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In the wild, a horse may travel up to 50 miles per day to obtain adequate forage.

While horses in the wild cover large areas of terrain, they usually do so at relatively slow speeds, unless being chased by a predator. The consequence of slow but nonstop travel in a dry climate is that horses' feet are naturally worn to a small, smooth, even and hard state.

Consequently, it was in northern Europe that the nailed horseshoe arose in its modern form.

Domesticated horses are also subject to inconsistent movement between stabling and work; they must carry or pull additional weight, and in modern times, they are often kept and worked on very soft footing, such as irrigated land, arena footing, or stall bedding. The hooves of horses that are kept in stalls or small turnouts, even when cleaned adequately, are exposed to more moisture than would be encountered in the wild, as well as to ammonia from urine.

Shoes do not prevent or reduce damage from moisture and ammonia exposure. Further, without the natural conditioning factors present in the wild, the feet of horses grow overly large and long unless trimmed regularly.Many generations of domestic horses bred for size, color, speed, and other traits with little regard for hoof quality and soundness make some breeds more dependent on horseshoes than feral horses such as mustangs, which develop strong hooves as a matter of natural selection.Nonetheless, domestic horses do not always require shoes.There is very little evidence of any sort that suggests the existence of nailed-on shoes prior to AD 500 or 600, though there is a find dated to the 5th century A. of a horseshoe, complete with nails, found in the tomb of the Frankish King Childeric I at Tournai, Belgium.Many changes brought about by the domestication of the horse have led to a need for shoes for numerous reasons, mostly linked to management that results in horses' hooves hardening less and being more vulnerable to injury.

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