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Ma Ma Ma Ma

This Lunar New Year, as we gallop into the Year of the Horse (in the Chinese zodiac), we celebrate the spirit of this magnificent beast.

Words: Efi Eqbal

MY MOTHER IS NOT A HORSE!

Ma in Mandarin can mean many things based on intonation. There are many intonations for this character alone with ‘mother’ and ‘horse’ being the more recognisable characters.

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The terracotta warriors of Xi’an in China are a representation of the army that was entombed between 210 and 209 BC to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s burial site. An estimated 8,000 warriors, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 130 cavalry horses were discovered in three pits when local farmers stumbled upon the burial ground in 1974.

HORSE IN HISTORY

Through modern science and technology, we have traced our earliest ancestors to a valley in Africa more than 500,000 years ago, including enabling us to trace the lineage of the modern horse to one single stallion originating somewhere in the central Eurasian steppes about 6,000 years ago. DNA results indicate that it must have taken at least 77 mares to produce the diversity in the gene pool of today’s horses. Some scientists, however, posit the number to be greater than that, and suggest an evolution dating back to 4.5 million years ago – from which all donkeys, horses and zebras originate.

     The advent of the horse in our lives changed humans dramatically; we moved faster and further, and became less consumed by the need to forage. Horses made the world we live in more manageable. As our perception of the world changed, the horse became an integral part of how we evolved – helping us win battles, travel, move goods, farm, build roads and cities and conduct commerce.

HYPE OF THE HOOVES

Throughout history, different cultures have responded differently to the equine species. While some treat horses as no more than draught animals, others bury their horses with the same solemnity they do humans, and some even consider them loyal friends.

     No other animal has come as close to changing the way we live. The reason we chose the horse instead of their close cousins, the zebra, may not be immediately clear. But, upon closer examination, our ancestors made a prudent choice of choosing an animal that is not territorial but nomadic, just like our hunter- gatherers progenitors.

     For some strange reason, those early horses did not see humans as a threat, as horses need to be led, they accepted humans as their guide, becoming malleable to man’s will.

“WHILE SOME TREAT HORSES AS NO MORE THAN DRAUGHT ANIMALS, OTHERS BURY THEIR HORSES WITH THE SAME SOLEMNITY THEY DO HUMANS, AND SOME EVEN CONSIDER THEM LOYAL FRIENDS.”

From The Magazine,Cover Story,Travel 3Sixty,AirAsia,Inflight Magazine,Lunar New Year,Year of the Horse,Chinese zodiac,Mustangs, feral horses,Native Americans,cowboys

Mustangs or more correctly, feral horses, are wild horses that roamed the countryside in America. Native Americans and subsequently cowboys caught, broke and trained these creatures.

ROLE OF THE HORSE

Be it beast of burden or war companion, the horse has played a vital role throughout history.

THE CELTIC CONNECTION

To the Celts, horses were magical creatures that resonated with mystery, and were worshipped just as the moon was worshipped. In fact the Celts coined the word ‘nightmare’ taken from the myth of a visiting horse in the form of their goddess, Mare – hence, the name given to a female horse. But, primarily, they saw the horse as a symbol of war.

THE ROMAN AND GREEK LINK

These two civilisations saw the equus ferus caballus (horse, in Latin) as a symbol of power and virility, and celebrated the horse as a creature created by Poseidon (the Earth-Shaker, later known as Neptune). According to one legend associated with the origin of the horse, Poseidon sired the beast to accompany Bellerophon in his fight against the monster Chimera.

THE EUROPEAN RELATION

In Europe, it was not natural to use the horse to plough fields. Horses were luxuries of the nobility and the rich, while poor farmers used the ox to work the land. It wasn’t until sometime around 800 AD that someone invented a shoulder collar for the horse that revolutionised the farming industry. Horses could pull with the same force as the ox, but they could go faster and further making it more profitable for poor farmers.

THE CHINA BOND

In China, horses were seen as symbols of military might as they were considered the lynchpin to the country’s survival. The lords and emperors of those times sought to maintain superiority over the nomadic tribes from the north and the west, and believed that they could only do so with the use of the horse. Abandoning the use of chariots, the Han emperors connived, stole and even traded with other cultures, sometimes even with enemies, to procure superior breeds. The Chinese, far ahead of their Western counterparts, saw the horse as more than just a means of war. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the Chinese farmer would use the horse for farming. Later, the Chinese perfected the creation of a harness designed for man to guide and fight on horseback.

THE INDIA INTERACTION

In the Indian sub-continent, the horse served two primary functions: To transport goods and for warfare. But the horse was only mentioned with the arrival of the Aryans. This has led some to postulate that the horse was not a common feature in the Indus valley civilisation.

