Elaborately caparisoned sancai horses of this imposing size are found in two postures: standing foursquare facing forward and foursquare with the head turned to the left and ears cocked. The present horse is modelled in the latter, more graceful and animated pose.
The elaborate trappings characteristically show the influence of Sassanian art on that of 8th century China. The complex, jewel-like decorations applied to the harness of this horse are mirrored in other Chinese decorative arts of the period. The present foliate plaques are known as 'hazel leaf' or 'apricot leaf.' For actual examples of similar gilt-bronze ornaments unearthed from the tomb of Princess Yongtai, buried in 706, see Y. Mino and J. Robinson, Beauty and Tranquility: The Eli Lily Collection of Chinese Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1983, pl. 61, fig. E.