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Horse racing and Great British culture
go hand in hand;
it’s a bit like bangers and mash, fish and chips and royalty – all of these including horse racing are British staples, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find the sport played anywhere else. Many believe the sport to be woven into the very fabric and folklore of the UK, Ireland and many countries around the world and over the years, there have been more than a few superstitions flying around and this article debunks some of the biggest gambling and casino myths.
#1 – Unlucky Green?
The colour green is said to be extremely unlucky for equestrians, so unlucky in fact, that even onlookers who are said to be sporting a green tie or handkerchief will bring the horse and jockey bad luck. But how true is this? Well, you only have to pull out the colour supplement in the paper to see that this is not the case, what with jockeys wearing green jerseys! Green has always been considered unlucky in Great Britain with the history books showing superstitions surrounding this colour dating right back to the 1700’s where the colour green upon someone’s clothes was a mark of impending death! However, in many western cultures green is a symbol of good luck; the Irish four-leaf clover and leprechaun being just two examples of this.
#2 – Lucky Horseshoe
The horseshoe has long been a symbol of great fortune and prosperity, what with many traditions placing a blacksmith on a luck pedestal, but this one symbol has two meanings! Did you know that the horseshoe when placed outside the home is said to ward off evil spirits? But if you hang it the wrong way, your family’s luck will turn on its head! Seven is a lucky number and each horseshoe takes seven nails to secure it to the hoof, another reason why it’s considered lucky.
#3 – 13 and 12
Another superstition is you should do 13 plaits for geldings and 12 for mares, but why? This dates back to the era of horse and cart travelling where plaiting the hair was a practical way of stopping it getting caught up or tangled in the cart. A straight-forward solution but there are many an equestrian nowadays who believe plaiting the mane will encourage horse thieves.
#4 – Colour Makes Sense
“One white foot buy him, two white feet try him, three white feet, look well about him, four white feet and white on his nose, take off his hide and feed him to the crows” This popular saying was from many a year gone by and was saying many abide by, although nowadays, you won’t find a horse being fed to the crows. Many believe the colour of a horse matters when it comes to luck; the Spanish and Hungarians see black horses are lucky, but the French believe it to be the opposite!
#5 – As Sick as a Horse?
According to ancient legend, a horse that neighs at the door will bring a wave of sickness to the occupants. Let’s take a look at how accurate this could be. When Britain was plastered with cobbled streets and the only transport, we had was a horse and cart, a horse appearing near your front door was inevitable, especially when living in a town. During the plague, many a dead body was hauled upon a cart and paraded through the streets, and for this reason alone, many believe the horse at your door was referring to infectious diseases being spread by the passing cart. This is something we don’t have to worry about nowadays, what with horses being kept in a paddock and not being used for hauling dead bodies around.
It’s true to say horses have symbolised various things over the years, and still do to this day, but old wives tales should be treated as such – nonsense. How can one culture say black is lucky when others say it’s unlucky? Surely if it was lucky, it’s lucky in all continents! If green brings bad luck, why do the Irish have all the luck? Horse betting outcomes should be judged on form and form alone, not the colour of the mane, the number of plats nor the colour of the jockey’s jersey!
Jack Timms is an independent writer with 8 years experience in writing sports articles for various magazines and newspapers. Most of his work is on horse racing or football, and he has written for magazines such as Thoroughbred Racing and Luxuria Lifestyle. Jack lives in York with his dog, Poppins.