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horseshoe, narrow plate, commonly of iron or steel, shaped to fit a horse's hoof and attached to the hoof by nailing it to the inner edge of the horny wall of the hoof. Horseshoes vary from the light plate worn by race-horses to the heavy shoe with sharp pointed wedges, or calks, worn by horses of logging camps in drawing heavy loads over roads of ice. The earliest extant shoe dates from the 6th cent. B.C. A horseshoe used by the Romans was a leather boot with a metal plate at the bottom. Before the advent of motor vehicles, shoeing horses was an important trade, often combined with general blacksmithing. Often the horseshoer's skill cured lameness, and before veterinary medicine became a profession the horseshoer, or farrier, treated horses for all their diseases. The horseshoe is an emblem and talisman of good luck.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend, a turn on the Tallapoosa River, near Dadeville, E central Ala., site of a battle on Mar. 27, 1814, in which the Creeks, led by chief William Weatherford, were significantly defeated by a militia under the command of Andrew Jackson. As a result, large parts of Alabama and Georgia were subsequently opened to settlement. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is there (see National Parks and Monuments, table).
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

A symbol for luck. The British admiral Lord Nelson had a horseshoe nailed to the mast of his ship Victory that was supposed to bring success in battle. It is thought that the horseshoe became a good luck symbol by virtue of being crescent in shape, like the moon; by being made of iron, which is a "magical" metal; and by being associated with the horse, which is often linked with gods and goddesses.

An old Gypsy folktale tells of a young Rom (male Gypsy) who was riding back to camp late one night. He suddenly realized that he was being pursued by four demons: Bad Luck, Ill Health, Unhappiness, and Death. He managed to keep ahead of them, but Bad Luck started to draw away from the others and gain ground. As they crossed a road, the Gypsy's horse threw a shoe, which flew through the air and struck Bad Luck in the forehead, knocking him from his horse and killing him. The Gypsy stopped to pick up the shoe then hurried on to the campground. The other three demons took their dead brother and buried him. The young Gypsy nailed the horseshoe up over the door to his vardo (Gypsy wagon), telling the rest of the tribe how it had killed Bad Luck. The next day the three demons came seeking revenge, but when they saw the horseshoe that had killed Bad Luck hanging over the door, they turned tail and fled. To this day, the Gypsies believe a horseshoe will keep bad luck away.

Traditionally, a horseshoe found lying on the ground is the best one to hang for luck. If it is found with its open end toward you and the calks (the "toes" on the end of the shanks) pointing upward, then simply toss it over your left shoulder for luck, spitting as you do so. However, if the open ends of a found shoe point toward you and the calks are turned down, then it is best to hang it from a nearby tree or fence with the ends down so that the bad luck may run out. If the closed end points toward you, with calks either up or down, then take the shoe home and hang it over your front door with the pointed ends up. It will retain luck and keep all negativity away from the house and its occupants.

One superstition says that hanging a horseshoe in the chimney prevents witch- es from flying in on their broomsticks. Another says that a horseshoe at the head of the bed prevents nightmares.

In Sir Walter Scott's novel Redgauntlet, a character says, "Your wife's a witch, man; you should nail a horseshoe on your chamber door." A common seventeenth century greeting was "May the horseshoe never be pulled from your threshold." Bessie Bathgate of Eymouth, Scotland, nailed a horseshoe to the door of her house in 1634, but she was actually indicted for it. It seems the court believed that it the horseshoe was "a devilish means of instruction from the Devil to make her goods and all her other affairs to prosper and succeed."

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a horseshoe?

The horseshoe is often a lucky portent of success in the dreamer’s endeavors. Myth and folklore associate good fortune and protection with this symbol.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


protective talisman placed over doors of churches, stables, etc. [Western Folklore: Leach, 505 ]


hung on buildings as defense against fairies. [Br. Folklore: Briggs, 225]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a piece of iron shaped like a U with the ends curving inwards that is nailed to the underside of the hoof of a horse to protect the soft part of the foot from hard surfaces: commonly thought to be a token of good luck
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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| Medicinal, offensive or traction horseshoes Hipposandals could have been used as a medicinal shoe, which could carry a salve packed in or around the iron and therefore kept firmly on the hoof and frog (the soft part of a hoof located on the underneath of the foot).
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Most are underhand flippers; a few, overhand flippers; and some are turners, gripping the horseshoe by its sides.