Decorating horses: Really just a trend?

Steigender Isländer in Einhorn Decke

Swarovski stones on the rug, amber on the bridle and all the equipment in tone: While some people enjoy decorating their horses, others find it superfluous to pamper a living creature. Yet decorating horses is a centuries - if not millennia - old tradition.

Autorin: Karolina Kardel, 360 Grad Pferd

Our Full Swarovski blanket is one of our absolute favourite products and annual design highlight.


The domestication of our domestic horse began between 5000 and 3000 BC in various places around the world. The horse brought people a considerable advantage at that time: horses enabled people to cover long distances in a shorter time. Among other things, this made it possible to maintain larger empires and defend them in the event of war. In addition, new war and attack techniques were possible. In addition, the horse provided people with meat.

Heroisation of the horse in antiquity

Geschmücktes Pferd

No wonder, then, that the keeping of horses became more and more widespread, the horse was regarded as a precious commodity and a heroisation of the horse emerged that basically prevails to this day. It played an important role in the heroic discourses of the time - just think of Pegasos, the winged horse, or the centaurs, the mixed creatures of horse and man. Even then, the horse stood for power and domination, wealth and money. Above all, Alexander the Great's horse Bucephalus had an enormous influence on the heroisation of the horse. And as the painting from the late 4th/early 3rd century BC showed, horses were already decorated by and for their heroes during antiquity.

For the Germanic tribes, the horse was so important that they used it as an oracle, as is written in Tacitus, Germania: "[It is] a Germanic peculiarity to pay attention also to omens and indications of horses. At the expense of the general public, white horses are kept in the groves and clearings mentioned, which are not profaned by any service to mortals. They are harnessed to the sacred chariot; the priest and the king or the head of the tribe walk beside them and watch their neighing and snorting. And no sign is believed more, not only among the people: also among the nobles, among the priests; for they consider themselves only servants of the gods, but the horses their confidants."

(Tacitus, Germania, Staedle 2001 edition, pp. 16-19. Quoted from: Christa Agnes Tuczay: Kulturgeschichte der mittelalterlichen Wahrsagerei, p. 195)

This quotation from the Roman historian Tacitus (ca. 58-120 AD) not only shows the importance of the horse itself. It also shows that already 2000 years ago horses were decorated and adorned. After all, it draws priests, kings and tribal chiefs.

Middle Ages: the horse as a hero and status symbol

Geschmückte Pferde

Even in the Middle Ages, the horse remained a hero and status symbol. It was increasingly used for agriculture, which it revolutionised. As a mount, it served primarily the nobility. The mounted warriors gave rise to the class of knighthood and the classical courtly horsemanship, which still plays an essential role in our form of riding today, also originates from this period.

Not everyone could afford a horse. Not only did it cost money to buy and keep, it also had to be equipped with protective armour. The importance of the horse as a status symbol at that time is particularly evident in iconography: the royal-imperial equestrian image was created and the horse was also integrated as a symbol in emblems, seals and the like. And heraldry, the study of coats of arms, also proves the importance of the horse: many coats of arms show scenes from jousting tournaments, which at that time served not only for the practice of arms but also for display. Of course, the horses were decorated for this purpose.

Modern times and modernity: Horses as prestige objects

Even in modern times, the horse had a high status. With the discovery and settlement of America, the horse came to the Indians, among others, who had taken it over from the Spanish conquistadors. For them, it became a valued status symbol: The number of horses indicated a man's wealth. Only those who were clever, ambitious and brave could afford several horses.

Geschmückte Pferde

In Europe, breeding became increasingly important. The former large and heavy horse types of the knights were increasingly refined and today's baroque horses emerged. Spanish horse breeds in particular enjoyed increasing popularity. In 1562 these horses were brought to Austria by Emperor Maximilian II and from them the Lipizzaners were born and the tradition of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna began.

In England, on the other hand, the English thoroughbred, a combination of oriental stallions and English racehorses, was in demand. They were and are mainly used in gallop races.

