Beginning centuries ago, the use of horses made many aspects of society more efficient, especially agriculture. The horseshoe as a new piece of technology resulted in the increase in food production. Starting as a simple cloth boot, the horseshoe developed over time as the use of horses became more advanced. The horseshoe proves its importance as a piece of technology because it developed to meet the needs of the time period.
Horsemen in Asia first used the horseshoe. The need for horseshoes arose as the use of horses became more useful in Asian culture. In order to maximize the utilitarian value of the horse, hoof protection became a necessity. Created out of animal hides and plants, these materials once woven together made a soft, comfortable, cloth shoe for the horse. Though made with the intention of protecting the horse’s feet, the material wore away quickly, and, as a result, one single horseshoe did not serve its purpose for a long duration of time. 1
Taking after the people in Asia, the Romans created a version of the horseshoe, the hipposandal in 8th century BCE. Horses traveled by Roman roadway instead of grassy field, which required a more durable way to protect horses’ hoofs. Shaped to fit the horse’s hoof and held on by leather straps, the hipposandal required a piece of metal, usually iron. These sandals made removal of the shoe easier than the previous cloth shoes because of the straps that held it in place. 2 Although more durable, the soft, wet climate of northern Europe made it difficult for the hipposandal to stay fastened to the hoof during travel. 1
Developing again to meet the labor-intensive needs of the Medieval Ages in the fifth century AD, horseshoes became more permanently attached to the hoof. During the Medieval Ages, iron nailed to the bottom of hoofs created a more durable shoe. The nailing of iron became a staple craft of the time-period and contributed to the growing industry of metallurgy. 3 By the beginning of the twelfth century, this improved horseshoe began mass-production.
Protecting hoofs from wear and tear has been the ultimate goal of the horseshoe throughout history; however, with each new development, several underlying purposes existed as well. War tactics and strategies began to change in the tenth century AD because of the horseshoe. Knights did not exist until the metal horseshoe developed. 4 Horseshoes also served as weapons in the twelfth century during the Crusade Wars because injury could be inflicted if struck or trampled with the iron horseshoe of the medieval times. 5 Horseshoes contributed to the development of metallurgy as one of the first pieces of technology that required forging. 6
Throughout its redevelopment, the horseshoe became one of the most critical and widely used pieces of technology; “iron shoes had become one of the vital necessities of war, transport, and agriculture.” 7 Without the adaption of the horseshoe, the agricultural and manufacturing industries would have failed to become major industries.
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(1) The History of Horseshoes – Dressage Today https://dressagetoday.com/horse-health-/history-of-horseshoes-17802 (accessed Dec 5, 2018).
(2) Roman Horseshoe/Hipposandal and Kureisen (cure shoe) http://horsehints.org/RomanHorseShoe.htm (accessed Dec 5, 2018).
(3) Horseshoe | Britannica.com https://www.britannica.com/topic/horseshoe (accessed Dec 5, 2018).
(4) Life in the Middle Ages: Horses and Horseshoes for Medieval Knights http://cdalebrittain.blogspot.com/2014/06/horses-and-horseshoes-for-medieval.html (accessed Dec 5, 2018).
(5) Horseshoe Origins http://www.symbolic-horse.info/horseshoes.htm (accessed Dec 5, 2018).
(6) How horseshoe is made – material, making, history, used, parts, dimensions, machine, History, Raw Materials http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Horseshoe.html (accessed Dec 5, 2018).
(7) Gimpel, Jean. The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages. London: Pimlico, 1992