horse symbolism


Horse Symbolism

Horse symbolism, like a band of wild horses, could be explained in 1,000,000 words yet never be described. We try to capture horse spirit animal in our imaginations, yet fail. Our kinship with horses runs deep in the veins of our ancestry. Shrouded in mystery, subjugation, and liberation no quantification of the power of horses suffices. We always come up wanting for more.

Rather than finding frustration when looking at what does a horse symbolize, turn this cart around and go back to where you came from. Are you able to say what you symbolize? Like your own vast soul, horse spirit animal cannot be fenced in.

Knowing this is knowing that your discovery of the power of horse symbolism will never end. These horses will run to the ends of the earth and back. So, here I endeavor to give you a few precious gems I’ve found in my years of exploration. May these bits of wisdom at least in small part contribute to your ever expanding communion with these mythic beasts.

Horses as Senses

“Know the Atman (soul) as Lord of a chariot; and the body as the chariot itself. Know that reason is the charioteer; and the mind indeed is the reins. 

The horses, they say, are the senses; and their paths are the objects of sense. When the soul becomes one with the mind and the senses he is called ‘one who has joys and sorrows.’

He who has not right understanding and whose mind is never steady is not the ruler of his life, like a bad driver with wild horses.

But he who has right understanding and whose mind is ever steady is the ruler of his life, like a good driver with well trained horses,” – from Part 3 of the Katha Upanishad

The Good Driver

Many horse trainers proclaim that becoming a good horseman is about learning to control emotions. This is because horses frequently mirror our feelings immediately and without a filter. Like the bad driver with wild horses, a nervous rider finds herself unable to calm an anxious horse. The energy between the two spirals out of control, and the horse and rider run headlong into a major wreck.

However, this is an oversimplified version of the feedback loop that happens between horse and human. Horse symbolism is not about reining in our fear. It is about dropping the need to hide the fear. The problem is not the fear itself, which is a healthy informative emotion. The issue is the shame, humiliation, and low confidence the fear triggers.

Horse spirit animal, just like actual horses, teaches us how to be with our emotions without judgement. This means not taking how we feel personally. Horse people are notoriously critical of each other, but this is just a microcosm of the greater whole. We encounter disapproving stares everywhere.

Since horses are such giant and potentially dangerous creatures, we have to drop our self-consciousness to stay safe. It is a matter of life and death. When we learn to truly let go of what other people think, we can see our fear and engage with it in a way that leads to a safe and healthy resolution.

Horse symbolism teaches you to be a good driver who doesn’t freeze in fear or run wild with it, but to move in a way that expresses and discharges the tension. This movement invokes changes of speed and changes of direction that paradoxically carry you right back to the ever steady center.

Prey Animal Horse Wisdom

Horses are prey animals, big prey animals, but prey animals none the less. Their wiring is much different than ours because, regardless if we eat meat or not, our make-up is that of a predator. For example, we think in direct lines and like to go after a target. Horses think in circles and meander from place to place. We are more competitive and independent. Horses are more cooperative and bonding. We strategize with our minds. Horses sense with their entire beings.

Horse energy is more sensing and intuitive by nature. Horse spirit animal teaches us to drop the need for reason and release our dependence on planning. In the presence of horse symbolism we let go of the incessant craving for instant gratification that so terribly pervades our technology addicted culture in this day and age.

With the help of horse wisdom, we stand at a distance and take in the situation before cautiously approaching at an angle. We wait for a new herd mate to ask us to approach her. We sense with our whole bodies before analyzing with our minds. Patience is ours. Circle around and come back again.

Horse Dream Meaning

Seeing a horse in dream, shamanic journey, or vision state has many meanings. If it is a wild horse or a loose horse, then contemplate the irrational, unbridled, wild aspect of yourself.

Historically, a man’s status and power were determined by how many horses he owned. A horse in a dream or vision tells us to assess our own power. Are you feeling powerful right now? Or, are you praying for a boost in strength? Horse spirit animal is coming to your rescue. Remember, the power horse brings is interwoven with the herd. A brute display of force using your energy or words may encourage the others to leave you in the dust. Ultimately, you need the safety of the herd, so release the temptation to get pushy. Sure prance around a bit, but quickly settle back to quiet grazing with your tribe.

Just like elephant spirit animal, horses have a long history as slaves and servants of the human race. Spend some time looking at your own relationship to servitude. What might need to change? Is this a healthy exchange of power for service?

