There are lots of reasons why you’d want a horse tattoo. Maybe you’re an equestrian and you want to remember your favorite pony after they passed away. Or maybe you embrace the freedom and fiery spirit of wild herds. The inspiration and meaning behind your tattoo will dictate the type of horse you get. So let’s take a look at some horse tattoo ideas you could try.
Whichever tattoo you end up getting, remember the basics of tattoo aftercare. Every expert has a different maintenance regime. Some swear by Grabacin while others say it will fade your tattoo. Some advise using petroleum jelly, but others say you need unscented lotion to avoid sweating your ink off. Talk to your tattooist and they’ll tell you what they recommend.
Many tattoo artists agree on the general principles though. You should keep the tattoo dry for a day or so and avoid soaking it in water (e.g. a pool, lake, or bathtub) for a few weeks. Short showers are fine. Try to keep the tattoo out of direct sunlight, sea salt, or chlorine. But you should rinse it once or twice a day in plain water and keep it lubricated but let it breathe.
1. Minimalist Curves
If you have a darker skin tone, it can be helpful if your horse tattoo ideas have lots of negative space. Otherwise, the details will get lost in your melanin. So a tattoo like this would be a good option, preferably on a lighter part of your body like your inner arm or your calf. This curvy silhouette can be just as pretty on light skin, or as a watercolor if you have fair.
2. Chinese Characters
Heard the one about Chinese tattoos? Lots of us think it’s cool to have one, but it’s a lot like a Chinese person tattooing the word ‘water’ or ‘soup’ on their skin. And the message often gets mistranslated into something ridiculous or offensive. Consider getting an actual character instead of transliteration. This horse character works, but it’s not instantly recognizable.
3. Line Art
Your horse tattoo idea might commemorate a particular event. Maybe it was the birth or death of a horse you love. Or maybe the anniversary of someone you associate with horses. It could be anything – a romantic carriage ride or a summertime love at a ranch. Line art is cool because they’re quicker and will hurt less. But it might also fade faster so protect it.
Have you watched Coco? If so, this horse tattoo may have made you dance and feel un poco loco. The designs on the horse’s face and the colorful flames and flowers around it are reminiscent of the Dia de Muertos, a Mexican holiday that celebrates past loved ones. But this tattoo only works if your skin is light enough to show the color and detail of the design.
5. Apache Horse
A lot of us are drawn to Native American culture, but it can be hard to admire and celebrate it without appropriation. One way to get around it is to use a Native American tattoo artist who can tell you the deeper meaning behind the image. As it is, if your skin is pale enough to take color, this colorful horse tattoo with its headdress and dream catcher can be a treasure.
6. Rearing Horse
You might prefer a ‘moving image’ for your horse tattoo. Something like a horse raised on its rear legs. It’s a more powerful image that could express your personality and character. Plus it’s easily recognizable, so the tattoo speaks for itself. This one has a dash of color in it, and the detailed mane and tail make it dynamic. But some of that red might fade – it’s sore skin.
7. Moody Mare
Your horse tattoo idea can be realistic or caricatured, depending on your preference. This one leans towards the latter. It’s tattooed in a narrow space (outer forearm) so the rearing angle is exaggerated. But on the upside, you can see the mood and facial expression of the horse. As with the previous tattoo, a lot of that red is from irritation and may fade away.
8. Baby and Mama
One of the most popular tattoo ideas is ‘Mom’ with a heart and arrows. But you can express the same idea in a more creative way. This one uses horses. It has a detailed mare and her filly (or maybe a stallion and his colt). They have feathered headdress to suggest a Native American connection and is a wonderfully artistic way to celebrate parent-child bonds.
9. Animal Spirits
The concept of spirit animals has been co-opted, appropriated, and diluted, so you should apply it carefully in your horse tattoo ideas. This particular one has wispy horses in extreme close-ups so you almost drown in their eyes, but the angle gives it an ethereal tone. The tattoo also incorporates wolf, owl, and octopus symbolism with vast mountains behind them.
10. Full Sleeve
Horse tattoo ideas can range from something quick and simple to a vastly detailed piece. If you’re opting for a sleeve, you’ll want it to communicate complex ideas. After all, sleeve art takes time (and endurance). This one took six hours and has tons of shading. The elements of light and shadow are impressive. You can almost feel the texture of the trees and ground.
11. Musical Horse
Horses don’t generally sing, though their hooves can be pleasantly rhythmic. So if you happen to have a musical leaning and a love of horses, you could combine these ideas into a unique horse tattoo idea. The horse here has a mane and tail made of a musical score complete with quavers, a flat, a G-clef, and just enough shading to mark the horse’s muscle.
Photorealistic horse tattoos can be jaw-dropping. They’re also intensely painful because of all that shading. It may take several sessions because your skin will tire, and so will your tattoo artist, so they may ask you to wait a few days between appointments. The resting time lets the tattoo heal so it’s better defined. But this design isn’t smart on dark skin – it won’t show.
13. Intense Emotion
This horse tattoo idea captures a specific mood and moment. It focuses on the head of this show horse, so you can see the intricately braided Bantu knots. It’s a common technique during dressage because you get points for aesthetics and presentation too. You can also see the horse’s facial expression and the texture of its pelt. This design needs a light skin tone.
For LOTR fans, the black rider in the foreground of this horse tattoo is obviously a ring wraith. But the rider could also be a grim reaper, who often wears a hood and rides a horse. But by adding white horses in the rear, the tattoo might stretch to symbolize good and evil, dark and light, death and life. The clouds of dust beneath their feet add texture and beauty.
