Have a horseshoe hanging around your barn? Is it up or down? 

March 17, 2022

Get a Good-Luck Horseshoe from TRF and help the Horses! 

Long before the invention of the steam engine or spinning wheels was a human invention that revolutionized ancient means of trade, transportation, and warfare rested on the horseshoe.

You may associate the horseshoe with stories of the old west, but the folklore surrounding the belief of it brining luck dates back to tenth century Irish Folklore.

The Story of St. Dunstan

There are different tales from different lands, and depending on who you ask, you may get a slightly different version; but the message of the story remains the same.

Others believe that horseshoes became synonymous with luck in 969 A.D. when St. Dunstan, the patron saint of blacksmiths in the Catholic Church, tricked the devil. There are several versions to the story, but all agree that in the legend St. Dunstan shoed the Devil’s own cloven hoof with great force and pain. After the excruciating ordeal, the devil agreed to never enter over a threshold with a horseshoe nailed above it, being fearful of the tiny crescent-shaped object. A lucky charm to ward off evil was born.

Because of this story, people believed that the horseshoe could keep evil spirits out of their homes, and thus bring in (or keep in) good fortune.

Myths & Legends 

☘ Iron was deemed magical because it could withstand fire.

☘ Even the amount of nail holes made this protective footwear lucky! Seven holes were made into the shoe to hold it in place on the hoof. As it just so happens, seven is one of the luckiest of numbers on earth as it appears so frequently in nature. There are seven days of the week, seven seas, seven continents & even seven colors in a rainbow.

☘ The horseshoe is only considered lucky if it’s actually been worn by a horse. Legend has it that the Holy Grail of lucky horseshoes is one that comes from a gray mare’s hind feet.

☘ The ancient Greeks thought the element iron had the ability to ward off evil, and because it took the shape of the crescent moon, was a symbol of good fortune.

Feeling lucky? There’s your gray mare! (Photo courtesy of TRF)

The Legend of the Horseshoe

Whether you are hollering for your horse trackside, making epic plays on the basketball court or cheering on your favorite football team, you’ve probably had a good luck charm on hand for some good juju. Those good luck charms include wearing an unwashed lucky jersey or returning to the same teller after the hint of a winning streak. 

Some famous sports figures are even known to have some crazy lucky charms & superstitions. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. It seems to have worked well for him.

One good luck charm has been warding off evil spirits and providing good mojo for hundreds of years. Although the origins are not exactly known, it is believed that the horseshoe became the symbol of luck when the eighth century. Chaldeans thought its crescent shape represented various moon goddesses thus protecting against the curse of the evil eye.

Handmade bejeweled souvenir horseshoe. A real horseshoe fresh from the track sold at the Kentucky Derby Museum Store. 

The basic metal makeup even made the horseshoe an easy favorite for as a lucky charm. Most of the early horseshoes were first made of iron, which is a durable metal but also thought to have mystical powers; it has magnetic capabilities; runs abundantly through human bodies & can apparently keep fairy-folk at bay. Witches were said to be so fearful of the iron-made horseshoes that they decided to take flight on broomsticks instead of galloping away on horses for transportation. Iron was thought to keep fairies at bay. 

Many people agree that the horseshoe is, in fact, lucky but can’t seem to agree on how to hang on to that luck. Some superstitious folk hang their horseshoe prong-side up (U) so the luck stays in the cup to protect the home or barn where it hangs. Others decide to hang it heel-side up so that all the good luck flows out to those who pass under it. Take a walk on the backside of any track and one will see that many of the seasoned horse trainers can’t even agree on the best way to hang the shoe. Our best suggestion is to hang it both ways to ensure the most luck for your home or barn!

Still considered one of the luckiest of charms, the design, shape, & overall look of the horseshoe has evolved since its original conception hundreds of years ago. By 1835 the shape was as we know it and a horseshoe manufacturing machine was patented for the first time in the U.S. The machine was capable of producing 60 shoes per hour. 

Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

With new and expanded knowledge, horseshoes today are not just made of the magical & mystical iron but of other metals including aluminum. Thoroughbreds, in particular, have their shoes made of the lighter AL metal because it won’t act as a weight on their hooves during their races. Although most shoes remain close to the original shape, the crescent moon style that the Chaldeans formally admired has expanded. Farriers have discovered shapes like the bar shoe, a complete oval style used for hoof therapy, is a great option for horses. Today, farriers even recommend that the amount of nail holes be placed evenly on each side of the hoof instead of the lucky seven nail holes. 

Even the luck of the horseshoe has expanded beyond that of the actual shoe. The superstitious now wear trendy horseshoe earrings & bracelets for a bit of on-the-go luck every day. Gentlemen wear horseshoe-patterned ties & belts to keep luck close by come race day.

So many centuries, cultures & people have believed in the good juju of horseshoes. Even with the expansion of the original version, there must be something to all this lucky mumbo jumbo, right? Well, we whole-heartedly believe in the luck of the horseshoe. Do you?

Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

Visit the Kentucky Derby Museum’s “International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame” to see the fascinating array of horseshoes and equipment that span centuries. In the meantime, boost your luck and get your Kentucky Derby lucky charm now from the Museum! Click here to browse all the fantastic choices.

A Good-Luck Shoe From the Horses!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the horses of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) want to send you a horseshoe!

Any donation made by March 17 in the amount of $35+ means that we will send you a horseshoe for good luck!!!

How about a little Irish Luck? Make a Gift!

Parts of this story are from “The Legend of the Horseshoe” 2014, Reproduced with permission by Kentucky Derby Museum. Also, from our friends at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) News. Edited by Maribeth Kalinich

This story is sponsored by the Kentucky Derby MuseumGetting’ Lucky In Kentucky!

An amazing article. Well done @jonathanstettin #ruffian twitter.com/jonathanstetti…

Drew Mo (@thebloghorse) View testimonials