Now we ride horses for fun, but we used to do so out of necessity, for transportation. A horse dream meaning may have to do with how you are carried into a new area of your life. Do you feel like you’re going places? Was the horse frozen still or moving freely?

The Mares that Carry Me…

“The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach
rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary
road of the divinity that carries the man who knows 
through the vast and dark unknown. And on I was carried
as the mares, aware just where to go, kept carrying me 
straining at the chariot.”
– from the ancient Greek poem by Parmenides
in the book In the Dark Places of Wisdom by Peter Kingsley

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide


Stacey Couch

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch is a Spiritual Advisor who supports creative seekers learning as they go on the spiritual path. She serves beginner and life-long students of the soul. Her compassionate and collaborative approach honors the humanity and value of each person. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. Through meeting with Stacey, lost souls find refuge. Connection to the Divine is realized. Belonging comes. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. Learn About working with Stacey
6 replies
  1. Susan
    Susan says:

    Good insights. My Chinese birth year animal is a horse. And years ago I went through a group guided meditation with Ted Andrews to discover my primary and secondary animal spirit totems. The deer was my primary and the horse my secondary. I was surprised with the horse totem, having little contact with them, and having a fear of them due to my only riding experience being a group ride as a teenager. I was given a high spirited one who took off with and whom I swear was trying to kill me! I managed to stay on board gripping the horse with my knees and raising my bottom up and ducking successfully when he took me under tree limbs that should have killed me. (I had another person come up to me afterwards and ask where I had learned to ride like that! I was speechless). Anyway after moving to a rural area mid adulthood, my neighbor acquired a horse who used to follow me along the fence line as I planted, pruned and weeded the fence line. We became great companions and developed an amazing relationship and style of communication, all through an electric fence! But still, other than those experiences, I have little to no contact with them. Pride is always the first word that comes to mind when I think of a horse. As a child I had that quality along with righteousness, not about myself, but in relationship to my beliefs and philosophy of life. I always sought justice and truth. My best friend and soul mate as a young adult, taken by cancer at the ripe age of 21, used to warn me about such pride, saying that ‘the higher I stood, the harder I could fall’. I was full of righteous indignation concerning the state of affairs within this world!
    Now as an older adult, I try not to think of right and wrong and constantly battle to find the middle ground. Dichotomies and extremes exist, but neutrality is where peace seems to be. But must we always experience the highs and lows to find that ‘ happy place’ inside?
    The fear aspect of horse medicine is interesting. I no longer fear them, but I’ve never gotten back on one.

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Hello Susan, I say “good insights” to you too! Beautiful connection of your friend’s wisdom and your association with pride and horses. There is the saying, “Get off your high horse” that dovetails perfectly with what you’ve shared. Thank you for adding your knowledge and experience to the story here with this article on horse symbolism. Many Blessings, Stacey

  2. Jaymie
    Jaymie says:

    Thank you, Stacey for this writing. I’ve always had a love and connection with horses that has always held a special place within me – -I’ve always wanted to just be around them to soak up and feel their essence. It’s always bothered me how the very spirit within them is what humans attempt to control and diminish in order to “get along” with them . . .how can that be possible — their spirit is not to be harnessed – – ever!! A knowing deep within me from a very young age had me trying to look beyond and deep within them with a wonder on how to meet them on their level . . .and behold, I now own one as an older adult that requires that from me more than any other I’ve ever dealt with — I find it fascinating and when that special connection happens it is more than magical — I’ll always see the horse as a magical, mystical, powerful creature that has a knowing humans innately cannot relate to, but can share with them with further knowledge and a willingness to drop the emotions about yourself – – horses are masters at showing you this.

  3. Sam Parker
    Sam Parker says:

    Thank you Stacey for this writting, I have been trying hard to bring positive changes in my life. I have had two dreams on different nights about a same white horse. Once it was hurt physically and that made me cry in my dreams and I was trying to help him. Next was the same horse tied with a chain who was crying for help. Inspite of trying hard to resuce him I couldn’t, he was stuck and i was feeling very emotional in that dream. I have very unsual dreams all the time. But this dream got me scrolling through the internet ever since.
    Just going to leave this here, maybe if you or the other readers could relate my dream to some meaning which I’m unaware of then that would be awesome.
    Thank you.

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Hello Sam, We all have chained and battered aspects of ourselves in need of rescue, release and healing. The white speaks of purity, so may be related to how pure intentions of yours got you in trouble. Either way, it is worth reflecting on your un-lived passions and dreams and seeing how you can free and nurture them. Many Blessings, Stacey


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