There is so much conversation about what our horses wear on their feet. You have the die hards who go metal shoes are the best and then we have a newer wave going barefoot is best. Personally I have my horses in several camps of thought on what they have on their feet, but that is because of specific needs. I bet there are many of you that are the same as me. So lets look at some history.
The iron shoe was developed to protect the hoof from wear on hard and rough surfaces. It was traditionally nailed on through the insensitive part of the hoof wall. It was fit for purpose with the existing available materials on hand. It did a job and helped the horse do its work which in those times was hard labour. Not exactly what our current day horses are used to. Don't see to many horses out there mustering or working like a tractor nowadays.
The earliest form of footwear for horses was in ancient asia (we are talking BC here) where rawhide was wrapped around the hoof to protect it. Ancient Romans invented the first known leather boots (wraps) with an iron plate in the base rather than nails. So for several centuries, since man domesticated the horse, he has realised that using the horse as transport or as a beast of burden (work horse) the hoof is very important and needs to be protected. It is believed that they also used the protective covering to assist in reconstruction work on the hoof as artefacts have been found in archeological digs that indicate the boot had therapeutic value.
I can't agree with the barefoot fraternity and go barefoot is best as 'they did it in the wild'. Horses that were weak or had hoof problems died or got eaten. They had natural selection to help them. Todays horses have human intervention in the breeding program and we have a whole different set of working circumstances to those of the wild and by-gone eras. Genetics have a hand in the type of hoof on your horse.
Many of the hoof problems we see today are a direct result of poor balance by the professional or lack of professional help, the environment that the horse is left to stand in all day and the diet. So what does the future hold for the horse and its troublesome hoof.
Personally I think shoeing with iron has its place but I also see that no shoes has a place. It really depends on what you do with your horse, the environment he lives in and the surfaces that you work your horse in. Does the horse have a genetic or injury imbalance that needs correction. You have to decide which available material is best for your horse.
Shoes of the Future. I don't think that the boots available today are the final answer, I still find them to have a hefty feel. I would hate to have to wear them. I started with easy boots 30years ago, the design and movement on the horse was restrictive causing injury. Current review, I still don't think they are the right answer due to heavy design and restriction on movement, but a great improvement. Iron is not the right answer either in todays environment of synthetic technology but I do feel that the iron shoe is the right shape, just not the right material or method of adhereing to the base of the hoof. Glueing it on is not the answer either.
I think the future holds a shoe made from a cushioning synthetic (with gel inserts like our runners) that is adhered to the hoof through expansion around the base and lower hoof. Suctioned or self adhereing onto the shape to hold in place, is where the future goes. There is nothing that is not possible with time and technology.