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Cowboy superstitions: Fairy braids, lucky horseshoes and unmatched socks

Posted 9/24/22

Cowboys are by and large practical folks, yet many still tell stories related to myths and good luck charms.

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Online exclusive

Cowboy superstitions: Fairy braids, lucky horseshoes and unmatched socks

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Cowboys are by and large practical folks, yet many still tell stories related to myths and good luck charms.

For exampple, according to legend, the tangles that sometimes seem to just appear in a horse’s mane are called fairy knots or fairy braids. The story goes that during the night, fairies wander out in search of horses. Fairies are reportedly very particular about the horses they ride. When they choose a horse, they twist the horse’s mane to form little stirrups and reins. They then ride the horse on magical adventures. The horses are always returned by morning, none the worse for wear. According to legend, if your horse has fairy braids, it means the fairies really liked the horse and have blessed it. It’s bad luck to cut the fairy braids out, but a good detangler like Cowboy Magic makes it easier to comb them out.

While many Florida cowboys know about fairy braids, the legend probably came to America with European immigrants.

Another cowboy myth has a rhyme to help you remember it:

“One white foot buy him,

“Two white feet, try him,

“Three white feet, leave him alone!”

“Four white feet, go on home.”

Another version of the rhyme goes:

“One white foot, buy him.

“Two white feet, try him.

“Three white feet, look well about him.

“Four white feet, go home without him.”

The saying reinforces the idea that white feet on horses are more prone to cracking or chipping than darker colored feet. According to “8 Horse Hoof Care Myths,” by Amber Heintzberger, the color of the hoof is not an indicator of hoof strength. A study at Cornell University also found there was no difference between the structure or strength of black and white hooves on the same horse.

More superstitions:

Don’t compete in a horse show or rodeo with change in your pocket. If you do, it’s all you might win. As a practical matter, competing in rodeo events with a pocket full of change could well mean you lose the coins.

Placing a cowboy hat on a bed is bad luck. (Well, it would be bad luck if someone sits on it!)

It’s bad luck to throw away old horseshoes. That’s because you can use horseshoes to ward off evil and witches. And apparently witches like butter, so horseshoes were placed near butter churns to keep witches from stealing the butter.    

Hang a horseshoe in your home for good luck. Make sure you hang it with the open side up so the luck doesn’t fall out!

It’s bad luck to change a horse’s name. But it’s OK to give a horse a nickname, often referred to as a barn name. Registered horses may have long, complicated names that honor their bloodlines. For example, a paint horse sired by Beater Straw whose dame was named Not A Lot of Spots was registered as Not a Lot Can Beat ‘em. His barn name was Jake.  

One legend advises cowboys to shave and look their best at a rodeo to impress Lady Luck! But apparently, Lady Luck has a sense of humor because it’s also good luck to wear unmatched socks to a rodeo. But make sure neither sock is yellow. Wearing yellow in the rodeo arena is also bad luck – likely because the color is associated with cowardice.

In  December 2022, the Great Florida Cattle Drive will hit the trail, driving approximately 1,000 cattle from Deseret Ranch in St. Cloud, zigzagging to Kenansville.   Follow along as we celebrate the Florida cattle industry and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime on Great Florida Cattle Drive.

 For more stories see:

Rodeos are part of cowboy tradition

Cattle ranching started in Florida ...

Cowboy, buckaroo, waddy ... what's in a name?

A cowboy needs a horse ... 

Hats off to cowboys!

Will this hat hold water?

Remembering Kowboy Jake

Mural depicts 1937 cattle drive

luck, evil, cowboys, fairy braids

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