     Interestingly, the practice of horse-burning, the ancient Vedic ritual called asvamedha or horse immolation is similar to sacrificial acts conducted in other parts of the ancient world. However, this Vedic ritual was conducted as a military and royal sacrifice.

     Perhaps, one of the most surprising roles played by horses in warfare was seen in the state of Rajasthan. Here, horses were trained to attack elephants in combat! In a painting depicting a documented battle in 1576 in Haldighat, a horse is portrayed placing its legs on the forehead of an elephant to allow its rider to attack the elephant rider.

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With a history that can be traced up to 3,000 BC, Arabian horses originated in the Arabian Peninsula and were used as war mounts and beasts of burden. Comparatively smaller in size than many riding horses, this breed is renowned for its elegance, refinement, power and agility, and yet surprisingly, make a very affectionate companion.

THE ARABIC ASSOCIATION

Evidence of the domestication of horses in Syria dates back to 2000 BC. In an excavation in Egypt, halters were found adorning the bones of horses amidst grand and artistic drawings of horses. In 1330 AD, the fi rst horse pedigrees were recorded. Although there was no mention of breed or type, the horses were referred to as Arabian horses. As time went by, early travellers questioned the crossing of apparently different ‘breeds’ by the people of the desert. 

     However, horses in this part of the world were not of different breeds, merely different strains or families of the same breed: The Arabian horse. Named for the important tribes who bred them, Arabian horses were once used for trade and warfare, and played an important part in the Islamic Jihadi movement in the Middle East. Today, the Arabian horse is considered the most stunning of its species; it is bred for the rich and famous, and highly sought after for its beauty and versatility by both artists and horse enthusiasts.

WORLD’S FAMOUS HORSES

Be it fact, fiction, mythology or religious history, the literature on man and his steed is as vast as the plains, deserts and battlefields they’ve traversed together.

AL-KHAMSA & PROPHET MUHAMMAD (PBUH)

Al-Khamsa means ‘the five’ and refers to recognised strains of Arabian horses bred today for their beauty and agility. The story of Al-Khamsa tells how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) chose his foundation mares through a test of courage and loyalty. While there exist various versions, the most common one tells of how the Prophet turned his herd of horses loose to race to an oasis after a long journey through the desert. But just before they reached the water, the Prophet called for them to return; only five mares returned to him. These mares became the legendary founders of the five main strains of the Arabian horse.

From The Magazine,Cover Story,Travel 3Sixty,AirAsia,Inflight Magazine,Lunar New Year,Year of the Horse,Chinese zodiac,Marwari horse,inward turning ear tips, Rajput,Rajasthan, India

Descended from the war horses that served the ruling and warrior clans of the Rajput in Rajasthan, India, the Marwari horse is unique for its inward turning ear tips.

CHETAK & RANA PRATAP

Chetak, the warhorse of Rajasthani war hero Rana Pratap Mewar in India, had a coat with a blue tinge. Together they rode through the gruesome Battle of Haldighati (1576), where Chetak died. Pratap is often referred to as the ‘Rider of the Blue Horse’, and together, they have been immortalised in many of Rajasthan’s ballads.

BROWN BEAUTY & PAUL REVERE

Paul Revere and his steed, Brown Beauty, were famous for their midnight rides; Revere worked as an express rider hired by the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to carry news, messages and copies of resolutions to New York and Philadelphia.

BUCEPHALUS & ALEXANDER THE GREAT

Alexander the Great was the only person who could ride the steed Bucephalus as the horse was afraid of his own shadow; the Macedonian king only rode him facing into the sun. Bucephalus served Alexander in numerous battles, the last being circa 326 BC against the Indian King Porus, who they defeated at the Hydaspes River (in present day Pakistan). Bucephalus was 30 years old then, and died from its battle wounds. Buried with military honours, Bucephalus’ grave lies in Jalalpur Sharif outside of Jhelum, Pakistan.

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Pegasus, the immortal, winged horse of Greek mythology was said to have sprung forth from the neck of Medusa when she was beheaded by Perseus. The horse was later tamed by Bellerophon, a Corinthian hero who rode it into battle against a fire-breathing chimera.

PEGASUS & BELLEROPHON

Pegasus is a well known name in Greek mythology. According to Greek mythology, the pure white- winged steed was captured by Bellerophon to strike down the monster Chimera. And no, Pegasus is not Hercules’ companion as depicted in the Walt Disney cartoon, Hercules. That’s merely a Hollywood embellishment for pure entertainment.

