The dog might be man’s best friend, but if any creature has truly been a partner to humanity it is the horse. First domesticated over five thousand years ago, the horse completely changed the course of human history. The ability to ride horses unlocked much of the world for us and allowed people to travel further and faster than than ever before. Horses changed the way that humans fought. In war, mounted cavalry became a deadly new standard. Horses changed agriculture. Farmers could use horses to accomplish some of the heavy lifting which they themselves had previously had to tackle. (1)
Since the invention of the automobile, the roles of horses in the everyday lives of most people have sharply diminished. Many of us no longer encounter horses regularly. So, their impact and importance is easily forgotten. Were it not for the horse, though, humanity would simply not be where we are today. In this article we will celebrate the strengths of the horse and examine this fascinating animal’s role in various human cultures around the globe!
Table of contents
- Horse Symbolism and meaning
- Horse Native American Symbolism
- Horse Eastern Symbolism
- Horse Christianity Symbolism
- Horse Celtic Symbolism
- Horse African Symbolism
- Horse in Dreams
- Horse Encounters and Omens
- Horse’ Mythology and Folklore
- Horse Spirit Animal
- Horse Totem Animal
- Horse Power Animal
- Horse Tattoo Meaning
Horse symbolism and meaning
Horses hold significant positions in the myths and cultural traditions of many different civilizations. It seems that wherever horses have been, they have left a major impact. Some of the more common themes associated with horses include freedom and passion. Wild horses represent the wild freedom of the untouched open landscapes where they are found, although they are found with increasingly scarcity. Additionally, horses embody freedom because, before the automobile was invented, a horse was the best way for a person to get around. Looking to travel? To escape difficult circumstances? To feel the wind against your face? A horse was absolutely the way to go. They represented wanderlust, self determination, and the promise of the open road.
Horses also represent war, strength, and power. Horses and mounted warriors have been partners for thousands of years and have clashed in bloody conflicts all over the world. War horses are mighty beasts who represent discipline, ferocity, strength, and violence.
Horses also represent femininity and fertility. In many cultures, mares are seen as divinely feminine and horses are associated with the fertility and maternity of nature. On the flip side of this, stallions are often connected with masculinity, virility, and potency. Male sexuality is often connected with horses.
As a wild animal, horses are uncontrollable. When lovingly raised and trained, however, horses become loyal and surprisingly docile, though personalities differ and some horses remain quite stubborn. Horses may then represent loyalty, cooperation, and agreeability. (2)
Horse Native American symbolism
It is widely believed that Native American tribes did not have horses until European explorers introduced them to the continent. This is the general consensus of historians who have tracked the movements of domesticated horses throughout history. Despite this, Native American tribes have many legends involving how the horse was created and brought to the people. A growing contingent of Natives historians insist that horses existed on the continent and in the lives of Native Americans before colonization. The fossil record supports this, however some still theorize that horses in the Americas went extinct after the Ice Age and were reintroduced during the Age of Exploration. In any case, here are some of the ideas connected with horses in Native American cultures. (3)
According to the Navajo, horses represent the four directions. The hero Turquoise Boy brought horses to the people after visiting the herds of horses that the Sun used to ride across the sky. (4)
According to a Pawnee myth, all domesticated horses came from one woman. In this story, a man found a wild spotted horse and brought it home to his wife to care for. She diligently took care of the horse until one day, the animal disappeared. In its place, she found a handsome man wearing a horse’s skin. The man thanked her for caring for him and explained that he was the spotted horse. She fell in love with the man and they went away together. When they had their first child, the child was a spotted horse and not a human. As the years went on, the woman began to grow a horse’s tail until she resembled a horse herself. Having heard rumors of the horse family, the people tracked them down and captured her children which became the horses that they rode. (5)
According to a Tejas myth, all of America’s feral horses came from a giant blue horse which a Spanish explorer brought to them. The horse was huge and fierce and only one Native American man ever dared to ride it. One day, this man saw a Spaniard atop a giant horse. Scared, the man fired an arrow at the Spaniard and he fell from the horse. The horse turned on the man, but the man didn’t know the words that the Spanish used to communicate with horses. The injured Spaniard offered to teach him to speak to the horse in exchange for his life. The young man agreed and with his teacher’s help became the first horseman of the Tejas. Because no other Native Americans could speak the language of the horse, when his rider eventually died they were too scared to ride him and they turned him loose. He roamed the prairies and had many children which became the wild horses of the Americas. (6)
Horse Eastern Symbolism
In Japanese culture, horses are connected with the gods and with divinity. According to ancient Japanese legends, when the divine spirit comes down from heaven he does so on the back of a great horse. (7)
The horse is the sixth animal of the Chinese zodiac and is said to embody energy, cheerfulness, enthusiasm and independence. (8)
Horse Christianity symbolism
Horses in biblical symbolism have a lot of different meanings. One of the familiar connections to horses in the Bible is the mounts on which the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride.
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.”— Revelations 6:7-9 (11)
Horses appear in many other sections of the Bible, but they usually do so in the context of wars or conflicts wherein horsemen and chariots clash on the battlefield. (14)
Horse Celtic symbolism
Horses play a super significant role in Celtic cultural traditions. One of the most important female deities of early Celtic cultures was Epona or Macha. This goddess appears in the form of a horse and represents fertility and sovereignty.
