Monday, 9 August 2010

So...why shoes?

There are lots of theories out there about why horses were first shod but its a question that comes up time and time again. If a bare hoof can perform so well, why WERE horses first shod?

I suspect if the world were full of horses like Felix, horses never would have been shod because he has always had fantastically healthy hooves which out-perform shod hooves and need almost no help at all to achieve an amazing level of performance over all terrain.

The reality is, though, that many horses don't have the perfect diet, environment or exercise for optimal hoof growth so they don't have perfectly healthy hooves.

The short answer, which has the virtue of being true, is that if you have a horse with less than healthy hooves, the quickest way to achieve a higher level of performance - more miles, tougher terrain - than those hooves would naturally be capable of is to put shoes on.


Val said...

I am sure that you already know this information, but since I was recently reading one of Jaime Jackson's hoofcare books, I will comment because it may be new information to some readers!

Jackson discussed that the shoeing of horses began in Northern Europe (around 700 A.D.) when stalls were used to keep horses conveniently housed in a feudal civilization. The climate was also very different than the dry, sparse land, which the horse had evolved to embrace. Ancient horseman (Greeks, Mongolians, etc.) rode domestic unshod horses for thousands of years before the invention of shoes.

I really enjoy your blog. Thank you.

jenj said...

I actually have a small collection of medieval horse shoes - it's interesting how they've evolved over time.

One of the earliest shoes I know about was the Roman equivalent of the EasyBoot, the hipposandal. You can see one on the British Museum's web site. There's also an interesting article entitled "The Historical Development of the Horseshoe," which is reasonably well-referenced and certainly an interesting read.

Nic Barker said...

Thanks Val - I'd heard that theory before, and it fits with the requirement of shoes when a horse going many miles a day was an economic and political necessity.

Jenj, thanks for the links- the hipposandal was the leather one, if I remember rightly - an early hoof boot, perhaps?!

jenj said...

@ Nic: The British Museum has the hipposandal labeled as iron. Whatever it is, it looks horribly uncomfortable, like it would put tremendous pressure on the heel. It also looks like they must have strapped it on somehow around the pastern - I can only imagine how badly that would have rubbed!

@ Val: Is there an email addy where I can contact you privately?