The 'Evil Eye' - Making Your Own Horse Desirable
One of the things that seemed really odd to me when I first lived in the Middle East, was that some of the horses wore a green strip of fabric ribbon around their pastern; a little bracelet.
Not too many horses had it – maybe two in a yard of 30 horses. Finally, I tracked down a human who had both the English language AND the Arabic culture to explain. Only the very best horses have it, because it’s to protect them from jealousy and the Evil Eye.
The evil eye is fiercely believed and feared in many cultures. If I feel jealously towards you or something that you own (e.g. your fancy jumping horse) I may glance at it in such a way as to cause damage, even while seemingly admiring the horse and complimenting you. This “evil eye” is what causes loss, harm, hardship etc. If you own something that has a very high value to you – such as your new horse who has won prizes, is beautiful or talented – you may choose to protect it. In some countries, like Greece, this protection comes in the form of a blue pendant that looks similar to a human iris, and is also commonly (and confusingly) called, an evil eye.
In many cultures, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Kabbalah, and Ancient Chinese legend, they choose a red string bracelet for protection and luck. Islam legend is that the Prophet Mohammed’s favourite colour was green, and so green is important in their culture.
So, these good horses in the Middle East, who were liable to attract unwanted Evil Eye attention, were protected by wearing a green bracelet, made from fabric that has been blessed in the mosque.
Do I believe in it? Well, yes and no. I think that if you believe in anything strongly enough, it can have positive or negative effects on your life. Wars have been fought over religion because people have believed in it strongly enough to kill. Believing that a sugar tablet is a powerful medicine can cure people. Believing that a witchdoctor has cursed you can kill you. People who have tribal tattoos seem more powerful because they believe they have taken on the magic. Maybe it’s real, maybe it isn’t. But, one of my beliefs is that you create your own magic, if you choose. Especially when it comes to having amazing horses.
You cannot turn a Shetland pony into an international show jumper, this is true. You can’t improve the angle of his shoulder, make him move like Valegro or change the colour of his coat. However, you can and should help your horse become the very best that he can be. One of my coaches along the way always told me, if you love and value your horse, educate him. Imagine that, for whatever reason, he needs to find a new home tomorrow. You lose your job and have no money, or have an accident and can’t take care of him. And so, through no fault of his own, or pre-planning, he is on the lookout for a new human. Would he find a good home? Imagine, he has been neglected with you, he’s thin, his shoes are falling off, he has mange so his hair is patchy, and he isn’t trained, so isn’t nice to be around. Would it be likely that he’d find a good home? More likely, his situation would go downhill.
Imagine that you’ve had him since a foal and never trained him in manners. He won’t lead well; runs away from you; refuses to be caught; bites and kicks; snaps ropes if he’s tied up; is a nightmare for the farrier and has never seen a horsebox. Who is going to buy him?
On the flip side, your little family cob isn’t an oil painting, but he’s awesome. He has impeccable manners; leads beautifully; loads well; is good in traffic; the farrier loves him; he’s easy to tack up and is a lovely, educated riding horse. Even if he isn’t going to win an Olympic gold, imagine all the people queuing up to buy him?
A big part of my physical equestrian business was in buying or accepting badly trained, ill mannered or out of condition horses and rebuilding them into horses who may well fall victim to the evil eye, because people wanted them.
The following two photographs show a pony who I bred. This first photograph shows him as a five year old, just starting out at his first jumping competition. He was immature, green, still quite unbalanced and obviously weak.
This second photo shows him as a seven year old, a lot more worthy of that green bracelet. Who wouldn’t want a jumper like that?
So, as you come out of lockdown and re-introduce yourself to your horse, ask yourself the following questions – Are other people likely to be jealous of your fabulously educated and mannerly horse? Would he promote envy? If you HAD to sell him tomorrow, would he find a good home because people were queuing up for him, or would he end up going from a bad situation to a worse situation? Within reason, you can create your ideal horse, rather than just envying your neighbour’s… Look at your horse with new eyes, and really think about what you are seeing.