To ride a black horse

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

The truly black horse is uncommon, with the entire hair coat having no pink skin or white markings. Beginners seem to mistake bays and dark chestnut horses for black.

Some breeds that are true black are Ariegeois or Merens, Murgese, Friesians, Kladuber, Alt-Oldenberger, Groningen, Dales and Fells Ponies and Ostfriesen. Morgans can also come in true black.

Black horses have brown eyes and black skin. Some black horses will bleach out in the sun, showing up with rusty-colored highlights and faded coats. Those horse who don’t sun bleach are called “non-fade,” or “sheer.”

The black horse is featured often in stories, myths and legends.

Generally they are harbingers of doom and death. One of the riders in the Book of Revelations rides a black horse through the sky.

Alec rode a black Arabian stallion who he called, “The Black” in Walter Farley’s “Black Stallion” series.

Spanish and Hungarian cultures consider black horses to be lucky, while the French consider them to be unlucky.

In Native American myth, the Navajo Johano-ai comes out of his “hogan,” or traditional Navajo dwelling place, each morning in the east. He rides 5 horses at once, their colors being Pearl, Turquoise, White, all shell hues, and also Coal and Red.

He is said to be astride the Turquoise horse on fair weather, blue sky days, the White or Pearl horses on sunny days with white, puffy clouds.

When storms threaten and skies grow dark with thunder clouds, he is said to be riding the Coal colored or Red horses.

He pastures his horses out on flower blossoms and they drink “from the mingled waters,” that come from hail, snow, rain, natural springs and from the 4 corners of the earth.

Navajos sing about the beautiful horses of Johano-ai, so that they, too, can own beautiful horses.

Navajo cultures considers white horses to be of the sun and moon, along with the dawn and early morning light. Light banishes all the mysteries and shadows of the night.

These horses stand at the east.

Black horses stand at the north and are considered to be the night sky, or the “black jewels” of the sun. They are dark and shadowy.

American legend Wild Bill, the gambler, gunfighter and lawman of the west, owned a horse called “Black Nell.”

This mare would lay down when Bill touched her, came to him on command and would jump up on to a pool table. When she jumped off, she would leap through the wide doorway and bound down a whole flight of steps and land half way out into the street. Wild Bill would then catapult on to her back and ride away.

In Scottish myths, the evil Kelpie is a shape-shifting water horse that devours humans.

They can come in black, gray, white or green, with smooth, seal-like skin.

The waterhorse lives in the Scottish lochs and can appear in human form, also.

Since they are water-born, they are shiny and glistening, and have seaweed caught in their manes.

They make streams and lakes flood, often overwhelming human passersby. Children always want to ride on them, but when they do, the Kelpie’s back becomes sticky and the children cannot dismount. They become stuck and the Kelpie drags them down into the deep water.

The Irish legend of the Dullahan, or headless horseman, is also known as the “dark man,” and he rides a huge black horse with flaming red eyes. He carries his head under his arm as he rides through the city or countryside, and when he pulls up, someone dies.

Sometimes he throws buckets of blood on people as he gallops past, or sometimes he pulls up and simply calls out the person’s name who is to die.

An amulet of gold or some coins of pure gold will repel him and make him weak. All travelers going out on Halloween night are told to carry gold in their pockets to repel the Dullahan.

The Irish Banshee is also a harbinger of death, and she is said to travel along side the Dullahan in a huge, black hearse pulled by 6 black horses. The horses’ eyes are bright red, sparks fly from their hooves and steam spews from their open, gaping mouths as they careen across the countryside, searching for the next mortal to die.

In Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” set in 1790 Tarrytown, NY, the ghost of a Hessian soldier is said to haunt the local fields and roadways.

Tarrytown was a popular spot for American and British soldiers alike during the American Revolution, it being a Dutch settlement and stopping off spot, “ it’s drowsy, dreamlike atmosphere and peculiar character of its inhabitants...” making it a busy place of farmers, inn and shop keepers and taverns.

Itinerant school master, Ichabod Crane takes a position at the local school, stumbling upon lore and twilight superstitions that he pays no mind to, because he is falling madly in love with the beautiful Katrina VanTassel.

However, he is not the pretty lass’ only suitor. The town roust-about, Abraham “Brom Bones” VanBrunt is also vying for the hand of Katrina.

Based on German folk tales about the “Wild Huntsman,” the Dutch settlement of Sleepy Hollow is haunted by the specter of the Headless Horseman, the ghost of the slain Hessian soldier.

Said to prowl the roadways at night in search of a new head, wise folk stay indoors after dark. But on Halloween, when Baltus VanTassel likes to host his annual party, ghost stories and tales are told until the wee hours of the morning.

The school master had secured an invitation to the party and found himself on a lonely roadway afterwards, well past midnight, a full moon rising high in the sky.

He keeps hearing things and his mind plays tricks on him. His old, rented plow horse plods slowly along, sleepily oblivious to Ichabod’s prodding with the crop.

Keeping in mind that the ghost’s power ends at the bridge in town, Ichabod can’t get there fast enough and before he knows it, he is being pursued by a huge, black horse with flaming red eyes.

Rearing and leaping, its rider is an impeccably well-dressed Hessian soldier with no head, sporting an axe and flaming, pumpkinhead Jack o’ Lantern.

Much to Icahbod’s horror and dismay, once he crosses the bridge in town, the spell is not broken and the headless horseman also crosses it, rearing the big, black horse and throwing the flaming pumpkin head straight at him.

The ending of the story is left open for interpretation, implying that it was really Brom Bones dressed up in disguise and doing some fancy trick riding, in an effort to thwart the school master’s efforts at wooing the fair Katrina.

Ichabod Crane is never seen again.

Perhaps he went back to Connecticut, or perhaps he is over in the next county, teaching school and marrying a nice woman who is a good cook.

But local Dutch wives tales imply that he was spirited away supernatural means, taken by the headless horseman.

What do you think? Truth or fiction? The black horses pulling the Banshee’s hearse are creepy, and I know I was the scared youngster watching Ichabod and his old plow horse trying to flee the headless horseman in the Disney animated version, and I have been known to consider a superstition or two.

Leaving you to ponder the stuff of black horses and legends to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

Ref: Internet// Wikipedia// “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” by Washington Irving