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Since the invention of hard road surfaces, a centaur would need to wear metal shoes like any other horse-like creature.

Can you see any barrier to a suitably qualified centaur

(a) being a blacksmith/farrier and

(b) shoeing him or herself when the need arises?

Notes

If possible I'd like answers from people who have knowledge of horses and their anatomy - and especially farriers of course!

I included the biology tag because anatomy and veterinary science were not available.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can't he just.... use his weight and "step" into the nails of the shoe? $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know. That's why I'm hoping some horse experts will chip in! It sounds like a plan though. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Helpful information - How to shoe a horse - I don't usually like wikihow, but it seems decent. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ If they are technologically advanced maybe they could wear some kind of durable shoe or boot that provides some shock absorption. Maybe something like dragonhide in a fantasy setting. Walking on roads with an iron shoe has to be unpleasant. $\endgroup$
    – Beo
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Before the centaur puts horseshoes on, it will need to trim it's hooves first. So what sort of nail-scissors would a centaur have? Maybe a nail-file-like floor instead? If the centaur can keep it's hooves well looked after, then it is unlikely to need horseshoes, right? Anyhow, they would far more likely wear en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoof_boot than nail lumps of metal to their feet. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 14:48

8 Answers 8

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Short answer: A centaur can't reach his own hooves, but can reach the hooves of others by lying down or kneeling. One centaur can maintain the hooves of another.

Better answer: There are a few reasons why horses wear shoes: to keep their hooves from cracking on paved roads; to gain better grip on cobblestones, in slippery conditions, or during races; and fashion (some horse shoes have a leather portion against the hoof to make them look nice for horse shows.) Centaurs would wear shoes for the exact same reasons.

If centaurs built a city, I doubt they would pave the roads, per se. They would probably install something akin to a polo pitch, which could be tended by horses, goats, etc. who would eat the grass and keep the pitch clear for centaurs to gallop through.

Hale and hearty centaurs would likely not need shoes or a farrier because they would take plenty of exercise in the fields where they don't need shoes and will wear down the hooves enough that they don't need trimming. Sick centaurs who can't run around for a time would grow hooves that would need trimming. The need for a farrier would probably be associated with poor health and would thus be stigmatized.

For humans, long fingernails are associated with a life of leisure because one cannot work manual labor and maintain long nails. You might think this would be the same for centaurs and their hooves but it only applies to their fingernails. The hooves are a centaur's toenails and nobody has anything good to say about long toenails. In fact, excessively grown hooves can cripple a horse or centaur.

Because shoes can only be installed by another centaur, they would be essential indicators of civility and sociability - you can't have shoes if you can't get someone willing to put them on you. Shoes would be a status symbol. The fancier and more difficult they are to put on, the better, because it means that someone else took a lot of time to service your feet.

Barefoot centaurs would include: barbarians/wild centaurs; low class, poor, or rural centaurs; those who prefer to live a simpler life (hippy centaurs); and higher class centaurs who are counter-cultural for some reason (maybe in protest).

Rich, high status centaurs would flaunt their wealth and status with elaborate, difficult shoes. Military centaurs would have studded shoes for difficult terrain. Athletes would have specialize shoes for their sport. (Race horses wear lightweight shoes for racing. These wear out after just one use. Their only purpose is to reinforce the foot for the duration of the race.) Injured centaurs would wear remedial shoes to repair their gait and help them heal.

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    $\begingroup$ My mom has owned and trained horses her whole life, so I asked her. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't even know that horses could kneel down but now, having looked online I see they can. As you say, the social effects of needing someone else to put on your shoes are quite profound - I hadn't thought about that. I also like the idea that cities would be different although I intend a mix of centaurs and humans. - Say thanks to your mom as well! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ Mutual-grooming is a thing, you just ask your partner/parents to fit your shoes before doing the same for them. Shoe-'shiners' could work the street corners as they do in many places. Manicures are a thing, even hippies help each other braid/dread their hair. No reason why this act of grooming would be different. $\endgroup$
    – bp.
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ paving is less for wear and more to keep the well worn ground from turning into deep mud during a rain. this problem might be even worse for centaurs, so expect paving. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 21:33
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In both cases, size is a problem.

