I don’t think I’m superstitious. But honestly, there are some silly notions about luck in the horse world that I tend to follow.

Years ago, I remember driving through the countryside of California with my grandmother on the way to her mountain house. We passed a field of horses, and one of them happened to be an old, washed-out gray mare. My grandmother licked her left thumb, pressed it to the middle of her right palm, and then made a fist with her left hand and “stamped” her right palm. I looked at her strangely, and she explained, “When you see a white horse, you lick your thumb, press it to your hand and stamp it. This brings good luck.” 

I don’t consider myself to be superstitious because deep down, I know it’s illogical, stressful and often a waste of energy to keep up with. But to be honest, I do fight a bit of an inclination to believe certain quirks for luck (for what’s the real harm?), and the horse world in which I exist tends to feed that sort of thinking. It seems like every direction I turn, I hear of another silly notion that will either bring me good fortune or stoke the fire of bad luck. 

Western culture is superstitious about the way horseshoes are hung on a wall.
Horse shoes are believed to bring good fortune, but they have to be hung properly. If they come from the hind foot of a 2-year-old filly, you’re in luck if you happen to be churning butter. Photo by Ross Hecox

One of the main ones I’ve heard is that it’s unlucky to change a horse’s name. I’ve done it plenty, and so far, so good. Er, mostly. But I blame that on chance and numbers. Own enough horses and something less than desirable is bound to happen once in awhile, right? 

Another one I’ve been told is to never put my hat on the bed. This one I actually do try to follow, but more from a hygienic standpoint than a bad luck angle. I feel like a lot of things don’t belong on a bed, and my cowboy hat is one of them. Do you know how dirty that thing is? The sort of atmosphere that swirls around it on a day-to-day basis? Along with bad luck, I’m guessing it also brings a reason to wash your duvet cover more often than necessary. 

Some of the other horse related superstitions I’ve heard of include the following: 

  • When you set your hat down, make sure the brim is facing up, so the luck doesn’t pour out. (This also helps preserve the shape of your hat.) 
  • Don’t wear anything new or anything yellow in the competition arena (or green if it’s the English world). 
  • If you braid a horse’s mane, make sure to keep the plaits at an even number.
  • Whenever you are churning butter, be sure to keep a used horseshoe in the churn to keep thieving witches out of the pot. A 2-year-old filly’s hind shoe is said to be particularly good armor against this sad and common misfortune. (But who the heck is churning butter these days?)
  • Hanging a horseshoe above a doorway brings luck to all. But a horseshoe turned upside down lets all the luck drain out, so be sure to hang it the proper way.
  • One white foot, buy him. Two white feet, try him. Three white feet, be on the sly. Four white feet, just pass him by. (Or sell him to me at a discount, as I am partial to socks and stockings on horses.) 
White horses are also a source of superstition.
Some say white horses can be a source of good luck, provided you follow the proper procedures when you see one. Photo by Ross Hecox

I’ve had my share of luck, good and bad. I’m not sure what has worked in my favor and what hasn’t, but I can attest that the horse has had a large part to play in most of my fortune. I’m probably not going to worry much about witches in the butter churn, or wearing yellow when I compete, but I’d be lying if I said that when I passed by a white horse, I don’t follow my grandmother’s advice and lick, press and stamp my thumb in my palm.

Because hey, what’s the harm?

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1 Comment

  1. Since reading the article I’m very busy with licking, pressing and stamping my hands all day long among my beautiful ten white Arabian horses. Anyway all my horses have brought me luck in my whole life!

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