Folklore

Horseshoes Hold Good Luck

Horseshoes-are-Lucky

My Granny Gazzie had horseshoes wrapped in aluminum foil above a few of her doorways. Seems like I remember at least two: one in the kitchen and one at the front door. Her little old house was small and even as a fairly young child I could jump and touch the top of the doorways. A few of my uncles had to duck as they went through them.

You’re supposed to hang the horseshoe with the curve facing down and the two sides facing up so all that good luck doesn’t just poor out. In one of my recent videos a viewer noticed my horseshoe hanging outside my front door is positioned the wrong way.

I found the horseshoe on our porch many years ago in Pap’s big garden. Pap said it probably came off his Grandpa’s horse or mule.

According to Frank C. Brown’s Collection of NC Folklore:

  • You know the old saying if the sun is shining while it’s raining it means the Devil is beating his wife? I’ve heard that all my life, but not this part: if you lay an old horseshoe on the ground, place a white cloth over it, and put your ear to the cloth, you can hear the beating.
  • To ward off evil carry a horseshoe nail.
  • Nail a horseshoe to the hog trough to protect the hogs.
  • While churning butter if it fails to come and gather put a horseshoe in the fire.
  • If you find a horseshoe hang it in a tree for good luck.
  • Horseshoes nailed above the door will keep conjuring spirits out.
  • A horseshoe can be placed in the fire to protect your sheep herd.
  • Place a horseshoe at the bottom of your bed to ward off evil.

Unless you have horses yourself, it’s not as common for folks to come in contact with horseshoes today, especially old ones.

Tipper

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Gary Griffith
    April 11, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    When we used to heat with wood, a time or two I found a mule shoe which had been hung on the tree and the wood grew around it. People who run sawmills do not like to find horseshoes or other metal in a log when sawing because it can dull and even ruin the blade.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    April 6, 2021 at 9:04 pm

    We always had old horseshoes hung up so the luck wouldn’t run out. I remember my grandmother’s being wrapped in tin foil. I wonder why? Was that just to make it shiny or was there something more to it?

  • Reply
    Randy
    April 6, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    I have only heard of if it was raining when the sun was shining the devil was beating his wife but never heard the second part. I was only around my granddaddy’s mule named Kate and as far as I know she did not have shoes. I have told before of my granddaddy being one of the finest Christian and most humble men I ever knew. Someone before him had tried to pull logs with Kate and beat her unmerciful . He won her trust back. The maddest I ever saw my daddy had to do with Kate, I cut a cedar tree down a good ways from our house and was going to us it for a post to mount a basketball goal, daddy’s tractor wouldn’t crank and he said he would drag it home with Kate, when he went to hook the post up she went crazy and ran all the ay back to her stall. Daddy was mad about that until we got to barn and saw her trembling out of fear, he really got mad then but not at her I will always remember him saying anybody that would beat an animal that bad should be beat the same way. I think he would of been happy to be the one to do it too. He told me he would get my post home but he would not make her pull it.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      April 6, 2021 at 4:31 pm

      If there is a cleat on the animals shoe that means it is made for pulling. The cleat digs in the ground and gives them traction like the cleats on a tractor or tread on a car tire. If the animal was going to be used for riding or pulling a buggy on the street there is usually no need for the cleat. Whoever mistreated your Daddy’s mule was apparently stupid. People who are bright enough to own a horse or mule regularly inspect the animals shoes to see if they are loose or missing and to see when their hooves need to be trimmed. It’s like checking the fluids in your tractor. These animals were a valuable asset and investment.
      Horses and mules in the wild wear their hooves down naturally. If they are in a smaller pasture or in a stable all the time, you have to keep their hooves trimmed, even if they are just pets. Their hooves will grow long and sometimes curl making it painful for the animal to walk.

      Oxen had shoes too if they were used for draft animals. Since they have cloven hooves they had two shoes on each hoof. Ox shoes are much less common than horse or mule shoes.

      One advantage having oxen over horses or mules was if they broke down and could no longer work you could eat ’em!

