Since the terminal of this object is now fragmented, it is very difficult to ascertain what its original function may have been. However, its decorative purpose is fully intact. The Romans were known for their military strength and prowess, a theme which thus often permeated sculptures of the Roman era. This bronze offers a variation on the horse and rider statue, here showing the horseman leading rather than riding the animal.
During the Roman Empire, horses were extremely important for battle, as well as for aspects of everyday life, such as transportation, hunting, farming, and chariot racing. The Romans associated the horse with the spoils of war, connecting it symbolically with power, victory, honour, domination, and virility. In Graeco-Roman mythology and culture, the horse was said to have been created by Poseidon (Neptune) and devoted to Hades (Pluto) and Ares (Mars). The Romans also believed the horse to be a symbol of the continuity of life, and would sacrifice a horse to the god Mars every October, keeping its tail through the winter as a sign of fertility and rebirth.
For more information about the meanings of animals in Roman art, see our relevant blog post: Animal Symbolism in Roman Art.