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Princess Elizabeth and her fjord horse

CAPTION: Princess Elizabeth of England owned a Scottish bred fjord horse named Glen Tanar Hans during the 1940s. Here she is feeding her fjord horse from the silver cup they won at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1943.

Horses: Names, Jokes, Proverbs and Sayings

What Horses Are Called

A mature male horse is called a stallion, the female a mare. A stallion used for breeding is known as a stud. A castrated stallion is commonly called a gelding. Young horses are known as foals; male foals are called colts and females fillies. Horses can have many colours and patterns of their skin.


Q: And what do you call a pony with a sore throat?

A: A little hoarse.

Q: How did the cowboy ride into town on Friday, stay for three days, and ride out on Friday?

A: His horse's name was Friday.

Q: What do you call a well balanced horse?

A: Stable.

To neigh, in many European languages:

Danish: vrinske

Dutch: hinniken

English: neigh; whinny (neigh gently)

French: hennir; hennir doucement

German: wiehern

Italian: nitrire

Norwegian: vrinske

Swedish: gnägga

Tao find

Proverbs and other Sayings about Horses

A proverb is rarely completely true, but may still surprise by insights. Be a little tentative, then.

Calvin Hall has found, based on dreams, that in nightly dreams and several myths the horse represents vital energy, libido. It is quite similar to the concept of prana in ancient works in the Sanskrit language. In this way horses may be taken to represent vital resources for thought or thinking, but much more too. (Hall 1966)

Finally, some of the following sayings and proverbs may look like parody, but they are not intended to be so. Perhaps deeper meaning are had by comparing the points about prana here.

LoWhat a horse learns, he often is made to do over and over

For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the man was lost. (The short Grimm tale about it)

The farm horse at last learns to do what he has to.

I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. - Nathaniel Hawthorne

LoRide a white horse if you are up to it.

Riding a horse well is above much else.

Good people get cheated, just as good horses get ridden. (Chinese proverb)

A golden bit does not make the horse any better. (English proverb)

Even the best horse may stumble. (Norwegian proverb)

It's too late to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. (British proverb)

For the lack of a horse one rides the billygoat. (English proverb)

He that has a white horse and a fair wife, never wants trouble. (British proverb)

LoGive the horse enough

You should give enough quality food to your horse when you can.

Let the horse and donkey provide for him that learns to make us of them. That is the age-old recipe.

It's no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.


In sum
  1. What a horse learns, he has to make do with -
  2. A coveted horse and wife are great troubles to some.
  3. A donkey of quality may be quite enough.
In nuceMen show that coveted horses and wives seem good enough.

A golden bit does not make a melodious neigh; that is an age-old recipe.*


Horses Grouped

'Grouped' means 'classified' here.

Horse Breeds

In course of time two general groups of domesticated horses emerged: the southerly - and the northerly, so-called cold-blooded types. Further, all modern breeds may be classified:

  • By where they originated,
  • By the main use of the horse (riding, draft, coach horse),
  • And by their outward appearance and size (heavy, light, or pony).


  • Draft horses, heavy limbed and up to 200 cm high (to the shoulder).
  • Ponies are horses with less than 144 cm shoulder height. They may be sturdy, intelligent or self-willed. An Icelandic horse (pony) moves swiftly at the tølt, a smooth sort of running walk. Shetland ponies are smaller than the Iceland and Norwegian horses (ponies). The latter are excellent riding horses. Glen Tanar (picture) is of the Norwegian fjord breed. These stout and kind animals thrive without oats, even.
  • Light horses, such as the saddle or riding horses.


Short Horse History

Horses, donkeys, and zebras belong to the genus Equus. The modern horse, Equus caballus, became widespread from central Asia to most of Europe. Local types of horses include such as the Przewalski's horse from central Asia, and the forest horse of northern Europe, at times credited as an ancestral stock of the domestic horse. It is thought by some that the forest horse gave rise to the heavy, "cold-blooded" breeds.

The wild horse was probably first hunted for food. Horsemeat is still consumed by people in parts of Europe and in Iceland and is the basis of many pet foods. It is one of the rather hidden ingredients in many sausages. Horse bones and cartilage are used to make glue. Horse manure is provided for mushroom growers, and can also be used in organic gardening.

The horse was make domestic a long time after the dog or of cattle, in the end to stand as a partner and friend. After the horse was domesticated, mare's milk was drunk by the Arabs and others.

Riding on horseback once was a chief means of transportation, and is popular still. The horse was widely used as a draft animal earlier. It plowed fields, tracked cattle, and much else. Today it can serve recreation in industrialised countries.

