In 1951 on his return from a long trip to Europe where he had seen the equestrian figures of contemporary Italian painter Marino Marini, Husain executed his first painting of a horse as a symbolic motif.
However, what is liable to have been more influential than Marino Marini in context to Husain's horses, is an event he witnessed for the first time as a fifteen year old boy. Once a year during Muharram when the religious mourned the death of Imam Husain, the Prophet's son, they would carry tazias or effigies of Imam Husain's faithful horse in a procession through the streets.
"...the earliest icon that he had a part in creating was the apocalyptic horse of the tazias. He was to remain loyal to that icon; it never strayed far from his imagination in his subsequent paintings." (Richard Bartholomew & Shiv S. Kapur, Husain, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1972, p. 32)
Husain's horses are nearly always rampant or galloping, and their strong heads, delicate feet and dilated nostrils are expressed in blocks of colour propelled by strokes of the brush or sweeps of the palette knife.
Through the uninhibited use of impasto and his choice of fiery red in this early work, Husain conveys the sense of raw unimpeded power of a pair of wild and untamed horses.
According to E. Alkazi, horses are usually recognized as symbols of the sun and knowledge. They are associated with life giving and sustaining forces. Husain's horses have become "a vehicle for multiple utterances - aggression, power and protection." (R. Shahani, Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, New Delhi, 1993, p. 8.)