Heavy Horses: Horseman’s Oath

Anthony Dent calls The Society of Horsemen “a unique institution”, a “friendly society” of grooms, drivers, ploughmen and waggoners in the east of Britain from Kent to Aberdeenshire. Their shared code and knowledge included a variety of magick, charms and recipes for assorted horse ailments, and East Anglian members took a ferocious oath not to share this know-how with “fool” nor “madman” nor “drunkard” nor “any one who would abuse his master’s horses” nor “any woman at all”. Brothers in the society were sworn to go to another’s aid “within the bounds of three miles except I can give a lawful excuse such as my wife in childbed or my mares in foaling or myself in bad health or in my master’s employment.”
For those who break their word, it ends in bloodcurdling terms:

“I to my heart wish and desire that my throat may be cut from ear to ear with a horseman’s knife and my body torn to pieces between wild horses and blown by the four winds of heaven to the utmost parts of the earth, my heart torn from my left breast and its blood wrung out and buried in the sands of the sea shore where the sea ebbs and flows thrice every 24 hours that my remembrance may be no more heard among true and faithful brethren. So help me God to keep this solom obligation.”

Quoted in The Horse Through Fifty Centuries of Civilisation by Anthony Dent.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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  1. That’s interesting. My first thought was that there’s some similarity with the freemasons’ oath. I wonder why such societies feel they have to include such bloodcurdling horrors should you break them? Was it ever acted upon I wonder?

  2. I hadn’t thought about Freemasons. That’s an astute connection to make. I’m sure there was some overlap, and some borrowing of phrases. I do bet that nobody ever acted on it though too.

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