The horse's natural food is grass. The horse is designed for eating plants. It has teeth that allow it to grind grasses, and a rather long digestive tract. The wild horse has good vision. The senses of smell and hearing seem to be keener than in humans.

The domesticated horse is perceptive and can easily respond to cues.

What are called highbred horses are capable of affection and fidelity. Unjust treatment does not suit any animal.

Some horses have become over 60 years old. The life span of a horse is 30 to 35 years at most, usually about 20 to 25 years. But ponies live longer than larger horses. Well-kept riding horses may be used more than 20 years.


Horses in Art

Stories give rise to art, such as stories (myth, fable, and much else), paintings, and sculptures. From rock paintings and onward, the horse has long had a special place in art. It is there on the ancient Parthenon frieze in Athens, in very old Chinese tomb sculptures, in sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, in the Quran, the Bible and other texts - and in many paintings and sculptures, as on Capitol Hill in Rome.

In Greek mythology the fabulous centaur suggests archer and horse fused into one being. Even gods are depicted on well-trained horses in ancient Greek.

The ancient Vedic Sun Has Horses

From ancient India and onward, different gods have chariots drawn by horses. Surya is the sun in the sky. Riding a golden chariot he comes, looking on everyone. He rides the skies in his golden chariot of blazing light drawn by seven bay horses - one for each day of the week. (Another way of understanding it: there is one horse for each colour we see in the rainbow.) The horses are described in the hymns as the daughters of heaven. The chariot is a symbol of a year's course; the horses may also be four, or one with seven heads, and so on.

The sun sustains life and is represented as a handsome, golden youth who rides the chariot of light, The swastika, a common Hindu symbol of munificence, belongs to the sun - who gives abundantly, without asking for favours in return.

The ancient Indian Sun is called SURYA (the luminous shining one) and ADITYA (the son of the primordial origin of all things). The associated animal is the winged horse, Tarkshya, whichpersonifies the sun (through pars pro toto, ie, a part of a whole represents the whole). (Section source: Macdonald, Vedic Gods)

MORE: The Vedic Sun is extremely brilliant, with radiant hair, and shines brightly as a jewel. He helps the world of mankind with his light. The sun is also truthfulness, and has to do with intellect. The Inner Sun is a being that resides in us and warms us, and has four wives. They are "Knowledge, knowhow, and conscience" (Sanjna), Sovereignty, Light, and Shade. With "Mother Conscience" the Sun has three children. One of them is Manu, the very first Man and lawgiver.

Norse Horse Lore

Sun Carriage, Bronze Age artifact from Denmark
The Sun Carriage in bronze and gold - Bronze Age artifact from Denmark.

A Bronze Age item. The Sun Carriage is a token of Bronze Age religion in Denmark, and dated to about 1800–1600 BCE. The sun was the centre of it. People in the Bronze Age imagined that the sun was carried across the sky by a fish from morning until noon. Then a horse took over, until afternoon. In the evening a snake took over until the fish took charge next morning.

Some think the sculpture could have functioned as a calendar. (WP, "Trundholm sun chariot") Later Norse horses. Norse mythology is known from sources written down in the 13th century CE. The sun is drawn by a chariot is part of it. The Norse Sun (Sol) may be derived from the Old High German Sun goddess Sunna. Every day, the Norse Sol rode through the sky on her chariot, pulled by two horses.

In Norse mythology Skinfaxe is the horse of Day, and Hrimfaxe is the horse of Night. The sun also has the horses Alsvid and Arvak - but first there was a monsterous giant, his wife and their cow, Audhumbla. She licked on icy salt stones, and from that came Bure, who got Bor, who got Odin and others. They shaped the heavens, the earth, and the sea from the horrible giant's dead body. The gods also formed man and woman, Ask and Embla, from two trees. The heavenly bodies were also formed. The lovely children Sun and Moon were placed on their chariots, each chariot got two horses. And it started with a cow.

Gods have named horses too. Heimdal had Gulltop, Odin has the eight-legged Sleipner, Frey hads Blodughofde, the giant Hrungner has Goldfax, and heros have named horses. (Munch 1981, passim. More in the Norse Mythology)

Yes, in ancient times people looked up to horses.

The Norse Sun

The Old Norse Sun is personified as the goddess Sol (/soul/). She is described in the Poetic Edda, written in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. The thought that the sun deity was female, and named "Sun", is found amoung Germanic peoples on the continent as well.

The sun and moon, Sol and Mani, are like brother and sister. When they first appeared, they did not know their places and roles, so the gods helped Sol and Mani to fit into the great design. They ride through the sky on horse-drawn chariots. The two horses that pull Sol's chariot across the sky are "Early Riser" and "Swift". They ride fast because they are pursued by the sky wolves Mockery and Hate. In the long run the sky wolves overtake them during a disaster called Ragnarok.

