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Contrary to popular legend, horseshoes were not invented to protect hooves against wear. Horseshoes were not invented after horses were kept in castles. According to my research, they were invented long before that for a much more practical military purpose: sole protection against one of the most dangerous military inventions in the history of warfare. In fact, this weapon is still used with great effectiveness to this day.
Around the 4th century B.C., someone (I’m guessing some damn blacksmith) came up with the idea of caltrops — six-pointed objects similar to children’s jacks toys. No matter how they landed, one point was always up. When spread in front of a charging cavalry they brought forward motion to a sudden stop.
First documented use by the Persians, the caltrop was used against Alexander the Great’s Macedonian forces in 331 B.C. Within the same century, leather hoof boots with thick pads were implemented as protection. In China, we’ve found that a wooden block was strapped to the sole for the same reason.
This was followed soon after around mid-1st century A.D. by a bronze “hipposandal,” which was also strapped on. These were awkward and slowed the cavalry down so their use was not to prevent wear, but for protection against the disabling caltrops during actual combat. The hipposandals were probably not used full time because they…