Although there are a few references in history of nail-on metal shoes being used by war horses in the 900's, they weren't commonly used by Europeans until around the time of the Crusades, a hundred years later. Over the next two hundred years, the horse shoe went from being made of bronze to being made of iron, undergoing the same evolution as metals used for swords, and by the 1600s, blacksmiths could buy ready-shaped horse shoes that they could heat up and finish to the exact size and shape of the horse's foot.
It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution, that a machine capable of making up to 60 steel shoes per hour was patented. Because of the use of these manufactured shoes, the North was given an advantage over the South in the Civil War.
Surprisingly to some, the shape and manufacture of horse shoes hasn't changed much since the 19th Century. The blacksmith still adjusts the shape and fit of the shoe to the horse, even when he uses a factory "keg" shoe. Shoes come in several different sizes to start with, but no two horses have the exact same shape to their hoof, so the farrier must adjust the shoe and change its factory shape to one that fits the horse most comfortably.
Because the shape of each horse's hoof is different, it truly was easy for trained scouts to track horses and know the horse's size and how much weight they carried. Many blacksmiths put a mark on the shoes they made as a signature on their work. This also could have been used by trackers to know which town the horse came from as well.
I've always had an affinity and great respect for the work of trained farriers and blacksmiths. When I was in college, it was one of the careers I considered for a while, but put the side because of the great amount of strength and stamina these metal workers need to be able to do their job. However, it turned out that I married a farrier, instead.
P. Creeden is the Sweet Romance and mystery pen name for USA Today Bestselling author, Pauline Creeden. Animals are the supporting characters of many of her stories, because they occupy her daily life on the farm, too. From dogs, cats, and goldfish to horses, chickens, and geckos -- she believes life around pets is so much better, even if they are fictional.
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