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Men on Horseback: DC’s Quiet Obsession

Georgetown, head of a horse,

I don’t know how I went ten years without noticing, but it appears that the District of Columbia has an almost clinical obsession with equestrian statues.  The District is seriously into statues of men on horseback, and they are scattered throughout our squares, circles, and obscure street corners.  Here are 5 facts about DC’s love of all things equine:

1. No other city in the United States has more equestrian statues than Washington, D.C.  In fact, it has more than 30 (yes, 30) equestrian statues.  Apparently, equestrian statues were all the rage after the Civil War, and every big city had to have one.

2. The oldest full-scale equestrian sculpture in the United States is located in Lafayette Park directly in front of The White House.  Sculpted by Clark Mills in 1853, this statue of President Andrew Jackson celebrates his victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 (this also happens to be the last battle of the war).

3. The Statue of Major General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park is the first American sculpture to have a rider on a rearing horse.  Up to that point, only Europeans had overcome the challenge of casting a rider balancing on the hind legs of a rearing horse.

4. It is widely rumored in Washington that you can tell how the rider of a horse died by the placement of the hooves of the horse.  The rumor goes that if the horse has one leg raised, the rider was harmed in battle or died of battle wounds; if the horse is standing upright on its hind legs, the rider died in battle; and, if all four hooves are on the ground, the rider survived and died outside battle.  There is scant evidence to support this belief, and hard evidence refutes it: less than a third of the equestrian statues in the district follow this rule.

5. District residents seem obsessed with them, too.  OK, maybe not obsessed but, as our featured photo shows, taken on a recent Insider tour, at least one Georgetown resident likes horses.  Well, at least their heads.  We can’t tell if a body goes with that head.