In the Irish epic the Tain Bo Cuailnge, the men of Ireland are cursed because they disrespected this goddess. According to this story, the goddess was the wife of a man of Ulster who boasted that she was the fastest person around. He would force her to race against horses. One time, he insisted that she race whilst heavily pregnant. She begged him not to make her race, but he insisted. So, she raced the horses and won and gave birth to twin horses just as she crossed the finish line. As vengeance for the pain and disrespect of this situation, she cursed all of the Ulster men so that they would be incapacitated during their time of greatest need. (15)
In the Mabinogi, the queen goddess Rhiannon is seen at a distance riding slowly on a horse. The king Pwyll falls in love with her and tries to approach her. No matter how fast he runs, his horse cannot catch up to hers, even though her horse is only walking. When he finally calls out to her, she stops and they marry. When they have their first child, the baby is snatched from the cradle just after being born. Rhiannon is blamed and forced to carry people into court on her back, like a horse, as punishment. The stolen child is found in a stable and raised alongside horses until he is old enough and begins to resemble his mother. When he is returned to her, she is vindicated and her name is cleared. (16)
Celtic myths often connect horses with childbirth, justice, vengeance, and kingship. (17)
Horse African symbolism
Egyptian traditions connected horses with nobility, wealth, power, and the upper echelons of Egyptian society.
In some parts of Africa, horses are connected with the harvest and the fertility of the land. Greek mythology states that the Pegasus, a winged horse, was found in Ethiopia. (18)
Horse in dreams
Dreaming of horses represents hope, freedom, optimism, and forward momentum. If you’ve been seeing horses in your dreams, this is a sign that you are moving in the right direction.
Horse dreams often indicate one’s life journey. Dreaming of a wild horse might mean that your journey will lead to unexpected places. Dreaming of a race horse might mean that your journey may lead you in circles. Dreaming of a trail horse means that you’re on the right track.
Dreaming of a herd of horses represents the protection of the family. Keep in mind what is important to you and guard your peace no matter what.
Dreaming of a pregnant horse or a horse with a foal represents tenderness and happy returns. If you are gentle and kind then your efforts will be fruitful.
Horse encounters and omens
Encountering a horse might symbolize a number of things. An encounter with a wild horse might mean that one feels trapped and should try shaking up their routine and exploring the world more.
Encountering a working horse might be a good reminder to be dutiful and industrious. People will trust you with important matters if they know that you are reliable and down to earth.
A horse with a star shape on its forehead is said to be good luck for the future.
Because dark horses often symbolize underdogs or unexpected events, encountering a dark or black horse might be a sign to be prepared to think on your feet and roll with the punches of whatever comes next.
Encountering a pinto horse is a sign to express oneself creatively.
Horse mythology and folklore
Horses feature prominently in Greek mythology. According to the myth of Perseus, Perseus rode upon a winged Pegasus when he defeated the evil gorgon Medusa. Greek myths also connect horses with the sea. Poseidon, the god of the sea, is also the god of horses. Some stories say that horses were created from sea foam. Poseidon is said to have fathered Pegasus. (18)
According to Norse mythology, the trickster god Loki once turned himself into a mare to trick a craftsman into finishing his work late. IF the craftsman was not stopped, he would have to be paid untold riches by the gods, including the sun and moon. So, Loki distracted his horse in the form of a mare. As a result, Loki gave birth to a horse with eight legs named Sleipnir. Sleipnir was Odin’s favorite horse. (19)
According to Hindu mythology, Krishna, the messenger of god Vishnu, killed a demon horse by the name of Keshi in a duel. This Luciferian being is described as killing unborn children, having great speed, and an enormous horse body. (20)
Horse spirit animal
If your spirit animal is the horse then you are a free spirit who has a tendency to be headstrong and stubborn. The horse spirit animal hates feeling controlled or confined and loves to express itself freely.
People with the horse as their spirit animal tend to be competitive and willful. This is because they pour their passion into everything that they do. If the horse is your spirit animal remember that competition is supposed to be fun, not just stressful! (21)
Horse totem animal
The horse totem animal is connected with energy and virility. People with the horse as their totem attack each day with vim and vigor. The horse totem hates wasting time and believes that everything worth doing is worth putting in 110% of your energy.
The horse totem animal loves to try new things, but may grow frustrated if they don’t succeed at first. The horse totem is talented and needs a reminder once in a while that not everything will be as easy as the things that they are naturally gifted in. As long as the passion is there, though, the horse totem can triumph.
Horse power animal
The horse power animal is connected with forward motion. If you feel stuck or stagnant, call upon the horse’s power to get things moving again. The horse power animal reminds us to embrace the future and to race towards it with excitement and enthusiasm.
If your power animal is the horse then you are likely ambitious and filled to the brim with determination. The horse power animal allows you to get almost anything done. People with this power animal tend to be high achievers with “type A” personalities. (22)
Horse tattoo meaning
A horse tattoo may symbolize masculinity or femininity, freedom, expression, wanderlust, courage, cooperation, protection, or competition.
A horse tattoo almost always has positive meanings and may symbolize the relationship between humans and horses. (23)
Tattoos of unicorns or Pegasi represent magic and wonder.
While the modern human might not rely on horses like we used to, it remains true that we owe so much of our development to the horse and its contributions. Thanks to this ancient relationship between humans and horses, both creatures have been shaped and changed forever. It is easy to see, then, why so many cultures revere horses and why so many people feel intensely drawn to these majestic animals.