What did horses do before farriers?


I just saw a post where a horse was abandoned for a number of years and it’s front hooves looked like the bottom of a rocking chair. I’ve also heard over the years about how farriers are necessary to a horses health. Now obviously horses have been around longer than the folks who take care of their hooves, so what did they do before people?

Did they have to scrape them on rocks or did they just have to wear them down by running? Just curious. Thanks!

In: 59

>did they just have to wear them down by running

Horses in the wild will run and on a surface rough enough to wear down their hooves. However a horse in a small enclosure with soft soil won’t wear down their hooves and so they get overgrown.


When humans started to make horses walk rough surfaces a lot and carry loads their hooves would wear down too fast, adding shoes adds protection and can improve traction.

They would wear down just by running. The natural environment for a horse is grasslands, so the hoof (which is just a big toenail) would naturally wear down over time, keeping growth in check.

We had to start shoeing them because we started to put them to work in places much tougher on the hooves than grasslands. Walking down a cobblestone street would wear the hoof down far too fast, injuring the horse. The shoe prevents that damage, allowing the horse to work where we need it too work. Problem is that now the hoof doesn’t wear down at all, thus requiring the services of a farrier to shave the hoof when the horse is reshod.

Ferriers shoe horses that work on improved surfaces such hard pack dirt, gravel, or roads.

Constant movement on these surfaces would quickly wear down and split a horse’s unprotected hooves. Shoes protect hooves from wear *and* allow slippage when pulling heavy loads, both of which protect the horse from injury.

Wild horses traverse hard smooth surfaces far less often, meaning hoof growth more closely matches hoof wear.

Same thing humans did before nail cutters. We wore our nails down doing the work needed to stay alive.

Similarly, the hooves of a wild horse wear down with normal day-to-day use, running on all types of ground, moving fairly constantly.

A domestic horse typically doesn’t move around as much and when it does, it’s on soft ground. And if on hard ground, it’s really hard, like pavement, and for that the horse needs horse-shoes to prevent damage.

Everyone else has offered a bunch of really great info on surfaces and natural wear and I’ll offer one other piece to that. And that’s that in the wild if a horse’s hooves didn’t wear correctly, if they split or developed abscesses or any number of other problems that can make a horse come up lame they got eaten. Domesticated horses *live* to develop severe hoof problems, in the wild a horse with bad feet that can’t run would quickly get picked off by predators.