Horseshoes ~ Lucky Ups & Downs


“No wonder skies upon you frown,
You’ve nailed the horse-shoe upside down;
Just turn it round, and soon you’ll see
How you and Fortune will agree.”

~ James T. Fields

The world over horseshoes are a symbol of good luck. I’m not overly superstitious but I am endlessly curious.  I’ve always liked horseshoe art and I grew up tossing horseshoes in the back yard…so what makes a horseshoe “lucky”? Is just any old horsehoe a “lucky” horseshoe?

Turns out there are some Lucky Horseshoe Rules: A truly lucky horseshoe has been used (not new), or found (not purchased).

In all traditions, luck (good or bad) is contained in the shoe and can pour out through the ends. In regions where the horseshoe is placed facing upward, folks believe the horseshoe must point up “or the luck runs out.” In places where it is hung facing downward they say exactly the opposite — “it must point down so the luck can pour onto you.” However, in its function as an amulet for magical protection, especially over the doorways of barns and stables, the horseshoe usually points downward and it is said that “no evil or witch will pass under it.”

So, where did this horseshoe luck come from?

Horseshoes were actually used by the Greeks as early as the 4th Century B.C. Since horses were believed to be one of the most sacred of animals, their crescent-shaped shoes became symbols of good luck. The origin is also believed to be tied to the proscribed magical powers of iron. Iron is considered lucky because it is born from the marriage of rock and fire, two of the basic elements in ancient times. Blacksmiths, makers and users of iron, were alchemical masters of the elements and their byproducts. Accordingly, their creations were believed to be endowed with supernatural powers.

Another aspect of the horseshoe that added to it’s good luck was the fact that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails. Since ancient times, the number seven was considered very important. Life was divided into seven ages; a rainbow has seven colors; astrology once held that seven planets made up the universe; there are seven deadly sins; a seventh child was thought to have special powers; there are seven days in a week; the moon changes from one phase to another every seven days.

One reputed origin of the tradition of lucky horseshoes is the story of Saint Dunstan and the Devil. Dunstan, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury in AD 959, was a blacksmith by trade. The story relates that he once nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to reshoe the Devil’s hoof. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door.

Some believe that if guests come to a house where a horseshoe is above the door, they must leave by the same door through which they entered or they will take the luck from the horseshoe with them from the house.

How ’bout you?  Any horseshoes hanging ’round?  Do you hang them up, or hang them down? 🙂

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40 thoughts on “Horseshoes ~ Lucky Ups & Downs”

  1. Nope, not hanging any horseshoes but I love hearing about how the superstition came about and how different people view it.

    Like the dream catcher…some say it catches the bad dreams, some say it releases the good dreams and ‘captures’ the bad. 🙂


  2. Hi Stacy, I love your info on horseshoes. I have 3 very old ones and they are up the right way. Thanks for the great post.
    Happy reading

  3. Fascinating blog, Stacey. I didn’t know anything about horseshoes or why people hung them up. No horseshoes around my place, but maybe my luck would improve if I found one. Thanks for a great start to my day.

  4. I have a horseshoe over the two exterior doors in our house, though mine weren’t ever used on a horse. I do hang them upright- to the tune of keeping the luck and not letting it “run” out.

    I also have a dreamcatcher to the belief that the bad dreams get “caught in the web”. I used to keep it on the wall directly over my side of the bed, but I kept having nightmares. Moved it across the room on the opposite wall from me and though I have “bad” dreams from time to time, it’s not the same as it was before then. (I’m a superstitious sort) LOL

    I didn’t know there was so much more info about horseshoes though…thanks for sharing.

  5. Thank you, Elizabeth! Glad I could supply some new info 🙂 Ya know, we had to take ours down for the remodel, and all my luck musta spilled out *lol* Either that or I must have some really good luck headed my way to balance out the past six months. Crazy thing, luck 😉

    The Tibetan prayer flags sound really neat!

  6. Wow, interesting about the dreamcatcher, Taryn. When my horseshoe gets rehung it will be ends up as well 🙂 I bought mine in Texas–and the tag said it was luck *lol*

    Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Wow–very interesting, Stacey! I don’t think I’d know that about horseshoes before. So there’s no consensus for pointing up or down? We don’t have any horseshoes to hang, but should I find one, I’d want to do it properly 😉

  8. No horseshoes in my house…I have an Irish chime hanging over my bed… when the air hits it, it plays soft music! 😀
    Dream Catchers are nice… my parents have a really large one hanging in their house!

  9. Hi Stacey,

    I haven’t been able to post all week because of work and kids so I’m just now catching up on all the posts. So congratulations to Patricia for her book deal and thanks to Linda for her info on the poor house. For some reason that really struck me hard maybe because of all the economic downturns that are occurring daily.

    Anyway hope things start looking up for you. My good thoughts are headed your way.

    Thanks for the info on horseshoes. I truly learn something new every day on P&P.

    Have a great weekend.

  10. I have some old ones that I hand up right also,I always heard that your luck could run out if they hang upside down,so who knows,thanks

  11. This isn’t about the lucky charm but…we have neighbors that are serious horse nuts. (in a good way) 🙂
    They enter rodeos and use horses to ride their herd daily.
    They had a 24 or 25 year old son die in a car accident and they made his headstone, the father did it himself, welding horseshoes together, about the height of a regular headstone, 3 or 4 feet high 2 or 3 feet wide.
    It’s a very unusual and personal thing.