With the advent of increasing mechanisation and motorisation, which has progressed significantly since the Second World War, the horse increasingly lost its importance as a work and draft animal and in military use. Instead, it became more and more a prestige object for sport and leisure.

This short and incomplete outline of the history of the horse should show you that the adornment of horses is not a new-fangled invention. The horse has always been a status symbol and was dressed accordingly.

Unicorns: special power animals with a long tradition

Einhorn Gemälde

We would like to highlight one very special horse at this point: the unicorn! Because even if it seems newfangled with its bright colours, it has a tradition almost as long as the horse.

As early as 500 BC, Ctesias of Knidos reported in "Indika" about unicorns in India whose horn was said to have an antitoxic effect. Aristotle and Claudius Aelianus also mention the unicorn.

The actual origin of the unicorn tradition, however, probably lies in the Bible. In the Old Testament, a "Re'em" was reported in several places and when the text was translated into Greek in the 3rd century BC, no one knew which animal was meant. It was decided to call it Monokeros - unicorn. Today it is assumed that an aurochs was meant and that the translators were guided by a wall painting showing an aurochs that looked as if it had only one horn.

Belief in the unicorn grew stronger and, especially in the Middle Ages, it increasingly took shape. It became a symbol of goodness and nobility, but also of purity, innocence and freedom - after all, it can only be caught by a virgin.

Illustration Töltendes EinhornHowever, it was not seen as a mythical creature, but as real. It was said to have healing powers and it was assumed that there was a red carbuncle stone under the horn that had healing powers and promoted the healing of wounds. The unicorn's heart was also said to have an effect on illnesses. In her book Physica, Hildegard von Bingen writes: "Grind the liver of a unicorn and put this powder into fat or lard made from egg yolk and make an ointment. And there is no leprosy of any kind that will not be cured if you rub it with this ointment, unless the leprosy is the death of that sick person or God does not want to cure him. [...] Make a girdle of the skin of the unicorn, and gird thyself therewith upon thy skin; and in that time no evil or fever shall hurt thee. Make also shoes of its hide and put them on, and thou shalt always have sound feet and sound legs and sound kidneys during that time, and no evil shall hurt thee in the meantime, for this hide is imbued with great efficacy and health."


Even then, the unicorn could not heal - at least not in the way Hildegard von Bingen describes. But we all know how important positive thoughts are in terms of healing and well-being, and this is where the unicorn still scores points today. So it's no wonder that we still find the mythical creature in many films and books and that it is still considered a power animal. Today's meaning is to remain true to oneself, to go one's own way and to develop oneself. And that is exactly why we love the unicorn and especially our popular unicorn cooler rug.

Today: Horse lover and horse of the heart

So you see, horses have always played an important role for people. And they have always been decorated for various occasions. So it's nothing unusual when we call our horses the horse of our hearts and enjoy decorating them with particularly beautiful things.

Geschmücktes Pferd

And among us Icelandic horse fans: do you know what your horse's name means? Names, too, are often a work of jewellery when we look at them in their figurative form:

  • Skinfaxi, mane of light, is the horse of the god Dag (day), Skinfaxi pulls the sun chariot across the firmament
  • Alsvidr and Arvakr pull the chariot of the sun goddess Sol across the sky
  • Hrimfaxi draws the night across the sky
  • Skinfaxi pulls the day across the sky
  • Baldur is the god of light

Don't be put off if someone else sneers at the superfluous bling-bling and the cheesy unicorn. You now know that you are doing it the way people have done it for thousands of years. You make your horse what it is: your personal hero!

Our glitter rug usually comes out mid-November to December. Keep your eyes open! Meanwhile there is now our new saddle cloth Dark Sparkle decorated with rhinestones.

Schwarze Satteldecke mit Glitzer


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The Sportsfreund Studios blog contains numerous tips on dealing with horses. From fitness training to the learning behaviour of horses - you can read it all here. The blog is written by Karolina Kardel from 360 Grad Pferd.

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