  • Reply
    Regina Roughton
    April 6, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    I love the tradition of horse shoes bringing good luck. My daddy loved it too. I have one just inside my front door.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    April 6, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Although I was raised in California without horses, I have one over the front door of my house here in Long Beach, CA. I’ve been in my home for 28 years and I no longer remember when I first heard about it bringing good luck or even where I got the horseshoe. It might even be that I had it in a previous home.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    April 6, 2021 at 11:54 am

    I firmly believe in horseshoes. I keep all the ones we take off my horse. I have his racing plates from when he retired from the track and came to live with me. I prefer for him to go barefoot as much as possible because it’s easier to keep his feet cleaned, but when he needs to wear them for a show season, I keep them when it’s done. He’s been my charm for 4 years, so I’m a believer.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 6, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Back before my time my Daddy had what he called a “blue mule” which he used for plowing and skidding logs. Well as luck would have it one day, while he was skidding on a particularly steep mountainside, the poor creature stumbled, fell down the mountain and broke its neck. Daddy had to dig a hole and bury it. And now for the rest of the story…………………..!

    Daddy’s cousin Ray DeHart was a prospector of sorts. Always try to find a vein of gold or a hidden treasure. Ray decided he needed a better tool to aid him in his quest. There was this newfangled device that would find metal underground. A handheld metal detector. He got him one.

    Ray brought his new toy to show Daddy. They wandered around the yard finding bits of worthless metal for a while before Daddy said “Lets go see if that thing will hone in on that mule’s shoes.” So they did and it did! It beeped at four different locations roughly in a rectangle. There was no visible signs of a mule grave other than the beep that contraption gave off.

    Many years after all this happened I got to thinking. That apparatus was only supposed to penetrate a foot at most into the ground, right. So if that metal detector was finding those mule shoes then its feet would have been a foot or less below the surface. In order for that be, it would have to have been buried on its back with its feet sticking up.

    What is touted as good luck for us turned out not so lucky for Daddy’s old blue mule!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 6, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Somehow or other we missed the horseshoe sayings even though Dad had work horses at various times. He did not trust mules because one kicked his brother. I don’t think we ever had a farrier come to our place and I don’t remember if Dad took horses to be shoed. I do recall him resetting a shoe at least once. Anyway, we never had any good luck shoes nailed up.

    Us boys used to play “horseshoes” with mule shoes and wooden stakes. It is as much work as fun and probably more. The wooden stakes would vibrate and sling the shoes off. Plus the opening in a mule shoe is maybe 4 inches; more like a U than a C shape.

    I had forgotten it until your post today but I recall one of Dad’s mule experiences. He bought a pair of mules in the next county west, about 20 miles away. When we went to get them they absolutely would not get on the truck. My Dad was not one to be thwarted so he determined to ride one and lead one. We were way over into the night getting home.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    April 6, 2021 at 9:02 am

    I carry a horse shoe nail on my key chain.

    I’ve always been fascinated with horseshoe folklore. The argument over which way is “right side up.” In my rhetoric class, I do a whole day on the evolution and context of horseshoe symbolism. It’s great stuff.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    April 6, 2021 at 8:57 am

    Mommy had one above the kitchen entry from the dining room. Let me assure you our luck was hit and miss mostly miss… lol. So nowadays what shall we do since horses don’t run rampant anymore. I’m a big believer in luck not existing. I think horseshoes above a doorway is unattractive (except maybe the basement or a horseman’s stead.)On that note, I wish you all a wonderful day horseshoes or no.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    April 6, 2021 at 8:04 am

    I remember my Grandpa C.S. Mauney telling me one day when it was raining and the sun was shining that “Raining when the sun is shining, it’ll be raining this time tomorrow.”

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    April 6, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Tipper, that “horseshoe” more than likely is actually from a horse rather than from a mule, because mule shoes were much smaller. As kids, we would look far and wide for horse shoes, but mostly all we found were mule shoes. And those were usually so thin that they would fly right past the “stob” that we drove into the ground. I think either one, from a horse or from a mule, should bring good luck.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 6, 2021 at 7:31 am

    I have a horseshoe over my door, you all gave it to me one Christmas. It came from the folk School and is welded to a hanger so that it sticks about six inches out from the wall. I have it over my front door. However I’m afraid it’s hanging upside down. I didn’t know it was supposed to be pointing up and I pointed mine down. My intent was to bring good luck to anyone who came in my door.

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