13 August 2007

Lesser known legends

Q: Why are some war heroes horses statues reared up, and others on all four legs, or the heroes swords are drawn? Do the number of hooves lifted into the air on equestrian statues reveals how the riders died?

Equestrian statues/sculptures famously commemorated military leaders, and those statesmen who wished to symbolically emphasise the active leadership role undertaken since Roman times by the equestrian class, the equites or knights. You may not have ever noticed this but in most all equestrian sculptures the position of the horse's hooves will vary... but it may or may not have a symbolic meaning.

Folk wisdom has it that equestrian statues contain a code whereby the rider's fate can be determined by noting how many hooves the horse has raised.

The most common theory is this:

One hoof is raised = the rider was wounded in battle

Two raised hooves / horse is reared back on its hind legs = the rider died in battle

All four hooves on the ground = the rider survived all battles unharmed

...and if all four hooves are up, that means the horse can fly and its a unicorn and you're an asshole.

As far as the sword being drawn or not, I'm assuming that simply symbolizes the charging towards the enemy; a signal for the rest of his troops to follow him into battle. Most likely its up to the sculptor if he wanted to have the sword drawn or not.

The hoof code seems to mostly holds true for statues commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg. However, James Longstreet wasn't wounded in this battle yet his horse has one foot raised. Maybe it had an itch?

Overall though, the position of the horses hooves seems to simply be the artistic license of the sculptor... even Michelangelo was instructed how and what to paint on the Sistine ceiling, for example, but he changed it. That bastard!

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