  12. this horseshoe thing reminds me of why research is both enthralling and irritating.
    I wanted to use the term…He treats me like a lucky rabbit’s foot.
    He treats me like a lucky horseshoe.
    He treats me like a lucky charm.

    You know, one tiny sentence, related in no way to the deep, important background of my story.
    And yet…did they use a term like that back then.
    When did they start with the lucky rabbit’s foot, lucky horseshoe, lucky charm….

    It just stopped me and I started looking for the roots of those types of lucky charms.

  13. Oh, I’ll add this. My husband is a seventh son.
    So, the old saying was ‘the seventh son of a seventh son will have special gifts’

    So, about the time our FOURTH DAUGHTER was born, we pretty much gave up on that!!!

    Actually far, far earlier. Like one heartbeat after the word Seven (pertaining to having that many children) was uttered. ;D

  14. LOL Mary!!! Well, my hubby is a SIXTH son, but he was born on 7-7-70 😀 Funny thing is that when I was growing up my absolute favorite shirt for years was this orange baseball jersey with a while number 7 on it — weird omen??? But as for MY lucky number, it’s 6. Both my boys were on the sixth day of their month…and well, my hubby was a sixth son. So I guess three lucky 6’s counter-effect the usual bad omen with that line up 😉

  15. Oh gosh, Mary–what a special and heartbreaking memorial for your neighbors. Thanks for sharing.

    I know what you mean about wanting to find concrete FACTS *lol* That’s the thing about folklore–it’s specified the varrying traditions of the area. I’m thinking luck charms are about as old as time 😉

  16. I’m sure their hung right, Vickie 🙂 I’d always thought they were hung with the ends down, as that’s what I’d seen in barns. But I tend to go with the whole “holding luck” theory *g* Well, my lucky horseshoe has a silver star conch on it, so the ends have to point up or my star is upside down, and that’s got to be luck *LOL* Guess you also have to believe in the power of PERCEPTIONS *G*

  17. Sorry about that hour and a half interruption–you’d have thought the horseshoes would have kept the site safe from web gremlins 😉

    Guess virtual luck doesn’t work the same way 🙂

    Now back to our regularly scheduled program….

  18. Hi Estella! I’m so used to seeing them pointed up now, when I see them down it looks wrong…but perhaps I should be rushing under those to catch me some good luck sprinkles 😉

  19. My lucky number is actually 13 imho.
    My first born was born 13 days early on Friday the 13th. It was also Good Friday.
    Head measurement 13 inches each.
    Her name-13 letters long.
    And I was in labor………13 hours.

    We figured all this out later except for the birthday. So I refuse to fear the number 13. 🙂

  20. Stacey- Your husband and I share a birthday. Sevens have always been lucky for me. Guess where I was on 07/07/07? Las Vegas. But no, I didn’t win, but I sure saw a lot of brides and grooms that day!
    Great blog about horseshoes and now I’m wondering why I don’t have a horseshoe in my very western office!!

  21. The only horseshoes we have around the house are the ones we play with, except for one very thin old one. Interesting to see how very thin a horseshoe some poor horse was wearing.

  22. Wow, Charlene, you’re the first person I’ve met who shares his birthday. Vegas–how fun!! Makes for an easy date to remember, doesn’t it–they’ll be no forgetting those anniversaries 😉

  23. I didn’t know there were good luck stories as to which way the horse shoe should be hung. I got to the bottom of the blog on them and found the question: “How ’bout you? Any horseshoes hanging ’round? Do you hang them up, or hang them down?” I didn’t think there were any for miles around, though there are lots of old cowboys in this “neck of the woods”, just hadn’t noticed the shoes. But I saw TWO today! They were together on an old nail in an old shop. Not mounted on that nail, but hanging on it which means they are definitely down. Probably no one has touched them for at least months if not some years. If they were bought new, it was a LONG time ago because they are rusted. They look worn down, rounded on the edges, so probably they had at one time been used. The shop they are hanging in belonged to a old army surplus and steel yard. My husband is a cowboy at heart, still wears the boots, but no longer has a horse. Bet he has some shoes around, horse that is, I better go ask him and see which way he hung his!

  24. When I grew up, my Dad always hung a horseshoe over our back door. I cannot say it brought us good luck as we were so poor.

  25. Hello, I have heard the story about hanging horseshoes both ways…So I have them hung both ways around the house. I have four horses so we are always finding horseshoes LOL. Thanks for the info…

  26. I have a horse shoe that has been used and found by my grand father alot of years ago, i would like to hang it up in my room for good luck but are worried if i hang it up the wrong way will it bring me bad luck??

  27. Hello, in my home my parents put horseshoes up in my room and my brothers, and a few other rooms too I believe. When my brother was younger, he’d tell my mom that he was playing with a little boy named Michael. It turned out that he’d died in our house in a kitchen fire. Its creeped me out for years, because I was moved into his room and he into another. I’ve never encountered it. But I’m 19 now, and my brother is 26, but my mom told me that they placed a bible under our mattress and the horseshoes pointing upward to protect my brother. So horseshoes must protect against spirits as well huh? My fiance is a team roper and thought they were to be hung pointing down. But seeing I haven’t seen any ghosts, I suggest pointing upwards. =]

  28. my gut feng shuish feeling is this…above the head/threashold…down…eye level or below..up
    it would all be in releation to your heart.
    i have 2..time to hang’em

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