In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," what might riding the horse symbolize?
In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," Paul feels acutely his mother's need for money. The very walls of the house seem to be saying the family needs more money. In fact, they don't need money, but the mother wants more and more money to try to fill an empty place inside.
Riding the rocking horse could symbolize many things, and you might look at the eNotes link below to read about them, but I would focus on the rocking on the horse as the symbol of ambition. Paul has internalized his mother's ambition to get ahead by having more money. The rocking horse, however, is a child's toy, symbolizing the immaturity of the mother's ambition. Second, the fact that a rocking horse can never really get anywhere symbolizes the futility of trying to get ahead. No matter how long Paul rocks and how much money Paul wins for his mother, she will never feel ahead any more than the rocking horse does. The money will never be enough. Paul rocks himself to death on that horse and yet we have no sense that his mother is satisfied.