This trope is when horses are portrayed as symbols of masculinity, potency, fecundity, and virility.
In Western European cultures, horse riding and caring were once considered the sole purveyance of men. Riding was also associated with nobility, as owning and keeping a horse was expensive, making horse ownership a symbol of wealth. When ranchers in the American "Wild West" rode horses as they rounded up cattle, it became associated with the manly art of tending the land and being self-reliant in their craft.
The reason why men are more associated with horses than boys is that actually riding a horse safely requires the necessary skills and a degree of physical fitness and mental acuity associated with maturity. With women, the animal reflects her own sexuality or sexual prowess, to the point that "Horsebreaker" was a euphemistic and obsolete slang term for a prostitute.
Wealthy preindustrial women were commonly advised to ride sidesaddle to keep their hymen intact, though many did not for a couple of reasons. Firstly, attempts at "sidesaddles" prior to the invention of the prototypical modern sidesaddle in the 16th century ranged from impractical to dangerous, so women were stuck between using a regular saddle (and switching between riding aside and astride, as needed), or riding in a death-trap that could only be used at a walk, and would not allow her to control her own horse. Furthermore, most preindustrial women's outfits had roomy and comfortable skirts that were perfectly good for riding astride, and it was only when the Victorians started wearing fashions like hoop-skirts and narrower cuts that women became forced to ride sidesaddle if they didn't want to flash people.
In a crude sense of symbolism, the association with sexuality and virility is believed to be associated with a horse's genitals, as they are famously well-endowed. This led to the phrase "hung like a horse", and this appears to be the source of inspiration for the masculine insecurity and sexual inadequacy about the size of a man's penis affecting his ability to be seen as a competent lover.
Moreover, a stallion's worth was often measured in his its ability to breed and sire many other horses of high merit, to the point that horse semen is considered even today to be "liquid gold", with thoroughbred's semen selling for $4.7 million USD. A stallion that cannot sire or cannot do its duty as a working animal has little to no value and is cast aside or "sent to the glue factory", much like how traditional male gender roles place value first and foremost as the primary breadwinner and provider for the family. Those who can't provide or those seen as impotent face social ridicule and critique.
Ironically, wild horses are led by their oldest mare (with said mare's mate acting as her second-in-command at best), who is the one to direct the herd's movements, guide it to food and water sources, and otherwise control its direction and routine. The herd's stallion has the primary role of breeding with the mares and defending the herd by fighting predators and rival males. This lionization of male horses led to the belief that stallions were the leaders of the herd through Darwinian rights, which led to the masculinization of horses in symbolism and cultural depictions.
It should also be noted that in cultures that don't geld stallions, they widely prefer well-mannered and gentle ones. After all, you can't have half of your horse-stock misbehaving if they have other jobs besides procreating.
It can go with Cool Horse, Our Centaurs Are Different varies in application because they are mythological half-man, half-horse creatures. The original centaurs of Greek mythology, however, were very much subject to this trope. The rooster and the bull are other animals with similar connotations about masculinity and virility. Compare Alpha and Beta Wolves, a similar misunderstanding of animal "dominance" and group dynamics. Contrast All Girls Like Ponies for when horses are seen as feminine. Compare Diligent Draft Animal, where the draft horses' strength is emphasized in the context of work endurance rather than masculinity.
- Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto zigzags this. The manga shows Cesare Borgia at 16, and reflects his real-life interest in horses, and skill with them. His first appearance in the beginning of the series is his Meet Cute with The Watson Angelo, who he rescues on horseback. Over the series, as Angelo grows closer to Cesare, this is shown by his increasing ability with horses, and Cesare's fierce Arabian stallions in particular — their mounts are brothers. It is true that at the time of his father's election, Cesare was in Siena, participating in their famous horse race, and not in Rome. But unlike typical portrayals of Cesare as a fiery, hot-blooded warrior resenting that he's forced to be a priest, this manga focuses on his intellectual side, which rarely appears in fiction though historians acknowledge it. He's cool-headed and philosophical, and sees violence as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
- Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome has the meaningful name "Wild Horse", has quite a lot of pride in his manliness (he's a top-notch martial artist) and any kind of questioning about it is a Berserk Button. Which of course makes it quite ironic that he has a curse that turns him into a woman and he comes to embrace it because it allows him to do things like eating ice cream without shame. It also turns out to be enforced, because his father made an oath to his mother that Ranma would be a "man among men", courtesy of his martial arts training, under threat of Seppuku if they failed.
- Vow of Nudity: The Storm Lord's male pegasi are overly concerned with becoming the 'Sire', a stallion specifically chosen to breed with the mares of the farm and who lives in special quarters apart from the rest. Haara gets each member of the flock to help her fight the skyswimmer by convincing them the Storm Lord would value them more after defeating such a powerful foe in battle.