15. Simple Silhouette
We’re often attracted to a horse’s ‘hair’. It’s an easy way to introduce softness and movement to your horse tattoo idea. And because linear tattoos are appealing on dark skin, this can be a good compromise. It has a feminine curve, lots of negative space, and a mix of thick and thin lines so it won’t fade as quickly as most line tattoos. Plus the shape is beautifully distinct.
16. Abstract Art
Do you want your horse tattoo idea to be effortlessly understood or do you prefer an air of mystery? Tattoos make great ice breakers and conversation starters, so maybe you’d like your horse tattoo idea to be more abstract. This wrist tattoo is small and simplistic so it takes less time and less pain. But you have to stare at it for ages before you figure out it’s a horse!
17. Henna Horses
Henna tattoos are popular among desi communities, particularly with South Asians, Arabs, and Waswahili. It takes patience and immobility because those intricate patterns take hours to set. And once done, the tattoo can last months. But this horse tattoo idea takes the floral vines and soft swirls of henna then uses ink and needles to make the patterns permanent.
18. Colorful Cowgirl
You may have heard that colored ink doesn’t show on dark skin. It’s why tattoo artists recommend plain black tattoos with lots of ‘white space’. But colored tattoos also fade faster than black ones, so if your skin tone is light enough for a splash of color, you should opt for darker, longer-lasting pigments like the reds, greens, and yellows in this cowgirl horse tattoo.
19. Blind Horses
Carriage horses and plow horses often have blinders on the sides of their faces. This keeps them from getting startled by distractions in their peripheral vision. But when you’re seeking horse tattoo ideas, you might decide you want an actual blindfold on your horse. This image might symbolize trust – the horse has so much faith in its rider that it doesn’t need sight.
20. Horsey Heartbeat
Heartbeat tattoos are quite popular these days. They imply that the image is so close to your heart that it’s literally your lifeblood. And the concept can extend to anything from butterflies to jeeps. In this case, the heartbeat horse could work for a jockey, a cowboy, an equine DJ, a bronie, a rancher, or even a car nut that’s really into pistons and horsepower.
21. Celtic Horse
Tribal tattoos and Gaelic symbols are two common genres in the body modification space. They’re distinct and easily identified. Plus, because they have sharp definition, heavy shading, and lots of negative space, they work on both dark and light skin tones. This Celtic horse has typical trinities, knots, and swirls embellished with a vivid red and green detail.
22. Watercolor Wonder
Another popular trend in the tattoo space is watercolor. They look pretty and ethereal, with their porous borders and loose framing. But watercolors only work on very light skin. They fade swiftly and aren’t as easy to touch up, so keep that in mind. This tattoo has pretty pastel crystals that emulate bisexual lighting. The palette makes the horse look like a unicorn.
23. Cave Art
You’ve seen those crude cave paintings made by our ancestors. They’re our first archeological examples of art and creative expression. The idea behind these paintings is they had simple silhouettes so you can tell what they are at a glance. So it’s a smart concept for your newest horse tattoo idea. This archer from Iceland would look good on any skin.
24. A Dash of Pastels
Maybe your skin is darker so you can’t commit to watercolors. Or maybe you want to wait longer before you schedule a touch-up. In that case, your horse tattoo idea could merge traditional tones with watercolors. This horse head tattoo is done in a deep brown and has a level of detail that won’t quickly fade. Then it’s ‘garnished’ with wispy pastels in the mane.
25. Ankle Lucky
As we’ve mentioned, black tattoos have the most staying power, but if you want to color, go for darker pigments. This example has red, yellow, and green, which are the most common colors advised for darker skin. But you can get around your melanin by placing your tattoo on a lighter part of your body like your palms, calves, or ankles. Toss in a horseshoe for luck.
26. Horsey Landscapes
Pastoral scenes can be haunting or soothing, depending on how you use them. And while these landscapes often suggest peace and quiet, you can add a dynamic element by putting a moving horse in the middle of the backdrop. This horse tattoo idea incorporates blue sky and green grass, but bolder shades. And the rearing horse is black and vibrant so the art is alive!
27. Sunny Silhouettes
Because the shape of a running horse is so distinct, getting a dark shadow tattoo can be effective. But depending on its size and position, it may end up looking like a beauty spot, a scar, or a smudge. So if your complexion is light enough, you can clarify the symbol while brightening it up. This sample uses a blue body and a yellow mane to heighten the effect.
28. Origami Pony
The ancient Japanese art of paper folding needs care, patience, and focus. But if you can’t make horses from paper napkins, why not draw one instead? This angular origami horse is immediately identifiable. And it’s far more permanent than those carefully creased bits of paper. Heads up though – the shading, texture, refinement, and detail here will hurt. A lot.
29. Band of Horses
Here’s a clever way to create negative space on dark skin – use a tribal block tattoo. Using dark (or black) ink, design a thick band or bracelet that goes around your arm or leg. You can then insert horse stencils inside the band, making a kind of reverse shadow effect. This ensures your horse tattoos can be seen and named from a distance, even if your Fenty is 498.
30. Carousel Canter
Watercolors aren’t the only option for colorful horse tattoo ideas. Another way to express yourself is to use carousel horses. These are the colorful pony rides you see at fairs and amusement parks. As far as design goes, the horses can be dotted with stars and poles or channel My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite. But remember, they’ll fade faster than dark ones.
31. Lines and Flowers
Our last horse tattoo idea is best on light skin. As we’ve said several times, pastel watercolor tones don’t last long, especially on a part of your body that’s always exposed to sunlight. But this tattoo combines a soft, girly, line art horse with some wisps of pink, blue, and pale green. You’ll get the best of both styles – linear texture and definition plus a playful feminine touch.
What’s your favorite horse tattoo idea? Show us some photos in the comments section!