Why Do Horses Need Shoes?

When we think of horses, we often associate them with riding, and the image of the horseshoe. Horseshoes and horses just go together.

Why Do Horses Need Shoes

The concept of horseshoes is often one that is misunderstood. Many people may find it strange or abusive to nail shoes onto a horse’s feet, but the reality is that it’s not a cruel or painful process. 

But, why do we give horses shoes? We don’t shoe cows or other animals with hooves, so why are horses always given frequent farrier appointments, and made to wear those small pieces of metal all the time? 

Let’s face it. If someone wanted to shave down your feet and then nail metal pieces to them, you’d probably have something to say (or neigh) about it. So, why do we do this to our horses? That’s what this guide is all about. 

Why Do Horses Need Shoes?

Horses have been wearing horseshoes for centuries. We have given our horses shoes since the dawn of time, and farriers and blacksmiths are some of the oldest trades in the world. 

For the most part, horseshoes are designed to protect a horse’s feet when walking on hard or tough terrain, in order to keep them from cracking or becoming damaged.

Horses’ feet are sturdy, but they can become easily damaged if they walk on uneven terrain, rough surfaces or hard surfaces such as concrete and rocky ground.

If a horse walks or is ridden on this terrain often, then the chances of damage or an injury to the natural hoof is much higher, and the horse can get hurt.

This is why horse shoes were invented, as they act as a barrier between the natural hoof and the ground to protect the horse’s hooves, and give them a good solid base to stand on.

Horse shoes are usually made from metals such as aluminum or steel, and are attached to the hoof through nails. The shoe will be nailed into the hoof and designed specifically to fit that horse’s natural hoof shape so that it is comfortable and safe for them to wear.

Why Do Horses Need Shoes

Are Shoes Necessary For A Horse?

Horseshoes are typically made to protect a horses’ hooves in a similar way to how we wear boots and shoes to protect our own feet from rough terrain or ground that would hurt our feet.

When a horse is not often ridden or if it does not walk on hard terrain, then a horseshoe is not necessary, and the horse can go without them, which is called barefooting. 

If your horse is regularly being ridden and worked, then it is advisable to have shoes fitted.

In addition, if your horse’s hooves are weak or brittle, then they could be more prone to injury, so shoeing the horse would be beneficial. However, if your horse has very strong, sturdy and hard hooves, then shoeing is not always necessary. 

Is It Cruel To Shoe A Horse?

Whilst it may seem like a cruel thing to do, as we ourselves would not like our shoes to be nailed into our feet, shoeing a horse is not actually cruel for horses.

The horseshoes are placed onto a part of the hoof that does not have any nerves, meaning that they cannot feel it during application or removal. However, many people do choose not to shoe their horses, especially if they deem it unnecessary. 

Do Horses Feel Pain When Having Horseshoes Fitted? 

Horse hooves are made from a similar material to our fingernails, which is keratin.

Just like how cutting our fingernails does not hurt us, trimming the hooves does not hurt a horse, and nailing the horseshoe into the base of the hoof does not hurt either. 

This is due to the fact that horseshoes are nailed into the part of the hoof that does not have any nerves, and with no nerves, there is no pain.

However, shoeing a horse should only be done by a trained farrier, as they will have the experience and knowledge to do it correctly, without hurting or alarming the animal. 

A horse may feel pain when having horseshoes fitted only if it is done by a novice and not a professional farrier, as the nails may be placed in the wrong area or put into the hoof too deeply.

Why Do Horses Need Shoes

How Often Do Horseshoes Need Replacing?

If you have a horse, then you know how much maintenance they require. The hooves are no different.

Horse hooves grow incredibly fast, much like our fingernails, and they can regrow a new hoof in just one year, so regular farrier appointments are essential in keeping your horse healthy and happy.

Horses with shoes should be reshod every 4-6 weeks, and the hoof itself will need to be trimmed every 6-8 weeks for the best results. 


To summarize, horses are well known for having their own horseshoes. Horses have been wearing horseshoes since the beginning of civilization.

The earliest forms of horseshoes can be dated back as early as 400 BC, made from rawhide and plants. Even then, horseshoes served a purpose. 

Horseshoes have always been worn to protect the hooves of the horse from uneven, rough or tough terrain in order for them to walk more comfortably without injury or the hooves cracking. 

Whilst horseshoes are indeed nailed into the hoof by a farrier, it actually does not cause a horse any pain at all, as the hooves are made from keratin, much like our fingernails.

When applied properly, horseshoes are attached to the hoof in order to act as a barrier to protect the natural hoof from damage, cracking or causing an injury. 

Horseshoes can be essential for working horses, as they prevent the hooves from cracking or snapping over time, however,

some equine experts do not shoe their horses as they may not be walking on rough terrain, or the hooves may not be at risk.

Catherine McDowl
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