- Barbie (2023): Kendom is horse-themed, complete with the Barbie-themed Rushmore Refacement being replaced by horses, everything being covered in leather, Stereotypical Ken wearing a cowboy outfit. Ironically, the Kens of course have Barbie Doll Anatomy, unlike horses.
- The Godfather: In both the novel and the movie, Woltz brags to Tom Hagen about his horse Khartoum in this way, telling Tom he's going to retire Khartoum to stud. This is why, when Don Corleone wants Woltz to sign Johnny Fontane for his new movie even though Woltz has refused, the Don has his men cut off Khartoum's head and leave it for Woltz to discover when he wakes up.
- Mad Max: Fury Road: No horse actually appears, but Immortan Joe has stallions as his motif. His gas mask is decorated with horse teeth, his car is named the Gigahorse, carries a pair of western-style revolvers of the type used by 19th-century cavalrymen, as well as his attempts to breed the perfect heir which bears a very uncomfortable similarity to equine husbandry.
- Rocky: Invoked, Rocky is called "The Italian Stallion" because of his Italian-American heritage. Rocky had to work hard to be a champion, he trains in a barn, and he returned to the ring in the 2006 film in order to prove himself yet again.
- The Bible: Ezekiel 23:19-20 references this trope with the following passage:
"Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."
- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Played with; the Ranyhyn are a herd of wild horses that possess phenomenal strength and endurance. The Lords who rule The Land regularly present themselves to the Ranyhyn, to see if the Ranyhyn deem them worthy. If a Ranyhyn horse deems a Lord worthy, it will rear to them and become that Lord's servant by staying close, coming when they whistle, and allowing Lord to ride him wherever he goes. If a Lord presents himself or herself to the Ranyhn and a Ranyhyn does not choose them, there is nothing preventing that Lord from continuing as a Lord, but there is still a question of why they were rejected. One Lord who was rejected and therefore has to ride an ordinary horse cannot keep up with other Lords who ride Ranyhyn with far greater speed and endurance. Even the Lords were confused as to why he was rejected, as he was a good and noble Lord. When Thomas Covenant came to the Land, over one hundred Ranyhyn reared to him, which astonished the Ramen whose work was to serve and care for the Ranyhyn, because no one had ever had more than one Ranyhyn accept them. However, it's made clear the Ranyhyn did so not out of respect, but because they were terrified of the power of the White Gold ring Covenant carried.
- In Futures In The Memories Market, by Nina Hoffman, the male protagonist downloads a Transferable Memory of Geeta, a woman visiting a planet of sentient horses.
She laughed and went to hug one, even though the culture memod said people weren’t allowed to do that. How amazing to have your arms around so much huge intelligent warmth; the texture of damp hair against your cheek, the solid muscles shifting against your chest. The smell of the horse’s sweat, salty and musky, stirred Geeta awake on several levels.
- Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi: Jin Guangyao compares his father disparagingly to a stallion for his philandering ways.
Jin Guangyao: An old stallion that gets in a rut wherever it goes really deserves such a death, doesn’t it?
- In The Great Divorce, a Ghost who surrenders his Vice (lust, represented as a crawling lizard) sees it transformed into a stallion representing healthy, joyful physicality.
- The Histories: Exploited, in this story by Herodotus, he tells his account of the coronation of King Darius I of The Achaemenid Empire. It was declared that whoever could make their stallion whinny first before daybreak would be crowned king. Darius, being a Guile Hero, rubbed his hands over the genitals of a mare in heat, and then wafted them under his stallion's nose, arousing it into whinnying.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: The Dothraki are horse-worshipping nomads with a very macho culture and a prophecy about a "stallion who mounts the world". "Mounting" in this case meaning "have sex with".
- In Altered Carbon, "Stallion" is the street name for a male aggression enhancing drug. One character is shown to commit a rape-murder while under its influence.
- The Boys (2019): Invoked in Black Noir's animated flashback of Payback, where he sees the TNT Twins as a pair of horses. The TNT Twins were the hosts of Herogasm and were obsessed with hedonism and sexual pleasure.
- Game of Thrones: The Dothraki are associated with horses. The animals are an integral part of their culture. Khals are also known as horselords, they are renowned for their skill at mounted combat, they worship a deity known as the Great Stallion and there is a prophecy of a great "khal of khals" known as the 'Stallion who Mounts the World', who will unite all the people into one khalasar.
- Last Week Tonight: Parodied in the episode about Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan associates himself with horses (specifically Akhal-Tekes) and John makes fun of this by implying that his love for horses borders on bestiality. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has written books about horses, wrote poems about horses, enters horse competitions, made it illegal to rename horses, and calls himself the "People's horse breeder".
