Dreams about horses are a fairly common dream theme at bedtime. If you or a loved one have been covering this ground at night, you may have questions about what it all might mean. As part of a Huffington Post series on dreams and their meanings, we spoke to Volney Gay, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, anthropology and religion at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., to get expert advice about the meanings of your or your loved one’s horse dreams. Note: While dream analysis is highly subjective, this post might provide some insight into why this dream occurred or is recurring.
What do dreams about horses mean? "Dreams ought to be seen first as my story to myself in my circumstances," Gay says. "Crucial to the experience is how the dreamer feels during the dream." To determine your personal meaning, look at how the dreams about horses make you feel, and how you react to them. A dream in which you're riding a horse, feeling the wind in your face and a sense of freedom means something completely different than facing a stampede of rearing horses.
What can I learn about myself from dreaming about horses? "It's important to look at the dream in the context of what you're feeling during the dream and as you remember it," Gay says. Explore your feelings about the horse in your dream. How do the experiences in dreams about horses relate to your real experiences with horses? For example, dreaming of riding a small horse in your dream may remind you of riding a pony as a child.
Are there any tricks to avoiding or inducing dreams about horses? Avoiding your dreams is tantamount to avoiding your own thoughts and feeling. "Don't avoid your dreams. Explore the images and feelings your dreams create in you," Gay says. Use a dream journal, or a sketch pad to explore the images in your dreams about horses more fully.
Beyond analysis, what cultural symbolism can be found in dreams about horses? "None of us is completely separate from the collective ideals of society," says Gay. "Horses have distinct qualities and roles in every culture on earth. They are strong, intelligent animals that are not always under our control. Horses are associated with nobility and the gods. But they are also a force of nature, running wild and free -- and horses are traditionally used in war and battle, not even mentioning the hidden threat of the Trojan horse." Dreams about horses may represent one of these cultural symbols or something more personal from your own experiences.
Who tends to have dreams about horses most frequently? "People dream about animals all the time," Gay says, noting that half of all reported dreams involve animals of some sort. Teenage males, however, tend to have dreams about horses and other large animals slightly more than adults.
What is "day residue" and how does it affect the dream state? "'Day residue' are those experiences, ideas and images that we experience while we're awake that may affect our dreams," Gay says. "For example, we may have a discussion about a movie, and I may dream about a character or situation from that movie when I sleep." Dreams about horses may be triggered by something you did that day or a tangentially related event in the recent past.
Volney Gay, Ph.D., studied at Reed College and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology and religion from the University of Chicago. He was a graduate fellow at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy in Chicago and is board certified in adult psychoanalysis.