when were horseshoes invented

When Were Horseshoes Invented?

Many of us will understand the importance of horse equipment and tack, but might not have considered how it came about.

In the case of horseshoes, it’s something that we now take for granted. But there is a fascinating history waiting to be explored.

With that in mind, why don’t you join us on our trip down memory lane and discover when horseshoes were first invented? We will also cover their development over the years so you will be an expert in no time.


When Were Horseshoes Invented?

Tracking down the original horseshoe is pretty much impossible. However, we can trace back early hoof protection to ancient Asia. Leather and rawhide were used to protect and soothe horses’ hooves.

The Romans also protected the feet of their horses as far back as 2500 BC. They used the hipposandal to protect their chariot horses’ feet. Hipposandals were temporary devices that could be fastened to the horse’s hoof and removed easily using leather straps.

That might give you a better idea of how things began. Keep reading to learn more about the history and development of horseshoes. From protective leather and rawhide casings to the glued and nailed-on shoes of today.

The History Of Horseshoes

The origins of horseshoes are still a bit of a mystery. Even historians can’t seem to agree on anything concrete.

Due to the value of iron and the practice of recycling older items, archaeological evidence is few and far between.

There are certain schools of thought that credit the invention of the horseshoe to the Druids. But with no real evidence, it can’t be substantiated.

Bronze horseshoes showing evidence of nail holes dating back to about 400 BC were discovered in Etruscan tombs.

The Romans are also credited with inventing “mule shoes” as mentioned by Catullus. However, it’s possible references being attributed to nailed horseshoes could have been about the hipposandal instead.

References to nailed shoes are quite late, with the first known appearance around AD 900. Earlier uses may have existed but are difficult to trace.

The earliest record of iron shoes dates back to AD 910, but there is limited evidence suggesting that nailed-on horseshoes existed before then…

An ancient horseshoe with nails was found!

It was discovered in the Frankish King Childeric I’s tomb in Belgium, dating back to the fifth century AD.

Cast bronze shoes with nail holes became popular in Europe around 1000 AD. These shoes had a scalloped outer rim. They also showed six nail holes.

Iron horseshoes started to be manufactured on a much larger scale during the 13th to 14th centuries. Horseshoes were shown to have been widely used during the Crusades and were even accepted as a form of currency for paying taxes.

By the 13th century, horseshoes started to be forged in larger quantities. They could then be purchased by horse owners ready-made.

The practice of hot shoeing horses became popular around the 16th century. Hot shoeing is when farriers shape heated horseshoes before placing them on horses. This was a huge boom to the blacksmith industry which flourished under the demand.

The first US patent that was issued for a horseshoe manufacturing machine was to Henry Burden in 1835. The machine was capable of producing up to an incredible (at the time) 60 horseshoes every hour.

Marsh horseshoes were invented in Canada in the mid-19th century. They were used to prevent sinking into soft mud when dike-building. These horseshoes held the flat wooden shoe with a metal horseshoe and helped to distribute the horse’s weight across wet ground.

The invention of horseshoes was driven by the owner’s practical need to protect their horses’ feet. Even from the earliest days of domestication, horse owners understood the importance of looking out for their livestock and keeping them in good condition.

Various types of primitive shoes made from hides, plants, and woven materials were used for therapeutic purposes and protection.

Over time, horseshoes evolved, and different designs emerged. They became associated with good fortune and were used in various ceremonies.

The craft of farriery became highly important. The demand for horseshoes grew with the development of better roads and the importation of heavier horse breeds. The invention of machines and the industrial revolution further revolutionized horseshoe production.

Why Do Horses Need Shoes?

All the evidence shows that horseshoes have been around for thousands of years, but do we really need them?

Well, the simple answer to that is yes. If we didn’t need them, people wouldn’t have continued to develop and improve them over the years.

The next question you might be thinking is “WHY do we need horseshoes?” and the answer to this is a bit easier.

To put it simply, horseshoes help to protect horses’ feet. Over centuries of domestication, horse hooves didn’t see the same action as those of wild horses.

This meant that when horses were put to work, they didn’t have the same protection.

Horseshoes can offer additional protection to healthy horses. They can also help with injuries or hoof defects and ensure the horse is comfortable and has a great quality of life.

Horseshoes are known to protect the hoof walls and internal structures. They can also help to improve performance by improving traction.

If you want to learn a bit more about why many horses wear shoes, take a look at our extensive guide on why horses need shoes.

Horse Shoe Types

In the thousands of years we have been shoeing horses’ hooves, the techniques and materials used have developed considerably.

There are a number of horseshoe types, including:


Regular horseshoes are the common U-shapes that we’ve come to expect. You might even see them hanging on walls as lucky charms.

