Laurie Kingery here, and this month I thought I'd discuss some superstitions held by cowboys, which were surprising to me because cowboys are usually a clear-thinking lot. Apparently a lot of these superstitions are still rampant among some rodeo folk today—
One of the most widely-held superstitions is that it's bad luck to put your hat on the bed, especially brim-down, as the luck will run out. One practical reason was that back when bathing was infrequent, head lice were common, and placing the hat on the bed spread the nuisance. One remedy is to take the hat outside and stomp on it.
Horseshoes have been considered lucky since the days of Celtic Britain, but only if they're put on the wall "heels up," like the letter "U" so the "luck woon't run out, as with hats.
Rodeo folk won't wear yellow in the arena, as it's considered unlucky. So is competing with change in one's pocket, as it might be all you get. Shaving before a performance is lucky—if one cleans up for Lady Luck, she'll favor you. It's a bad idea to eat chicken before a competition, as you are what you eat.
It was considered giving knives could sever the friendship, but misfortune is canceled if the receiver pays for a knife, even a penny. A wedding gift of knives I received once had a penny taped to the wood block into which they were inserted.
There are quite a few superstitions and folk beliefs connected with horses, too.
--If a horse steps on a wolf print, it will be crippled.
--Changing a horse's name is bad luck
--Inhaling a horse's breath is considered a whooping cough cure.
--Eating a hair from the horse's forelock is a cure for worms.
--Placing three hairs from a donkey's shoulders in a muslin bag worn around the neck cures whooping cough or measles.
--Sitting backwards on a donkey cures snakebites and toothache.
--If you see a white dog you should be silent until you see a white horse.
--To predict the sex of an unborn foal, swing a nail tied from a hair in the mare's tail above her hips. If it doesn’t swing, she's not in foal. If it swings in a circle, it’s a filly; if it swings straight, a colt.
--Horse brasses (those decorative brass pieces on a harness) are there to protect the horses from witches.
--Spotted horses are magical. Indians considered them "good medicine," too.
--If you lead a white horse through the house it will banish evil.
--A cure for founder, or lameness was pouring turpentine into a saucer and holding it against the horse's navel. It will be sucked up, and the founder will be gone.
--Warts can be cured by circling them with horse hairs.
What superstitions have you heard related to horses and the old west?
With thanks to "American Cowboy" magazine and Ultimatehorsesite.com, as well as Wikipedia.com
Blessings, Laurie Kingery