Elegant, powerful and loyal – horses are revered in popular culture and mythology. Representing a huge variety of themes such as freedom, travel, fertility and protection, they are seen as steady, trusted companions throughout warfare, agriculture and royalty as well as in pop culture like TV shows, books and movies. Let’s explore some of the most evocative horses throughout history:
Horses in Mythology
Horses played a prominent role in many ancient mythologies and across many different cultures including Greek, Norse and Chinese – there are horses in the tarot and horse gods in the Celtic lands. Throughout history, horses have been an incredibly versatile symbol. In Roman times, horses were a symbol of fertility and they believed that sacrificing a horse to the god Mars would ensure a prosperous harvest. Horses often represented power, freedom and nobility, pulling chariots of the gods through the sky. In ancient folk magic, they were a symbol of protection. I’m sure you’re familiar with Pegasus, the winged horse son of Poseidon, but have you heard of Sleipnir? In Norse mythology, he was a shamanic eight-legged horse ridden by Odin. Another famous winged horse is the Longma, a dragon scaled omen in Chinese mythology.
If you think of loyalty and companionship in literature, you might initially think of dogs. But another popular way to convey these themes is by using horses! By exploring themes of adventure and friendship, love, warfare and the industrial revolution, horses are conveyed as beloved companions and create quite an emotional impact on the reader. Black Beauty is perhaps the most memorable literary horse, telling the story of his life and the people he met along the way. Seabiscuit was a small horse with a large racing career who broke all the rules in the 1930’s. Gandalf’s beautiful horse Shadowfax played an integral part in the Lord of the Rings story. Companionship with horses is the perfect way to explore themes of friendship and courage.
Film, Gaming and Television
The use of horses in cinema and TV shows ranges hugely, from Westerns to huge fantasy epics! Thousands of westerns produced over 50 years featured horses in lead roles, such as Trigger, Buttermilk (and not forgetting Shadowfax! Additionally, the realm of online casinos, like those reviewed on Pltnplay, offers an array of slot games with equestrian themes. As well as horse themed video games. The series Game of Thrones was jam packed with thrilling horse scenes, from transport to jousting and many different battles in between. In fact, the famous ‘Battle of the Bastards” scene required 100 horses to film! The horses were even trained to fall on cue, so many of these scenes that appear to be CGI were actually real.
Sports and Competitions
There are a huge variety of sports involving horses – the most well-known ones are show jumping, dressage and racing. Show jumpers are normally tall and elegant and are required to jump a series of obstacles, whereas dressage is a form of ‘horse ballet’, exhibiting elegant movement and gait patterns. Horse racing is a popular sport that has been practiced since ancient Roman times, racing horses at speed to compete for the win. The elegance and grace of horses has always been associated with aristocracy and the elite of society but nowadays, culturally, most people are fascinated by horse sports and love dressing up to attend events. The global fascination with prestigious events like the Kentucky Derby and the Olympics attests to this!
Horses as Symbols of Royalty
A bold way to demonstrate royalty and nobility, horses were a visual representation of wealth and power throughout medieval history. They were symbols of rank as well as wealth and dominance, and ever since they were domesticated, they’ve been a symbol and a tool of conquest. Aside from this, they’ve also been used extensively in parades, ceremonies and processions to showcase power and grandeur and to add beauty and spectacle. Queen Elizabeth II was deeply passionate about horses; she began riding at age 4. Described as having ‘a special affinity for horses’, she bred many winning racing horses that won over 1,800 races throughout the course of her life.
As you can see, horses have a timeless allure and enduring impact on human culture! We have a universal appreciation for horses and their ability to embody both elegance and strength. Humans and horses have always shared a unique bond, and we all love the sense of companionship and adventure that horses provide us with in movies, books, games and TV shows.