Horseshoes are U-shaped metal objects generally fixed to the bottom of a horse’s (or other equine animals’) hooves to prevent the hoof from deteriorating due to excessive use. Shoeing a horse involves attaching the horseshoe to its hoof using horseshoe nails. Since there are no nerves in the hoof of a horse, this process does not cause them any pain provided it is done by a trained farrier. Horses are kept for carrying heavy loads or racing which wears out their hooves much faster than they do in the wild. Horseshoes prevent this by acting as a protective layer between the ground and the hoof. They also provide other benefits such as correcting medical issues or providing traction against uneven or slippery ground. The selection of horseshoes should be undertaken after considering several factors such as the health of the horse, nature of the work, frequency of work etc. Several types of horseshoes can be identified based on the requirements of the horse, and they differ in various specifications and may be produced using different materials. Examples include standard steel horseshoes, lightweight aluminium horseshoes, plastic horseshoes, racing plates and other horseshoes specially made for unusual terrain or weather. This article describes several common types of horseshoes.
The most common type of horseshoe is the regular horseshoe type which is a U-shaped steel shoe which is attached to the hoof using steel horseshoe nails driven through the groove of the horseshoe, around its edge. They are adequate for standard workloads and are able to safeguard the hooves of a horse through regular work and running on normal ground.
These are generally equipped for racehorses as they are considerably lighter than standard steel shoes and are the same shape. They are much less durable and should be replaced every few weeks. They are used to give racehorses traction of the trace track which prevents them from slipping and allows them to reach higher speeds safely. Racing plates are generally made of aluminium, which makes them much lighter than steel horseshoes.
As the name suggests, these are made of plastic and are glued onto the hoof suing a special glue which removes the need for nails. This type of shoe is preferred by owners of horses who may have sensitive feet or other ailments in the hoof such as damaged hooves or those with poor hood wall quality that might worsen due to the use of standard horseshoes. However, these shoes are not as durable and are generally more expensive. Additionally, farriers may not be as experienced with these types of horseshoes as they are uncommon.
Instead of being U-Shaped, they are closed rings of metal, and are designed to support the horse’s heel as well as the rest of the hoof. These are used in horses who have hoof ailments, similar to the above and support weak heels. They are also less common than the other types of shoes that are made of the same standard steel, and are attached the same way, using nails.