Lesson: Don't let mockery and hate prey on you, and you may live long.

Ancient Greek Helios and his Sun of a Son

Horses of the Sun on a Greek Vase

There are some similarities with the ancient Greek titan Helios, who in his golden chariot drives his four horses across the sky. They say he sees everything. (Hjortsø 1984:25-26)

The Son of the Sun

Faeton was a son of the Sun. One day while the Sun was seated on his throne, he swore he would give his son anything he would ask for. The son asked to steer his chariot across the sky for a day. His father tried to dissuade him in vain, saying, "The horses are noble but wild like flames. They will throw you off unless you steer them with an iron firm grip." But he had to keep his oath and give in to his son's request anyway.

Faeton set off, but as the chariot got high up in the sky he got dizzy and could not steer the horses. The chariot of the Sun came so near to the earth that it was torched, mountains collapsed, fields turned into white ashes, and thousands of people were burnt up. At last Faeton could not be helped, and Zeus (Jupiter) threw his thunderbolt at him to avoid that all earth burnt up. The thunderbolt lightning hit Faeton above the Po River and burst his chariot. The body of Faeton fell into the river, and he was buried nearby. On his grave was inscribed "Pity his fall, but praise his brave heart!" His sisters, the Heliades, wept over him by the river bank till they were turned into weeping willows. (Hjortsø 1984264-65)

A Winged Horse, Pegasus

Really long ago a monk was sitting in the shade of a tree while wondering why cows had not been made to fly. At that moment he was hit in the head by bird's dirt from above, and at once said piously, "Thank you, Lord, that the cow does not have wings."

Have you thought about how large the wings of a horse would have to be to make it fly? They would perhaps compete with the wings of a medium airplane. Have you thought how it can flap his wings by use of bones and sinews and muscles that are not there? It will not work to fasten wings by the use of glue on the back of horses, for as with birds, there is a need for bones, sinews, muscles and a brain that follows suit.

Do some horses have wings? In earlier times, Romans thought so, as evidenced in Pliny the Elder's Natural History. He mentions a winged horse called Pegasus, and also recounts that Ethiopia produces horses with wings, armed with horns. However the winged horse is something of fancy, and what is more, horns are not to be found on "ordinary flying horses". (Pliny the Elder, the Natural History, Book 7)

There are stories about Pegasus. Here is one:

Once Bellerophon spent the night in a temple of Athena and dreamt that the goddess offered him a magical, golden bridle. He woke up and found the bridle he dreamt about in his hands. Afterwards he went to a meadow where the winged horse Pegasus was grazing, and was able to bridle and tame him without difficulty.

Bellerophon was later asked by a king to undertake a series of heroic, deadly tasks. However, Bellerophon was a skilled archer, and with the help of Pegagus he prevailed and got half of a kingdom and the king's daughter.

He even tried to fly with Pegasus to Mount Olympus and visit the gods there, but when a gadfly stung the horse in midair, Bellerophon fell off the horse and was crippled. The rest of his life he spent wandering.

The winged horse became a constellation in the sky, and it is imagined that it grasps a lance. Further, its soaring flight has been interpreted as an allegory of the soul's immortality. Today the winged horse, Pegasus, is a stock symbol of poetic inspiration.


Horses, horse proverbs, horse history, horse art, Literature  

Edwards, Elwyn Hartley, ed. Encyclopedia of the Horse. Reprint ed. New York: Crescent Books, 1990.

Edwards, Jenny. All Natural Horse Care: Give Your Horse the Best Care, Naturally.. E-book. Lake Elsinore, CA: All Natural Horse Care, 2009.

Hall, Calvin. The Meaning of Dreams. New ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.

Hjortsø, Leo. Græske guder og helte (Greek Gods and Heroes). 2. utg. Copenhagen: Politiken, 1984.

McDonnell, Sue. Understanding Horse Behavior: Your Guide to Horse Health, Care and Management. Lexington, KY: The Blood-Horse, 1999.

Munch, P. A. Norrøne gude- og heltesagn (Norse Legends of Gods and Heroes). Rev. ed. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1981.

Otfinosko, Steven. Horses. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ Provides comprehensive information on the anatomy, special skills, habitats, and diet of horses, aimed at adolescents. Contains many telling photos.

Pliny the Elder. The Natural History. Trs. John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Taylor and Francis, 1855. Online

Pliny the Elder. Natural History: A Selection. Translated by John Healy. London: Penguin, 1991.

Waring. George H. Horse Behavior. 2nd ed. Norwich, Noyes Publications/William Andrew Publishing, 2003.

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