In terms of being a blacksmith/farrier, the issue is height. If a centaur is a "normal" horse's body with a "normal" human torso in place of neck/head, since the center of a horse's torso is about 4 feet off the ground, that puts normal shoulder height for the trunk about 6 feet up. It would be an enormous strain on the farrier to have to bend over far enough to get access to the hooves.

And the second part, can a centaur shoe himself, is worse. Unless the standard centaur is based on a pony body, the body is just too damn big. E.g. this Testing Two Methods of Estimating Horse Weight page gives a rough estimate for length for a 1300 lb horse as somewhere in excess of 5 feet. From hips to shoulders on a standard human is in the vicinity of 2 feet. Even assuming a massively flexible spine on the human part, allowing a 180 degree twist, a standing centaur can't reach its own rear hooves. And trying to do it lying down, with the torso bending down and around the stomach while the rear legs are pulled forwards, would seem to require an improbable hip/spine flexibility.

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  • $\begingroup$ Okay, so a small centaur based on, say, a Shetland pony would be more suitable to become a farrier than would a cart-horse based centaur. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK - Yeah, well, but. The contortions required to get access to the hoof surfaces are still pretty extreme. And somehow pony-sized centaurs lack a certain something in the awesomeness department. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast - It takes all sorts - they can't all be heroes! I've been wondering about the flexibility thing. If they drop their keys, they must have a heck of a job bending down to pick them up. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ Not wanting to depend on child labor or little people, my centaur shoe shop would come equipped with shoeing pits and/or platforms, so that the shooee's feet will be at a comfortable height for the shoe-er to work. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ @DougWarren - Yes that would help. What about the self-shoeing centaur though - do you have a suitable equipment idea? You know, saving all that bending and stretching which may not even be possible. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 15:21
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This is a little lateral but i think it applies I don't think centaurs would use horseshoes. Horseshoes are put on horses because they are stupid. You need to add something that fits snug, and the horse will not remove. I think centaurs would wear shoes more like humans. They should put them on in the morning and then take them of at night. With their hands they could handle lacing the shoe.
Reaching the back feet may be hard, but it is defiantly easier than nailing in a horseshoe even if you do need to do it more than once. Perhaps a tool could exist to help lace the shoes if aid from others is not available I think it is very unlikely that a sentient creature would like to have something nailed on to it, even if it is not painfull

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  • $\begingroup$ You make some interesting points. From the answers of others I am beginning to think it would be difficult for them to reach their feet at all. Lacing up boots on their back legs would be a real stretch. I wonder if nailing shoes on would be such a problem for them. In the world I envisage, their are humans, horses, and centaurs. I think that, when centaurs saw how useful metal shoes were for horses, especially on hard surfaces, they might decide they want them too. On the other hand, cities might be designed with special soft walkways just for horses and centaurs. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 14:25
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Is a centaur who insists on shoeing his own feet like a human who insists on cutting his own hair? Or more like one who insists on doing their own dental work?

At any rate, I've never shoed a horse, or indeed even done my own cobbling work, but if I was the last centaur on Earth--er, Narnia?-- I'd probably try to use molds to get an idea of the shape of my hooves. If I had access to plaster-of-paris, that'd be ideal, but maybe even mud would work. I'd step into the goo while it was soft, wait for it to set up, then use the resulting mold as a model for my farrier work. If I really wanted to get fancy, I would use that "negative" mold to cast a positive copy of my foot by pouring yet more goop in it and waiting for that to set.

