Horseshoes may appear like straightforward, simple things, but selecting the right ones can actually take some thought. Horseshoes can be made out of a variety of materials and even vary in width, length and shape, depending on the type of horse and the purpose the shoe needs to serve.
Steel is by far the most common type of horseshoe used. These shoes are readily available, incredibly durable and easy for even the novice to shape, bend and otherwise work. Steel shoes are also easy to attach and stay in place with great tenacity.
Horses that regularly race are most often fitted with aluminum horseshoes. Aluminum is lightweight, much lighter than steel, but also not as durable. Horses used for flat racing and harness racing will frequently be shod in aluminum shoes. Aluminum will not weigh down the horses at all, as heavy steel shoes can.
Like aluminum, titanium is also very lightweight, but it also offers more durability and strength. Race horses that are very hard on their front hooves may have titanium on their front feet and aluminum on their back. Titanium is also ideal for horses that regularly jump or do barrel racing.
Horseshoes can also be made of synthetic materials, such as a mixture of plastic and rubber. These shoes are not all that common because they tend to slip around the foot. They are, however, a good choice for horses that spend a lot of time walking on hard surfaces, such as concrete, as it adds a bit of cushioning not found with the metal horseshoes.
In addition to different materials, horseshoes can have slightly different shapes, depending on the type of horse and its function. The keg shoe is the most common, designed for pleasure riding and normal activity. Other shoes may contain raised areas to improve traction and cut down on the shoe's wear or wider soles to support draft and other working horses. The general shape of a horseshape is a "U," although some racing horses will wear shoes with the toe squared off and other horses, like saddlebreds, will have a very narrow shoe called a toe shoe to fit their particular gait.