We use the type below for our cludesdales. They are cheaper than the shoes with the groove (fullering) and the toe lasts longer.
Concave horse shoe with no fullering. Cheaper and longer lasting for our Clydesdales.
A bar shoe features an added bar at the back of the horseshoe which connects the two ends. This bar is either curved or straight to provide extra support to the horse’s hoof, lower leg, and heel.
Bar shoes are also fully enclosed at the heel while still sitting firmly on the horse’s hoof. They can be very helpful for a horse with a foot injury.
A horse’s hooves are elastic; they contract and expand as a horse moves. Placing a bar shoe on the hoof limits its natural movement.
While bar horseshoes are preferred for horses with injured hooves, they are more likely to come off if a horse steps onto the bar area of the shoe.
Bar shoes. Good for injured horses but can be pulled off more easily
A rim shoe looks very similar to a regular horseshoe. The only difference is a large groove in the centre that provides more traction. The large groove is known as “Fullering”
Rim shoes are better for sports requiring fast turns and a quick canter, like roping, barrel racing, and jumping.
They inside edge is cutaway to make it lighter, and it also helps the mud fall out
Rim horseshoe with fullering and a cutaway edge
Heart bar shoes
Heart bar horseshoes are mostly used for horses with laminitis. Laminitis is inflammation and damage to the area between the coffin bone and hoof. It can be extremely painful and requires proper care for the frog – the sensitive V-shaped area beneath a horse’s feet.
The heart bar shoe features a bar along the heel and a piece for frog support.
If your horse needs additional support, this particular shoe offers fantastic cushioning and can speed up recovery.
Heart bar horseshoe
The egg bar shoe is similar to the bar shoe; but rather than having a straight back, an egg bar horseshoe is curved, extending beyond the heel.
The egg bar shoe is generally used on horses with navicular disease; a painful condition caused by damage to the navicular bone.
Egg bar shoes offer extra support to the heel, ensuring there is less pressure when stepping on the hoof.
Depending on the horse and the severity of the condition, additional wedge shoes might be necessary. These can be put directly onto the shoe with or without extra padding, depending on how high the heel needs lifting.
If a horse has damage to a hoof wall or if they are thin, glue-on shoes may be the only option. They’re a fantastic alternative and can bring relief if your horse is in pain. Something to keep in mind – these shoes are more expensive and don’t last as long as nail-on shoes.
Rubber horseshoes are increasing in popularity in the equestrian world. They allow for natural hoof expansion while reducing the pressure on joints and tendons.
Modern rubber horseshoes are a great option for horses that spend a lot of time on roads; police horses walking along paving throughout the day, for example. It’s not uncommon for them to wear metal shoes that are coated with rubber to protect the joints. Rubber shoes also provide more traction and keep that “clip-clop” noise to a minimum.
Hoof boots are also becoming a popular alternative to traditional horseshoes. They are generally made from polyurethane to protect the hoof while riding.
The hoof boot allows horses to go without shoes for most of the time, and the boots are put on before a ride to protect the hoof sole and wall.
Horseshoes come in various materials to ensure comfort and a proper fit to the hoof.
- Steel: Steel shoes are the most common horseshoes. They are incredibly durable, providing the support needed to protect hooves. Whether in the stable or exploring the countryside, steel shoes are a good option.
- Aluminum: Aluminum shoes are lighter, making them suitable for performance events and racing. They don’t provide as much protection as steel, but they do have fantastic traction.
- Rubber: Rubber horseshoes are designed to provide temporary cushioning for injuries and sensitive horse hooves. They’re good for absorbing shock and are much more flexible than regular horseshoes.
- Composite materials: Composite shoes are lightweight and can often be moulded directly to a horse’s hooves. They provide noise reduction and are mostly used for therapeutic purposes where regular horseshoes are not an option.
Aluminium shoes are much lighter, but wear out very quickly
The type of materials used for horseshoes will ultimately be based on the individual needs of each horse’s foot. It’s recommended to speak with a knowledgeable farrier who provides the right advice for your horse’s needs.
Horseshoeing can get intricate when you consider how many horse types there are in the world.
Why Do Horses Need Horseshoes?
Horseshoes have been around for 6,000 years! Since the early days of horse domestication, humans recognized the need to protect their trusty steeds’ hooves from the perils of labour.
Throughout history, horses have been the backbone of agriculture and mining. Without their sturdy hooves, those industries would have hit a screeching halt.
But why did horses need horseshoes in the first place? Well, let’s take a moment to think about wild horses. They gallop freely across open plains; their hooves toughened and hardened by nature. Domesticated horses, on the other hand, lead a different life altogether.
They navigate diverse environments, from trail riding through gentle meadows to conquering rugged mountainous terrain. These diverse landscapes make extra hoof protection necessary for horses these days, as their delicate domesticated hooves aren’t as hardened as those of their wild counterparts.
Throughout history, horseshoes have come in a variety of sizes and materials. Nowadays, the stars of horseshoeing are steel and aluminium. They offer the perfect balance of durability and support.
So, the next time you spot a horse flaunting its fashionable footwear, remember the rich history behind those horseshoes. They’re not just accessories for show; they’re essential gear that keeps our beloved horses happy and healthy.
See our full article on why horses need horseshoes!
What is a keg horseshoe?
Don’t worry – it’s not time to get ready for a keg stand. A keg horseshoe is basically a regular horseshoe that is made by a machine. It simply means the shoe isn’t custom-made for a horse.
How long do horseshoes last?
Generally, you need to replace horseshoes every four to eight weeks but it depends on the horse and the type of riding. The average for most horses is about six weeks.
Are horseshoes painful for horses?
No, while traditional horseshoes are nailed into a horse’s hoof, this shouldn’t be painful for the horse. The shoe goes onto a tough part of the hoof that doesn’t have nerve endings. The process is quite intricate though. That’s why finding an expert farrier is so important – to ensure your horse is getting the proper hoof care.