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Indain Horse Markings
The power symbols of Indians.
A circle around the horse's eye and nostrils for alert vision and a keen sense of smell.
Arrow points in a line which brought victory.
Thunder stripes in the horse's front legs to please the Indian's god of war.
Arrowheads on all four hooves made the horse swift and nimble-footed.
Fire Arrows would cause trouble for the enemy, which in turn would add strength to the warrior.
Right/left hand prints were outlined upon the horse's chest, which showed that he'd knocked down an enemy.
Hail Stones were a prayer for hail to fall on the warrior's enemy.
Two crossing bars meant that the horse and his rider had escaped ambush.
Hoofprints were drawn on the horses and stood for the number of horses captured in raids.
The horse's Battle Scars (always painted red) and the Pat Hand Print (left hand drawn on the horse's right hip) were the highest honors. The Pat Hand Print was always reserved exclusively for the horse who had brought his master back home from a dangerous mission unharmed.
While preparing himself for battle, the Indian warrior would apply his personal honors on his war horse. The symbols he painted depicted enemies killed and ponies stolen.
The Indian would weave a Medicine Bag into the bridle and Coup Feathers were braided into the war horse's forelock and tail.
For the men who would be going on a do-or-die mission, the Upside-down Handprint would be used. It was the most prized symbol a warrior could place on his horse.
From the Apache and Commanche tribes, legends about this handprint tell of a furious battle in which a warrior was fatally wounded. Before the brave warrior's death, he patted his horse on the right shoulder, thus leaving a bloody handprint on his horse for all his people to see his "message of death" when the horse returned to camp.
When the Indian groomed his horse for battle, he would knot up the horse's tail to prevent the enemy from taking hold of it and using it to dismount him from his horse.
He would gather the mane into clusters, tying it to prevent entanglement in his bow and arrow during the combat.
Many Native American tribes were introduced to the horse during the 1600s by SPanish explorers. Thereare many legends among the tribes that describe their first contact with the horse. My personal favorite is 'The Sky Dogs.' Life changed drastically for the Indian with the coming of the horse to North America. The travois was used for many centuries by Native Americans. Dogs were the most common pack animal before the horse (even though tribes also used them for food), a whole new way of life opened up for them. Moving from one home to another took much less time. From California to Missouri, Plains Indians began to put the horse to good use in hunting and in war. Some Nations excelled at raising some of the finest horses and ponies ever to grace our land. Among the most notable is the Appaloosa by the Nez Perce, in the Northwest. These horses were greatly prized for their unique color patterns and stamina. Another favorite was the American Bashkir Curly. Though not as flashy as the Appaloosa or Paint, this breed was greatly prized for its long, culry mane and tail hair, used in weaving warm clothing. This breed grew very long hair in winter months, shedding large amounts come spring. The brood mares, once foaled, provided large amounts of milk, enough for their owners as well as their foals - up to three gallons a day! Today, the American Bashkir Curly is still considered a prize, not only to the Native Americans, but especially to people with allergies. This horse is known as the hypoallergenic breed, mainyl due to the fact that dust and straw do not become entangled in its mane or tail, providing people with allergies a dust free horse to own.
Symbols of the hunting horse
Sun of Happiness, a most important symbol, was used to insure blue skies. Indians never hunted during a rainstorm because they considered it unfair to the Great Spirit and to the buffalo.
Circle of Vision was the symbol painted around the horse's eye to give keen sight and let him be the first to see the distant buffalo.
A Fence symbol was placed on the horse's jaw to help keep in the good luck.
The Sacred Buffalo symbol was to show the Great Spirit that the hunter was thankful for his past kills.
An Arrow of Swiftness was painted on the horse's legs to give him speed.
Buffalo Tracks were painted over the horse's hips symbolizing other good hunting times.
An After placing her hunter's symbols on the hunting horse, the woman would draw a "secret" prayer on the horse's hindquarters. This prayer was never explained prior to the hunt, and if her hunter came home successful, she proudly would tell the meaning of her symbols.
She would probably use this "lucky" prayer again and again.
Should her hunter return unsuccessful, she would be humiliated because the prayer she had painted was the wrong one. Then the other women of the tribe gossiped about her and would say that she was of little help to her provider,which would add to her embarrassment.
The hunter would sometimes spank her for drawing a bad-luck prayer, but sometimes he would feel sorry for her and share in the disgrace. If the woman's hunter did the latter, he might explain that the prayer would bring double the luck to him on the next hunt.
Though tribal tradition dictated how and why an Indian painted his horse, the color preference of the horse was left to the individual.
Generally, a bay horse was thought by the Sioux Indian as too common, with more preference given to sorrels and roans. The roans they called "scorched."
Most favored were pintos, not only for their colorfulness, but for the advantage of natural camoflauge. When an Indian didn't have one, he might paint his white or grey horse to resemble a pinto.
The special name of "freckled rump" was given to another favored mount of the Indian, the Appaloosa, which is thought to have originated with the Nez Perce Indians.
Though the Indian no longer rides against enemies or chases the great buffalo, this unique way in which he expressed himself with symbols on his dearest possession, his horse, has often been captured on many contemporary art objects.
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