Whorls on a horse’s cheeks are said to be a sign of debt and ruin.
Superstitions are fascinating to me. Some of them are so out of the blue it’s hard to figure out where they could have come from.
Others are so painfully easy to see, looking back with a modern knowledge of dentistry and veterinary practices.
With whorls on a horse’s cheek we have the perfect storm. The whorls are placed directly over nerves connected to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint). This is the joint where the jaw bone connects to the skull. It is an extraordinarily important spot in the horse. Issues here affect everything from chewing to soundness throughout the entire body. Especially if there is only a whorl on one side. This exacerbates everything through unevenness.
The whorl over these nerves seems to cause tightness and tension on the TMJ. This in turn can cause tightness and tension through the entire body. Try to relax while clinching your jaw if you are curious as to how this works. Then open your mouth and move your jaw around to see how much more relaxed that makes you feel.
We can help our horses relax in the same manner with some simple body work. A very useful practice if they have a cheek whorl. You can find all sorts of examples and techniques online.
This same tension can also lead to irregular chewing. In some, fortunately rare, cases there will even be teeth missing or malformed in the location under the whorls. Either of which cause the teeth to wear unevenly. Which causes pain and pain related ‘bad’ behavior if the teeth aren’t checked and problems resolved.
Now think about unrecognized pain behavior in horses before good, regular dental care came about. You have horses who act in a dangerous and unpredictable manner, seemingly without cause.
If you depend on your horse to make a living and they have a tendency to suddenly explode out of the blue, or are unable to hold condition because they aren’t able to eat properly, your living will be strongly affected. You wont be able to work. You will lose money. All leading to debt and ruin. This superstition is so fascinating to me. We can see the cause clear as day. If only they were all so easy to see, and fix.