You probably know by now: 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse —
a year that Chinese legend tells us is filled with prosperity and good luck. It’s a good year to travel, so if you’re planning on doing a lot of horse shows this year, you’re in luck! You have ancient Chinese astrology on your side.
The equestrian world is full of good luck charms, superstitions, and folk lore, and as equestrians, we aren’t shy about cherry-picking where our good luck comes from! Every culture is fair game in our search for bright prospects for ourselves and our horses. Here are a few talismans and tricks that just might bring you prosperity and good luck in this Year of the Horse!
Ireland gives us the most traditional of all good luck symbols: the horseshoe. But don’t hang a racing plate over your stable door and call it a day! The horseshoe is lucky because it’s iron. An aluminum shoe might look the part, but can it walk the walk? In ancient times, the Celts of northern Europe believed in the magic of iron, which had the power to keep away the “little people” with their spells and mischief. A found horseshoe, thrown off in the grass, might have been bad luck for the horse owner, but the finder was free to take the valuable piece of iron and hang it above his house or stable door, using all that valuable iron magic for his own good luck.
England gives us horse brasses, those decorative medallions which are often seen on working draft horses. Amulets to ward away evil spirits from valuable horses have existed in some form or another for more than two millennia, from Asia to Europe. The modern horse brass that we see decorating heavy horses first showed up in the West Country of England in the early nineteenth century. These were more for show than for actual protection from the evil eye and other ill luck, but the spirit of horse brasses remains: to bring good luck to the horse and his master.
Ancient Egypt wasn’t the only culture to use brass bells to protect their horses, but they may have been one of the first. Brass was given the same magical powers as iron in many cultures, and bells were meant to frighten away evil spirits. Brass bells were double trouble for evil spirits! Bells for horses is mentioned in ancient scrolls from the Middle East, and the practice continued right through medieval Europe.
So the next time you find a horseshoe in the pasture, take it home and nail it up — assuming it’s iron, of course. And dolling up your tack with a little horse brass or a tiny brass bell might not be a bad idea either. After all, it’s the Year of the Horse — a time for good luck — and we might as well use all the tricks in the book!