Over the ages, horses have symbolised various things, from life, prosperity and the sanctity of marriage, to pride, death and even war. It is unsurprising that with such great interest in the horse, many superstitions have arisen.
Besides superstitions are old wives’ tales and idioms; things like ‘dark horse,’ ‘from the horse’s mouth,’ ‘on your high horse’ and ‘hold your horses’ that we say every day without thinking about. All have their roots in history.
In many cultures, the horse is heralded as a luck-bringer, a symbol of riches and innocence, while in others, it is considered a dark and evil omen. To the Spanish and Hungarians, black horses are considered lucky, while in France, quite the opposite is true.
In Wales, it is the grey horses to watch out for, as many believe they summon death. The Trojan Horse was a Greek subterfuge used to destroy the city of Troy - a tale that signposts for many the beginning of the horse's dark associations.
When it comes to white horses, the symbolism is unclear. In England and Germany, dreaming of a white horse is thought to signal imminent death, although historically, the white horse was believed to denote victory, strength and fertility.
Because truly white horses are rare, from the earliest times they were thought to possess exceptional qualities that set them apart from other horses.
Despite being mythological, unicorns are nearly always white, suggesting that the white horse is the one boasting purity and power. Pegasus also happened to be white, with wings that gave it an image of freedom, holiness and immortality.
Many equestrians have personal superstitions they live and ride by, including rituals they perform before competing, lucky clothing items they wear for important events, and so forth. If you have any horsey superstitions that you swear by, please share them with us! We would love to hear from you :)
Here we take a look at some of the world's superstitions and old wives' tales - if you know of any more, please let us know!
- Changing a horse's name brings bad luck
- Leading a white horse through the house banishes evil
- Horse brasses protect horses from witches and the evil eye
- Plaiting a horse's tail wards off the devil
- A horse neighing at the door of a house bodes sickness for its inhabitants
- Horses standing with their backs to a hedge signals rain
- Sitting backwards on a horse is a cure for toothache and snakebites
- Inhaling horse breath is a cure for whooping cough
- Horses with four white feet are unlucky
- Mounting a horseshoe above a doorway brings luck and banishes nightmares when placed above a bedroom door
- Seeing a grey horse on the way to church is lucky for the bride and groom
- Owning a white horse prevents early death
- Chopped horse-hairs fed to children in bread and butter cures worms
While some of these superstitions are more convincing than others i.e. that changing a horse's name brings bad luck and mounting horseshoes on fence posts and stable doors wards off evil, others are just plain crazy! If you have any comments on this discussion, please post them below or email me directly: [email protected]
Written by: Hannah Dyball