Why Are Horseshoes Lucky?

Ever seen a horseshoe hanging on someone’s wall or above a door and asked about it, you were probably told it was for luck. Which might seem a little weird, but maybe horses hang sneakers in barns for luck when they race. But what makes horseshoes in particular so lucky?

If you don’t hang a horseshoe on your door, then you might get a kick over how people don’t actually agree on how to hang them up. Some say the points of the “U” should go upwards, so that the horseshoe may catch luck that falls down. Others say the exact opposite, so that the luck may flow down into the home. 

Further Reading: Why Do People Wear Big Hats at Horse Races?

Why Do We Even Have Horseshoes Anyway?

Horseshoes have existed since long before the advent of smelting iron. If anything, we’ve had horseshoes for as long as we’ve had beasts of burden. Very old leather hoof wraps were used by ancient peoples in Asia, and the Romans had a hoof-sandal that mimicked their own footwear. This Roman, primitive hoofwear was called a hipposandal and dates possibly back to 100 BC. 

By 1000 AD Europeans figured out bronze horseshoes that look similar to that “U” shape you’re thinking of now. Europeans figured out how to do this on a widespread scale with iron by the 13th and 14th centuries, something China also figured out during the Yuan dynasty at the latest. Because iron was so valuable around this time, Europeans used iron horseshoes in exchange for coin during the Crusades. Which is kind of cool, but definitely not why we have horseshoes. 

By the 1800s Henry Burden would file the first patents in the US for streamlining the production of horseshoe making. 

Anyway, the point about horseshoes is that they’ve been around for a very long time–since they serve a very simple purpose. By protecting the hooves of beasts of burden (horses included), people could make them carry heavier loads and make them go farther.

What Makes Them Lucky?

On the luck front, horseshoes had quite a bit going for them. For starters, they were made of iron by the time they had become a fixation for superstition. Iron has historically been associated with supernatural properties–specifically the ability to harm or otherwise ward off malevolent spirits, and particularly in Europe. This is broadly due to its resistance to fire and durability. 

Horseshoes in their standard pattern were held in place by 7 nails–a number that has always been considered lucky. Christians also adopted the horseshoe into their storytelling with saint Dunstan, who is said to have been asked to shoe the Devil’s horse. Instead of placing the horseshoe on the Devil’s horse, he stuck it to the Devil–something the Devil most certainly did not appreciate. Saint Dunstan is said to only have removed it after the Devil agreed to not enter any homes with a horseshoe on the door. 

Speaking of things horses have on their feet, see how you are with how they walk here.