I could use that to shape the shoe, but I don't know how I'd affix the shoe to my hooves. Maybe if I had access to a power drill I could mount it sticking up out of the floor, and very carefully drill out a hole, but I still don't know how I'd get the nail in, unless I just stomped it in. Even so, I've never heard of a centaur with a power drill.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, if the centaur is away from civilisation, he might need to shoe his own feet. A few spare shoes in a saddle bag would be a sensible precaution. The power drill idea sets my teeth on edge but I suppose it could be done. Again, not away from civilisation though. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ If he is away from civilization, does he need shoes? I consider how men living basically in the woods, away from civilization, tend to have pony-tails and beards. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ Be careful with plaster of Paris. Setting generates heat and people have been injured. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ But even if you've never shoed a horse, there's no reason not to learn about the process: youtube.com/watch?v=bUpDpFoSegw $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 21:29
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I think in a society where centaurs exist it seems likely that shoes would look different. Probably something akin to ski boots that they could step into and have click into place and then be removed with a bit of cross legged stepping on switches at the back to release the clasps and step out again. More ornate shoes with decorative bits that go up the leg like ribbons and such would probably require a stool to lift a leg on to so the human arms could more reasonably reach these and would be limited to the forequarters as opposed to the hind.

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They could have a machine that had all 8 drill bits sticking up vertically in the correct horseshoe nail locations, and were only half an inch or so long. It would have a simple controller attached to a wire. This way they could just turn it on, step on it with each foot, then just step on the horse shoes that probably have all 8 nails built in. The nails would be slightly thicker than the holes.

Other idea that I just thought of, you get a magnetic plate hammered into your hoove one time, and that way you can just put a shoe on. When it wears out, slide a new one on.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like both your ideas, especially the magnetic one. I'm not 100% sure how secure it would be when galloping. Do you have a design in mind? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ Assuming an advanced society with machines, note that some modern farriers use glue for their horseshoes - I could imagine a pre-packaged horseshoe that the centaur steps into, glue dries, centaur removes any guiding plastic that helped get it in the right spot. - The real problem is then the first part of shoeing a horse, which is removing the old shoe, cleaning, and trimming. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it has holes in it, and the horse shoe has prongs that fit in the holes, and all is magnetic, so it would be much more secure $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ A horse's hoof grows, similar to toe-nails - which is why it needs to be trimmed, and why you couldn't have the magnetic plate hammered in just once $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ What about a magnetic plate that is smaller than the hoove? So you could still trim $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 18:14
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There are a lot more to horseshoes than just nail one iron shoes.

Hipposandals are tieon or buckled horse shoes, and are easily removable, a big bonus ofr an intelligent species.

enter image description here.

most shoes these days are glue one shoes which reduce the risk of splitting the hoof, since centaurs are intelligent I doubt shoes need to be nailed on. Perhaps for soldiers or slaves. enter image description here

Then you have woven shoes, wooden wide bogshoes for soft ground, anti-fungal copper shoes, there is a large variety of horse shoes and I expect an intelligent hooves species to come up with many more just as humans have come up with thousands of types of shoes for different things. enter image description here

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Well, having seen the very useful answers of others, an idea has just occurred to me.

Surely the centaur farrier could use long-handled tools in conjunction with a mirror. The only problem about this, is making a hammer that can work around corners.

I think that the drilling and stomping idea that has been put forward is possible. In these days, all sorts of electronic and electrical devices could be designed, as well as using a personalised jig for each hoof.

Even hand-driven tools that were floor-mounted would have been possible in pre-industrial times with the necessary ingenuity.

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    $\begingroup$ I thought about making an answer similar to this myself. I think its possible, but unlikely. There are two main complications: 1 - Your hands are working opposite of what you are used to seeing due to the mirrors. 2 - It is like you are working from way farther away , meaning you can't see as clearly. Imagine trying to shine and clean your boot without bending over or taking it off - Oh, and you might have to trim the bottom, you'll want to make sure its even or you might walk funny. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 16:38

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