Horseshoes are one of the most well known good luck charms that exists in this age. Most every culture considers them lucky. In this post I wanted to share my thoughts on horseshoes, what I've been taught about them and why I hang them. Horse lore really cannot be seperated from horseshoe lore IMO, but I'm not going to go into horse lore in this post.
Who nailed the first shoe to the hoof of a domesticated horse is a piece of information lost in history, but most sources agree that it started sometime around 1000AD in Europe. In Catholic tradition, St. Eligius is credited with performing a miracle related to getting a horse shod. For those of us whose ancestors were pioneers in America, horses were important to their survival in the culture and time they were born into. The horse's ability to work and cover distances had to be protected at whatever cost. Horseshoes protected the foundation of the horse, the horse provided the family with the ability to travel, grow more food (by pulling a plow), and hunt a larger area. If the family's horses weren't properly shod, the survival of a pioneer family could be in jepardy. The horseshoe protected the foundation of the horse, and in doing so protected the basis for the survival of the family. This connection with protection and provision is the link that crosses over into sympathetic magic regarding 'good luck' in my opinion.
You may have heard elders say that the luckiest horseshoes are those that fall off on their own. My understanding of this has always been that the shoe and hoof released each other, the horse having worn the shoe well and being in need of a new one, the shoe having completed it's purpose and accepting transition. I've never saw any of my grandparents just throw away or toss aside horseshoes that were found in the fields after falling off the horses. They were always picked up and hung up over a doorway or window. At my Grandpa's place, the house has one horseshoe over each door and window. The barns, smokehouse, henhouse, etc. all have a large number of shoes over each one, since worn out shoes are always hung. Good luck in the barns = prosperity for the family.
My Grandpa always hung horseshoes over the door with the opening downward "to allow the luck to run out over the family when they enter the house". My Grandma always attached a ribbon to them and hung them with the opening facing up "so we keep our luck and don't let it all run out". I believe this is one of those instances where "whatever feels right" is the best method. By all means if you've been taught a specific way to hang horseshoes then honor your tradition, but if not, go with whatever method feels most powerful.
Over at luckymojo.com catherine yronwode has written that there may be reason to believe that the crescent shape of the horshoe is related to symbolism for pagan moon Goddesses. I like that idea and it figures in to the symbolism I personally see in my own horseshoes that are hanging in my home. It's not something I gleaned from my elders when I was taught why we hang horseshoes, but it's one of those wonderful additions I've made due to our ability to share ideas on the 'net in this time. Lore regarding horses and iron can also come into play, and add more levels to the magic surrounding the use of horseshoes as charms or talismans.