They’re typically made from steel or aluminium and are suitable for riding. They’re designed with holes around the outside where the nails can attach them securely to the horse’s hoof.


Rim shoes are similar in style to regular horseshoes but have a groove that can fill with dirt and provide greater grip.

This type of horseshoe is good for racing, jumping, and other equine activities that require sharp turns.


Bar shoes connect the back of the shoe with a straight or curved bar. The purpose of this is to provide greater support for the horse’s lower leg, heel, and hoof.

This can be a great choice for injured horses thanks to the additional support they offer.

The bar helps to limit the natural movement of horse hooves. This allows them to heal and recuperate quickly.

Heart Bar

Heart bar shoes are another supportive horseshoe. They’re great for horses that suffer from flat feet or laminitis.

The shoe gets its name from the shape and it allows horses to transfer weight and recuperate.

Egg Bar

Egg bar shoes follow the same idea as bar shoes. The main difference is that they don’t have a straight bar joining the ends of the shoe together. Instead, the bar curves beyond the horse’s heel.

This type of shoe supports the heel and is perfect for animals with damaged navicular bones.

Additional padding can help to lift the heel depending on the horse’s condition.


Rubber or rubber-coated horseshoes are perfect for protecting the tendons and joints of horses that have to walk on hard surfaces.

They also allow the natural expansion of the hoof, provide better grip, and can help to reduce the noise of the horse walking.


Glue-on horseshoes are a great alternative for nailed shoes on horses with damaged hooves.

Glue-on horseshoes are an expensive option that doesn’t last as long as regular shoes. Because of this, they aren’t as common.

Hoof Boots

Hoof boots are temporary options that allow riders to fasten them to the horse’s hoof before being ridden. This allows the horse to go barefoot at other times.

This can be a great way to protect your horse’s hooves on different terrain without committing fully to shoes.

Watch our handy video to see the different types

Horseshoe Materials

The material of horseshoes makes a big difference to the level of protection they offer and how long they last. Metal shoes provide a durable and long-lasting option, but it isn’t suitable for all terrains.

Take a look below to see the most common horseshoe materials:


We have already mentioned the benefits of rubber horseshoes so we won’t dwell on this one for too long.

Suffice it to say, the cushioned shoe is better for horses that walk on hard surfaces regularly. This can be good for police or parade horses.


Steel is the most common material for horseshoes. This is because it provides great support and is extremely durable.

Riders will get value for money with steel horseshoes and they are great for stables and riding in the countryside.


Aluminium doesn’t offer the same levels of protection and durability that steel does but don’t worry, it still has its benefits.

Aluminium horseshoes are very lightweight. This helps to improve the comfort and performance of horses. They also have great traction and shock absorption qualities.


Composite horseshoes are typically plastic and rubber blends that are similar to skateboard wheels. This provides greater cushioning for the horse’s joints.

They’re also very durable and can even outperform some metal shoes.

Composite horseshoes can also be a great option for injured horses. They can help with a range of conditions and have been shown to stimulate circulation and hoof growth.


How often do horses need to be shoed?

Horseshoes will typically last for between 4 and 6 weeks. This is dependent on the wear of the shoes and hoof growth.

Shoes that are left for too long will become loose and worn down. This means it will affect how the horse is able to walk and can lead to injury.

How are horseshoes attached?

Horseshoes are typically nailed to the ground side (palmar surface) through the hoof wall.

This is not painful for the horse as this is an insensitive area that is similar to a bigger, thicker toenail.

While there are no pain receptors in the part of the hoof the shoes are nailed to, it’s still essential to attach them correctly.

Failure to properly mount a horseshoe can result in soft tissue being rubbed on the horse’s sole or frog.

Horseshoes can also be glued to the hoof. However, this is not as secure or long-lasting as nailing the shoe.

Is hot shoeing horses still common practice?

Hot shoeing is still relatively common. This is when the hoof is trimmed and the shoe is heated and briefly seared on the foot to indicate exactly where the shoe will be fitted.

The custom fit matches the shape and contour of the horse’s foot for a better-fitting shoe.

This can result in improved comfort and allow the farrier to align and balance the shoes properly.

This traditional practice goes back centuries. It allows the farrier to get a better look at the foot and assess it for weakness or sensitivity.

What is a farrier?

Farriery is the practice of shoeing horses. A farrier is the person that carries this out.

They’re known for their adept skills and are specialists in equine hoof care. As well as being able to balance and shoe horses and similar animals, they can also trim hooves and assess different conditions.

An experienced farrier will ensure the horse’s feet are well cared for. They will also be able to advise the best hoof care and shoes for sore hooves or other conditions.

Farrier filing hooves

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