Meaning of “Broken Horses” by Brandi Carlile

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

“Broken Horses” captures a fierce spirit, a sense of resilience and empowerment. Brandi Carlile sings of her own struggles, drawing parallels between herself and broken horses that continue to run wild despite adversities. This song speaks of standing up against oppression and refusing to be subdued or tamed. Wearing her “father’s leather,” she illustrates a connection to her past, and a drive to rise above the chains of societal expectations. The song is an anthem of defiance, and a call to everyone who’s ever felt oppressed or stifled, to break free and run.

Interested in diving deeper? You won’t be disappointed.

“Broken Horses” Lyrics Meaning

“I wear my father’s leather on the inside of my skin” kicks off the song, creating a visceral image. This line signifies her connection to her roots, her lineage, and perhaps the battles of her ancestors. It paints a picture of someone who’s internalized their struggles, but remains resilient.

“I’m a tried and weathered woman, but I won’t be tried again” conveys the strength of a woman who has faced numerous challenges but is unwilling to let them break her spirit. This echoes throughout the song, a sense of defiance and the unwillingness to be victimized again.

The chorus, “Tethered in wide open spaces” draws a powerful image of feeling trapped, even in vast expanses, akin to the “fields that lead for miles.” It portrays a feeling of confinement, of being constrained despite seeming freedom. The “barrel of a gun” signifies imminent danger, highlighting how vulnerable one can feel.

“Mendin’ up your fences with my / Horses runnin’ wild” speaks of someone constantly trying to keep things together, while the wild spirit refuses to be contained. The repetition of “Only broken horses know to run” drives home the song’s main theme of resilience. Broken, in this context, means those who’ve faced hardships, those who’ve been challenged but have managed to find their stride.

The line “I have held my tongue too many scenes before the final act” touches on a history of suppression and playing roles that didn’t suit her, but doing so for the sake of others. The “zipper on my back” reveals a sense of confinement, of being controlled or manipulated.

In the poignant line “It is time to spit you out like lukewarm water from my mouth,” Brandi shows her rejection of mediocrity and the unwillingness to settle for anything less than what she deserves.

Why Was “Broken Horses” Written?

Given the depth of emotion and personal revelations in “Broken Horses,” it’s evident that Brandi Carlile penned this song during a time of introspection. With strong undertones of resistance and empowerment, it’s plausible that Brandi was channeling her own experiences, those of being in the music industry, and perhaps facing certain societal pressures.

The recurring theme of freedom against constraints and the feeling of being “tethered” suggest a longing for liberation from those chains. The song serves as a cathartic release, a way for Brandi to communicate her feelings of oppression, but more importantly, her indomitable spirit and the will to rise above.

The song becomes more than just an artistic piece; it becomes a narrative of resilience, a beacon of hope, and a rallying cry for anyone who feels confined, encouraging them to break their chains and, like the broken horses, run free.