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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Meaning Behind Horse monuments

As one approaches Denver International Airport you pass by a very mean looking statue of a rearing horse. I always call him "The Demon Horse" because he actually killed his creator. The horse depicted in this giant statue was my inspiration for the evil unicorn, Hasbadana in the first book of the Mist Trilogy: Behind The Mist. I started thinking about the legend I had heard about horse's hoof placement in statues and what that means when the statue is of a famous soldier. In Hasbadana's case two hooves are in the air and a word of warning is necessary here: DO NOT TRY TO RIDE HASBADANA!

Statue of Robert E. Lee in Gettysburg

Several years ago, our family visited Gettysburg. We were told by our tour guide that you could tell how a war-hero died or if he was injured by the number of hooves his horse has on or off the ground on his monument. If all four hooves were on the ground, the soldier died in peace. If one hoof was raised, he was wounded in battle but lived and if two hooves were raised, he died in battle or as a result of his wounds. I generalized this and assumed that applied to all equine monuments. I have since found that not to be a reliable code anywhere but in Gettysburg. The picture above is of Robert E. Lee. All four hooves are on the ground and Lee did not die in battle so that one fits.

However, Washington D.C. has the most equine statues of any city and some of them fit the code while others do not. Here are some examples:

This statue is of Major General George H. Thomas. You will notice that all hooves are on the ground and Thomas did die in peace. Fits the code.

Major General John A. Logan. One hoof is raised. He was wounded twice in battle but died in peace. Fits the code.

Major General Nathanial Green. One hoof raised. He died in peace unwounded. Does not fit the code.

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock. One hoof raised. Wounded in Battle. Fits the code.

Lt. General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson. All hooves on the ground. Jackson was wounded in battle by his own men and died of those wounds. Does not fit the code.

There are many more examples and you can find a much more complete list that has been compiled by Debora Johnson on her website:

Look for her article titled: Horse Statues in Washington D.C.

So, the conclusion is that, outside of Gettysburg, the position of the horse's legs means only that that was the way the artist wanted to depict him!

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