A Horse, Of Course

Don and Walter

Don and Walter

The Roman Empire owes the horseshoe.

There’s no doubt about it. Without the horseshoe there would never have been a Roman Empire. Oh, there might have been a good-sized Roman state, or even a major sphere of influence, but an empire? Hardly!

In order to build an empire, the Romans had to travel great distances and win great battles. And, to do that they had to change their “muscle” from infantry to cavalry. And, cavalry depends on horses which are not lame.

If we go back nearly 1,000 years before the start of the Roman Empire, we find Leo, a Greek philosopher, talking about horseshoes. Leo, Emperor of the East, used the work “selenia” in describing horseshoes. “Selenia” means “moon shapes”.

The horseshoes he was describing were actually sandals much like the ones soldiers wore. They were attached to the horse’s feet with straps and throngs, and they did the trick if you weren’t going far or fast. But, when it came time to think about establishing an empires, sandals for horses – even of Italian design – just weren’t practical.

The Romans came up with the idea of the iron horseshoe, and applied it to the horse’s hoof about 100 years before Christ. Prior to that time, thousands of Roman cavalry horses were rendered useless when their hoofs were worn away during long, tiresome marches.

Cattalus, a Roman historian, wrote about the horses of Julius Caesar, which were used during the invasion of Britain in 55 B.C. He described the shoes as being made of iron wire or plate iron.

Later, Appian, a Roman historian of the first century A.D., also wrote of Caesar and his cavalry horses with iron shoes.

The earliest iron horseshoes discovered were found in Norfold, England. They have nail holes, are very round and broad in front, and are very narrow at the heels.

Caesar’s cavalry horses had iron shoes.

The official beginning of the Roman Empire is 27 B.C., a few years after Caesar’s murder, and the invention of iron horseshoes.

The Roman Empire ended in 476 A.D.

It began to crumble fast after being attacked by Huns in 450 A.D.

When the Huns invaded Europe, it is said their horses wore iron horseshoes.


Take the online course Bits, Saddle Fitting and Hoof Balance, and learn if your horse’s shoes are putting his feet in balance. Visit www.horsecoursesonline.com to earn a degree or certification as a horse trainer, riding instructor or stable manager. Start anytime, all courses online.

EB 10.01.16