If a statue depicting a person on a horse with both front legs in the air, the person died in a battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in a battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
A popular belief – at least in the United States and the United Kingdom – is that if the horse is rearing (both front legs in the air), the rider died in battle; one front leg up means the rider was wounded in battle or died of battle wounds; and if all four hooves are on the ground, the rider died outside battle. However, there is little evidence to support this belief.
In the United States, the alleged rule is especially held to apply to equestrian statues commemorating the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg, but there is at least one instance where the rule does not hold for Gettysburg equestrian statues, and syndicated newspaper columnist Cecil Adams claims that any correlation between the positioning of hooves in a statue and the manner in which a Gettysburg soldier died is a coincidence.
For example, in Gettysburg, the statue of James Longstreet features his horse with one foot raised, even though Longstreet was not wounded in battle. Even the most cursory look at the statues around Washington, D.C. quickly disproves that the hoof code at all holds sway in that locale.