While the horseshoe is recognized by many as a symbol of good luck, there is no consensus on the right position to hang the horseshoe to solicit or share that good luck. Some feel it's best hung open-end up to collect luck, while others hang it open-end down to share the luck with others. Generally it is best to hang the horseshoe above an entry door outside, on a barn wall or even on an interior wall as both decor and a good luck charm. Used horseshoes are deemed by some to draw the most luck.
The Horseshoe's Lucky History
Several different legends lay claim to the horseshoe as a symbol of good luck. Ultimately, different cultures and generations of people have their own stories of how the 'shoe came to symbolize good fortune. One popular version goes back to the late 10th century in Ireland. In this tale, the blacksmith Saint Dunstan is visited by the devil in disguise, who asks for horseshoes for his hooves. Dunstan recognizes the character as the devil and shoes him with hot horseshoes, causing immense pain. When the devil asks for the painful shoe to be removed, Dunstan agrees only if the devil assures that he won't visit any structure with a horseshoe hanging upon it.
Another version of a lucky horseshoe tale goes back to the 400 BCE, when Celtic tribes migrated through Britain and Europe. They believed small elves and goblins from the forests wreaked havoc by kidnapping babies, preventing cows from giving milk and preventing hens from laying eggs. The Celts also believed the elves and goblins feared metal weapons_iron in particular. The horseshoe symbol hung on the outside of a building also resembled the crescent moon, a well-known symbol used by many cultures to fend off evil and keep witches away. According to the folklore of the time, witches feared both horses and horseshoes.
Open End Up or Down?
No matter which way you hang a horseshoe, it's designed to bring luck and prevent misfortune. Hang it open-end up to collect good luck above a doorway or on an exterior wall of a barn, home or other structure. Hang it open-end down above a doorway to share good luck with all passing through. Or feel free to mix thing up by hanging one horseshoe to collect luck in one area of a home and another to share the luck above an entry door.
How to Hang a Horseshoe
- Choose a location to hang the horseshoe, such as above an entry door on the outside of a barn or workshop. There's no right or wrong placement for it as long as the horseshoe is secure. Go with what looks good to you. If the shoe has seven or more holes, use seven nails, as seven is also considered a lucky number.
- Stand on a sturdy ladder and position the horseshoe in your chosen location with open-end up or down, based on personal preference.
- Enlist a friend's help to ensure the entire horseshoe is visible from ground level nearby. If not, move it up slightly.
- Use a ruler or tape measure to ensure both sides of the horseshoe are at the same height. Adjust as needed.
- Mark the ideal location on the wall with a pencil. Make dots inside each hole on the shoe for nail positioning. Also, mark where the ends of the shoe rest.
- Remove the horseshoe and drill small pilot holes for the nails using a 1/16-inch drill bit.
- Place the horseshoe back up in its proper location and nail it in place. Use square-cut iron nails for a rustic, classic look. Iron is also part of the good luck superstition attributed to horseshoes. If using iron nails, make they fit through the holes in the horseshoe before you buy them.
You don't need to create new nail holes to hang a horseshoe on a wall. Feel free to hang it from an existing hook or protrusion using floral wire to secure it temporarily. Hang several horseshoes in a horizontal line above a doorway or on a reclaimed barn board hung as a decorative piece. Attaching the horseshoes to a scrap of wood instead of the wall allows you to take them down and rehang them whenever you like, or to place the entire piece in a different room from time to time.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.