This Article was written by the previous Urban Legends Editor Mystic Houston
I was a teenager the first time I heard this one. I was walking through the cemetary with a friend and we saw a statue of a soldier on horseback. My friend knowingly informed me that the soldier had not died in battle. I remember laughing at him, thinking he was just making stuff up to impress me, or that maybe he was related to the person. But no, he said that he knew the soldier had not died in battle because all four of
the horse's feet were on the ground. I told him he was making things up and more or less forgot all about it.
But this "fact" kept popping up. It was referred to in a couple of books I read over the years. Another friend of mine swore that a sculptor had forgotten this rule when she saw a picture of a statue in a book that apparently had been given the incorrect horse hoof placement for the fate of the soldier riding it. And then one day my husband mentioned the "horse hoof soldier thing" to me too. At this point, I had begun to feel chagrined that I had not believed my friend so many years earlier. Apparently it was true, after all...you learn something new every day. Right?
Ideally yes. Although whether or not that is always true is a debate for another place and time. But when I decided to research this topic in honor of Veteran's Day, I was surprised to learn that this "rule" or "fact" or whatever you want to call it is, sadly, simply another urban legend.
A Google.com search for urban legends +statues +horse hooves brought up a surprising number of links, proving to me that this "fact" is actually pretty well-known among people. HREF="http://www.snopes.com/military/statue.htm"TARGET=WINDOW>Snopes, as usual, presented an astonishing amount of information about soldiers and horse statues, including detailed information on a number of the statues in Washington, D.C. And I found The Straight Dope's coverage of the topic rather amusing. The general consensis of these, and many other sources of information is that any correlation between the hooves of horse statues and the fates of the soldiers riding them is merely coincidental.
So, guess it turns out that my teenage friend really was full of it after all.