John Oliver: "Witnesses never wearied of being astonished by the steed-and-human intercourse brought to full perfection..." Which I'm hoping is a mistranslation but probably isn't.
- Parks and Recreation: As the uber-celebrity of Pawnee, mini horse Lil' Sebastian occupies this spot in a few of his memorial pictures since several people insist on using pictures of him fully erect.
- Classical Mythology:
- Centaurs were originally characterised as amorous warriors who were seen as wild, lawless, and inhospitable beings who were slaves to their "animal passions" (with wise Mentor Archetype Chiron being a rare exception). It's possible they were inspired by the sight of Scythian horsemen.
- Satyrs were originally depicted by the Greeks as hairy men with the ears and tails of horses or donkeys and permanently-erect Gag Penises (which may or may not have been equine in appearance, Depending on the Writer) who spent all their time engaging in Black Comedy Rape against whatever crossed their paths. It wasn't until the rise of the Roman empire when they became associated with fauns that they gained their more well-known half-human/half-goat appearance.
- In some accounts, pagan Irish chieftains would have public sex with mares, symbolically taking the place of a stallion to demonstrate their virility. As these accounts come from later Christian monks eager to distance themselves from their heathen past, this may only have happened in their imaginations.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Invoked in a sidequest in Markarth, where the local alchemist asks you to deliver a Stallion's Potion (which increases the imbiber's Stamina by 20 points for 300 seconds) to the elderly Steward Raerek for "that problem he has." When he gets it, Raerek mumbles his thanks and pays a hefty tip for your discretion.
- Europa Universalis: 4 has an UI elementnote indicating enemy warleader's willingness to continue fighting the war:
Offer peace when the horsey is sad.
- High war enthusiasm: Horse rearing note on green background.
- Medium war enthusiasm: Horse walking on yellow background.
- Low war enthusiasm: Horse with its head down on red background.
- God of War II: As the son of Poseidon, Theseus has a horse motif and this version of the character portrays Theseus as an old man whose glory days are far behind him. He proudly serves the Sisters of Fate for the glory of Zeus by looking after the steeds of time and he fights Kratos after deeming him weak for losing the fight against Zeus.
- Hotline Miami: Implied, the horse mask is called "Don Juan" and is in the reference to the Spanish nobleman who was famous for his high sex drive and seduction of women. The mask is also worn by The Girl in Jacket's meetings, who was a sex slave of The Director.
- Homestuck: Exaggerated and Parodied with Equius Zahhak. Equius admires horses and the art with horses, his name comes from the Latin "equus" ("horse"), and his zodiac sign (Sagittarius) is associated with the centaur archer, Chiron. As for masculinity, Equius reaches the point of Testosterone Poisoning, being insanely physically strong, but unable to control his own strength.
- Bojack Horseman: Deconstructed, Bojack is a washed-up Hollywood celebrity who has sex with a lot of women, but he does so to compensate for his loneliness and depression. It also bites him in the back, as he not only has a serious fallout with his ex-girlfriend Charlotte due to almost sleeping with her teenage daughter Penny, but also his relationship with his former co-star Sarah Lynn leads to her drug-induced death, which also ruins his entire career.
- Rick and Morty: Rickdependence Spray has a lot of sexual imagery and horses have a strong presence in the episode. Morty causes the invasion of giant mutant sperm by using a horse breeding mount to masturbate, the episode introduces the Chuds, a species of cannibalistic horses that have been at war with humans, and Rick drunkenly got one of their princesses pregnant and she orders a truce to save his life. The princess is called Poñeta, a Spanish term for masturbation, and one of the Chuds proclaim that the pregnancy was all part of the prophecy that would unite the chuds and humans.
- In some European languages, this association has led to calling a sexually successful man "stallion" (e.g. Italian "stallone" and Russian "žerebec"). In a twist of irony, the word "stud" itself is related to several Germanic cognates (e.g. German "die Stute", Swedish "sto") sharing the meaning "mare".
- Modern stallions, with notable exceptions, have been deprived of the natural act of reproduction, though not of their vaunted virility. As depicted in an older episode of the reality show Dirty Jobs, the stud deposits his seed into an artificial vagina, from which it is extracted into vials and frozen for later use. Both the stallion and mare are too valuable to allow them to actually touch each other. Thoroughbreds, however, must conceive naturally to be considered breed-conforming, which greatly increases their expense and risk of harm.
- Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan associates himself with horses as part of his PR campaign to present himself as a manly and powerful figure, in the process, he has written books about horses, wrote a poem about one of his horses, enters horse competitions, made it illegal to rename horses, has horse-themed decorations in his office, and calls himself the "People's horse breeder". It is also notable that Turkmenistan's culture gives high importance to the horse, as its people descend from Eurasian Steppe nomads, who greatly respected and relied on their equines for their cultural, economic and military practices.