The Many Faces of The Headless Horseman

The legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of the most famous American folktales featuring a horse. The infamous Headless Horseman finds its way into most equine costume parades, and the ghoul has even been known to visit Woodland’s own Halloween party. (Can anyone remember what horse and rider pair once fulfilled the role? )

The headless horseman has cousins in other folklore and its significance and backstory can differ greatly from the American version. So get your costume on, prepare your candy, and settle in for a brief retelling of Headless Horseman myths from around the world.

United States of America

This is the tale you’re probably familiar with in relation to Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which tells the story of Ichabod Crane. Ichabod was a highly-superstitious school teacher in the town of Sleepy Hollow, which was notorious for being haunted. He was not native to Sleepy Hollow and competed with local Brom Bones for the favor of Katrina Van Tassel as a means of gaining both wealth and acceptance.

One night, he attended a feast at the Van Tassel estate with the intention to propose to Katrina once the party ended. Brom Bones spent the evening filling his head with ghost stories, specifically the legend of the Headless Horseman who haunted the hollow and emerged every Halloween seeking to replace the head he’d lost upon his death. Katrina rejected Ichabod, and he headed home, heartbroken and on edge. The story goes that Ichabod encountered the Headless Horseman during his journey home and was never seen again (though the Disney version of this story has a happy ending for everyone.)

In the original myth, the Headless Horseman is the spirit of a German soldier who was killed during the Battle of The White Plains in 1776 and left his head on the battlefield. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow and appears on Halloween night to avenge his death and reclaim his head.

Germany

Like many German folktales, the headless horseman originates from the Grimm brothers. There aren’t terrific records online of the full stories, but the legends usually paint the horseman as a far less aggressive spirit. He’s associated with the sound of a hunting horn, which either announces his presence or warns riders not to go out the next day, as they are destined to die if they do.

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Ireland

The most sinister version of the Headless Horseman is the Irish dulachán, which is a demon that rides a black horse and carries its head under its thigh or holds it up high to see a greater distance. Sometimes this spirit is seen as the headless driver of a carriage. When the dulachán stops it calls out a name and that person immediately dies.

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India

In contrast, India’s headless horseman is usually regarded as a heroic, benevolent spirit. The legend is central to Rajasthan, India’s biggest state, and the spirit itself is called jhinjhār. Most stories say it was a prince that lost his head defending a village or fighting highwaymen, while others say it was a cavalry rider defending his prince. Either way, jhinjhārs are the result of a wrongful death. These spirits protect innocent people and are rumored to fight mounted and unmounted. They may be repelled with powdered indigo dye, which disrupts their chaotic energy and allows them to find peace.

Do you have a spooky horse story to share? Let us know in the comments below (if you dare, muahaha!)

Have a safe Halloween everyone.

Until next time, happy riding!

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Images from fellponysociety.uk.org, techtimes.com, marshotel.com

Breed Profile: American Quarter Horse

During summer camp (or winter camp, or spring camp) the kids learn about horse breeds and colors. This is one of my favorite lectures to teach because I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to color genetics and breed histories. The kids seem to enjoy it as well, mostly because at the end we walk through the barn and they point at every single horse we pass and ask, “what breed is that!!?”

I encourage them to figure it out on their own, and they’re usually 60/40 on their answers. The most common answer by far is Quarter Horse (or QH cross). Some of our most beloved school horses like Sugar and Puzzle belong to this breed, which is the most popular breed in the United States, so here’s the story of these wonderful, versatile horses.

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Just Jump It, Go!

A group of volunteers zigzagged through the arena, dragging standards and carrying poles to be decorated with streamers, flags, and even a Charmander for Woodland’s second installment of the Just Jump It series. Thunder rolled ominously overhead just as they put the finishing touches on the last fences and the sky darkened. After comparing a dozen weather forecasts they decided to go ahead with the show and hope the rain held off.

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A message from a Dad: My daughter’s horseback riding lessons

 

My daughter Liz has always had an interest or maybe an obsession with horses. After cleaning out the state’s toy stores of anything to do with horses, and I mean anything, including little tiny pitch forks to go along with an entire scale model horse barn, I thought after a few lessons she would grow out of this obsession.

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Summer Heat & Humidty: Let’s Help our Horses!

 

We all feel we will recognize the signs of heat stress in our horses.  As horse people, we pay a lot of attention to the “good common sense” things we can do to help alleviate problems.  However, there are some other do’s and dont’s to help our horses thru these hot and humid times.

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School Horses: Worth More than their Weight in Gold!

      

School Horses are very special creatures!  They have different people riding them all the time, many of them beginners, using all slightly different aids because they are just learning them.  It’s easy for a horse to get confused under such circumstances.

Continue reading “School Horses: Worth More than their Weight in Gold!”