When ancient humans domesticated the horse, they changed the world.

The horse has improved our lives immeasurably. It enhanced the way we farmed so we could feed our families. It accelerated and expanded our abilities to travel, all while improving our comfort in doing so. As a result, it allowed us to develop trade routes. The horse also significantly eased the burden of labor while the cities of the world were built.

It became evident all too quickly that the working horses’ hooves wear exceeded growth. Ancient Asians “applied booties made from hides and woven from plants,” wrote Rachel Cohen in “The History of Horseshoes” for Dressage Today in 1996.

It’s not clear when metal horseshoes first were nailed onto horses’ hooves. Iron was so valuable that it was typically repurposed, leaving the origin cloudy. Four bronze shoes with nail holes were found in 1897 in an Etruscan tomb — which is in what we recognize as Italy today — that dates to about 400 B.C., writes W.N. Bates, who detailed the findings in 1902 in the American Journal of Archaeology.

Catullus suggests that Romans invented the “mule shoes” after 100 B.C., according to Robert E. Krebs. Yet, Rodney Carlisle writes in Scientific American Inventions and Discoveries that he could be referencing the Roman hipposandal, a strap-on application that was the forebearer of the modern hoof boot.

The earliest written account of “crescent figured irons and their nails” was made in A.D. 910, writes Bracy Clark in 1829. However, he references a horseshoe and nails from the 5th century.

“… [The] only one recorded as more ancient is the shoe said to have been found in the coffin of Childerie, king of the French, who was buried at Tournay in Flanders,” Clark writes, noting that it “fell to pieces on being handled.”

While the shoes from the 9th century are similar to many of those contained within these pages, the materials used to manufacture — and sometimes secure them to the foot — have evolved for the betterment of the horse and farrier.

The American Farriers Journal Horseshoe Guide, Vol. 2, is intended as a general survey of the types of shoes available to you. 

We are intentionally restricting the contents to the types of shoes that you’ll find on the shelves of your trusted supply shop. It’s also not comprehensive. We are painting a picture of the market with broad strokes to provide the new farrier with a guide on available options, while also offering experienced hoof-care professionals information to educate your customers to better serve the horse.