KANTHAKA & BUDDHA

According to scriptures, the white horse Kanthaka features prominently in the story of the Great Renunciation where Prince Siddhartha renounces the material world and leaves his father’s palace astride Kanthaka. They ride to the River Anoma where Siddhartha begins his journey into becoming Buddha and leaves the horse behind across the river. It is said that Kanthaka, born on the same day as Siddhartha, died of grief from being left behind, but was reborn in heaven.

TROJAN HORSE & THE GREEKS

In Greek mythology, the Greeks attacked the people of Troy unsuccessfully for over a decade during the Trojan War, until they figured that adopting a sly tactic was better than trying to take the city by force. They built the Trojan Horse, one of the best warfare strategies ever. The Greeks, feigning retreat, left the monstrous wooden horse in plain sight to entice the Trojans, who brought the horse in through the fortifi ed walls of the city of Troy. They didn’t realise that inside the hollow horse, the Greek’s armed military forces lay in wait. Upon nightfall, the soldiers climbed out of the horse and launched a victorious attack that won them Troy.

From The Magazine,Cover Story,Travel 3Sixty,AirAsia,Inflight Magazine,Lunar New Year,Year of the Horse,Chinese zodiac,Napoleon Bonaparte,battle,Biographer Jill Hamilton

Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have rode many horses into battle but one name – Marengo – keeps surfacing as his bravest steed. Biographer Jill Hamilton, however, argues the horse’s existence and suspects it could be a horse named Ali / Aly, which he rode frequently.

MARENGO & NAPOLEON

Of the many horses owned by French military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marengo is the most famous. This horse was named after serving Bonaparte in the victorious Battle of Marengo in 1800. Marengo carried Napoleon in several subsequent battles, but was captured by the British after the Battle of Waterloo, and proudly displayed in England. After the horse’s death, its skeleton was exhibited at the British National Army Museum in Chelsea, central London.

INCITATUS & CALIGULA

Roman emperor Julius Caesar, also known as Caligula, loved his horse Incitatus, whose name means ‘swift’. The beautiful white stallion was so loved that Caesar kept him in a stable within the palace, made of marble and carved ivory, and dressed him in purple blankets and collars made with previous stones. Incitatus was the guest of honour at many of the lavish parties Caesar threw, where the horse dined alongside other guests and drank wine out of a golden pail.

SHADOWLESS & CAO CAO

Cao Cao, warlord and the penultimate Chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty circa 190 AD, rose to great power in the fi nal years of the Three Kingdoms Period, as he swept across the region conquering provinces with Shadowless as his mount.

SAKARYA & ATATÜRK

Sakarya is the most beloved and famous horse of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. During the Turkish War of Independence, the horse carried him in all battles, and after the Republican Period, Sakarya sired many winning race horses.


HOROSCOPE OF THE HORSE

In the Chinese zodiac, the Horse sign falls under the ‘fire’ branch. Those born in the year of the Horse are said to possess confidence and a strong sense of leadership. Here are the general characteristics of horses born under the various elements.

Birth year for people under the Horse sign: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014 

 

THE
ELEMENT

THE GOOD

THE BAD

THE UGLY (TRUTH)

Metal

Friendly, warm, focused, driven, passionate

Stubborn, uncompromising, unyielding, over passionate

Irresponsible, unreasonable, hard to make long term commitments

Wood

Hardworking, sociable, amicable, generous, progressive, practical

Overly generous, unprepared, lacks discipline

Daydreamer, take on more than able to chew

Water

Cheerful, agreeable, fashionable, versatile

Restless, easily distracted,  ckle

Inconsistent,
inconsiderate, self-serving

Fire

Highly intelligent, able to multi-task, courageous, driven, passionate

Volatile in temperament, impractical, overly competitive

Lacks stability, inconsistent, sel fish,high tendency for narcissism

Earth

Happy, cheerful, loyal, principled, sensitive, intuitive, altruistic, grounded

Indecisive, overly cautious, oversensitive, uncertain

Opportunistic

 

For more on the Chinese Zodiac and to  nd out your element, go to www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/Love/CFAPersonality.htm

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The recent horsemeat scandal in Europe may have turned heads (and stomachs!), but horsemeat is regular fare in many countries. Horsemeat is popular in certain types of French cooking, and China and Kazakhstan are some of the largest consumers of horsemeat. In Germany, Sauerbraten, or pot roast, is traditionally made with horsemeat, while the Japanese like their horsemeat the way they like their sashimi: Sliced thinly and eaten raw.

UPSTANDING SNOOZE

Horses’ bodies are built in a way that makes it really comfortable for them to snooze while standing. Horses have bones and ligaments in their legs that lock together in a special way, allowing them to be completely relaxed while standing.

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CELEBRATE THE YEAR OF THE HORSE IN XI'AN!

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