Old Wives’ Tales & Superstitions About Horses


We’ve all heard plenty of old wives’ tales and superstitions over the years, such as saluting lone magpies, not crossing the path of a black cat, smashing a mirror bringing bad luck, and horseshoes bringing good luck. Here are some horsey ones that are a mixture of absurd and bizarre (and totally without proof!), that people used to believe and, I’m sure some, still do….


Luck & Good Fortune…

  • Horseshoes, as mentioned, are widely considered lucky. They can bring luck, thwart evil and even prevent nightmares according to some superstitions!
  • A shoe from the hind leg of a grey mare is luckiest of all
  • To keep the luck in, you should hang a horse shoe with the points facing up (if you hang it upside down, the luck runs out)
  • Talismans made from a horseshoe nail that has been bent into a circle are seen as lucky too!
  • Changing a horse’s name is bad luck
  • Placing a cowboy hat on a bed will bring bad luck
  • Stepping in manure is good luck
  • A horse will go lame if it steps in a wolf print
  • Leading a horse (especially a grey) through your house, will banish evil and bring good luck
  • A horse with an indentation in it neck is seen to be lucky…this indentation is often called a Devil’s thumb print, and the horse is seen as lucky as it supposedly survived an encounter with the Devil!
  • If a bride or groom see a grey horse on their way to a church it is considered a good omen and lucky for their marriage


‘Good’ horse, or ‘Bad’ horse?…

  • One white foot, buy the horse. Two white feet, try the horse. Three white feet, be wary of the horse. Four white feet, avoid the horse!
  • Horses with two whorls on their head will be more tricky to train
  • Chestnut mares are temperamental/crazy
  • Roman nosed horses are stubborn
  • A horse with ears that curl will be feisty and hot-heated
  • A horse is only any good if it can roll all the way over

 (Some of the nicest horses I’ve looked after over the years have been roman-nosed, chestnut mares or had four white stockings, so can’t say I agree with these!)


Sicknesses & Cures…

  • Moody mares can be cured by putting copper coins in their water
  • A horse neighing at the door of a house is a bad omen for the inhabitants; they will become sick
  • Whooping-cough can be cured by inhaling the breath of a horse
  • Worms can be cured by eating hair from the forelock, or by eating chopped horse hair in bread and butter
  • Sitting backwards on a horse or donkey will alleviate toothache and cure snake bites
  • Many years ago people even thought they could cure cancer by drinking fresh milk mixed with dried and ground horse’s chestnuts!
  • Warts and sarcoids can be cured by circling them with horse hair

(Maybe the last one has a little truth to it, if used to cut off the blood supply?)


Protection from Witches & Evil…

Witches and warding off the Devil seems to have been a real concern in the ‘olden days’…

  • Wearing the tail hair from a black stallion as a bracelet will protect you from witches
  • Horse brasses protect the home, and whoever wears it, from witches, and reflects the Devil’s eye away
  • Carrying a wooden whip prevents a curse being placed on your horse
  • Braiding a horse’s tail with ribbons will protect it from witches
  • Horseshoes hung above a doorway repel witches and evil


What Else…

  • It’s going to rain if you see horses standing with their backs to a hedge
  • If a stallion dips his nostrils deep into water, he will be a good sire
  • You can tell the sex of an unborn foal by tying a nail to a hair from the mare’s tail – hold it above the mare’s hindquarters, if it swings in a circle it’s a filly, if it swings back and forth it’s a colt, and if it doesn’t move the mare isn’t in foal
  • When you see a white dog you should stay silent until you see a white horse
  • When you see a white horse you should make a wish (although in some cultures, white horses are seen as an omen of death!)
  • When gelding a stallion, one testicle should be thrown eastward, and the other westward, without looking, or you will end up with a rig, or ‘proud cut’ horse


So there you have it… some truly bizarre horsey superstitions and old wives’ tales!



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