Over the years there have been many great horses that we have had the pleasure of walking alongside. From war heroes and guardians of royalty, to show-jumpers and TV stars, we have truly been blessed with some exceptional creatures. I’ve hand-picked my 15 favourite horses from over the years down below, take a look!
This horse was the Duke of Wellington’s favourite charger. He was the 15hh chestnut stallion and survived the Peninsular War and even the carnage at Waterloo.
“For bottom and endurance, I never saw his fellow,” quoted the Duke. When the horse perished in 1836, he was granted full military honour and was buried at Stratfield Saye.
This horse was a phenomenal cross-country horse, described as taking corners like a motorbike. Ridden by Ginny Holgate, he succeeded in winning Badminton, Burghley, world and European titles, including two Olympic medals back in 1984.
Pirata played in 13-high goal seasons consecutively from 1998 with the Argentine brothers Pablo and Matias MacDonough. Matias was said:
“He had a lot of courage and a big heart. On him, I always felt very confident.”
Stroller was a small horse, in fact, he was the smallest and the amongst the greatest of horses, a TV star whose fans wrote in asking for hairs from his tail.
This was the only pony to have ever competed at the Olympics. Many said that he could have limbo-ed under the enormous fences he took on with such venom and will. Stroller had an illustrious career, winning a silver medal with Marion Coakes at the 1968 Mexio Olympics at the age of 18. He retired during the 1970s, living until the ripe age of 36 and is remembered with great affection by generations of horsemen.
A cavalry horse belonging to the Gallant Household. A life-sized bronze statue of Sefton was unveiled at the Royal Veterinary College in October 2016. Surviving 34 wounds during the IRA bombings in 1982 and returning to service shows how strong Sefton truly was. He underwent 8 hours of surgery and has become a national symbol of defiance against terrorism.
His famous portrait hangs in the National Gallery.
The painting sees Whistlejacket in his most refined form. To say that George Stubbs knew his subject (horses) inside out would be an understatement and a disservice. His incredible knowledge of horses, their anatomy and their physiognomy was first presented to the National Gallery in 1985, it included a number of drawings and prints that Stubbs had created during 1756-8.
Whistlejacket makes the list for how beautifully he was portrayed in art, his life-size work
9. Ready Teddy
This horse was only 8 years old when he won the Olympic gold in showjumping in Atlanta back in 1996. With New Zealander Blyth Tait, he managed to win the world title in 1998 and Burghley in 2001. He was a crafty horse as well, managing to escape from his stable by climbing out!
8. Best Mate
Arguably the most handsome horse to grace the horse world. Best Mate was an athletic, bay gelding forever associates with the National Hunt’s great two-some Henrietta Knight and her late husband, Terry Biddlecome. Best Mate ended up winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2004, with his ashes buried beside the finishing post. A touching gesture!
This was the Queen’s favourite cavalry horse. The black mare was given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Burmese was well-loved by the Queen, riding her at Trooping the Colour 18 times consecutively (1969-86). When a member of the crowd fired six blank shots in 1981, the Queen comforted her, and managed to calm her down.
The film star horse who won Badminton and Burghley. Though, he found real stardom when he and Jane Hoderness-Roddam were stunt doubles for Tatum O’Neal and Arizona Pie in the 1978 film International Velvet.
5. Dutch Courage
Back when British dressage followed non-descript days, the renowned Jennie Loriston-Clarke’s stallion salvaged honour a bronze medal at the 1978 World Championships at Goodwood, our first in the sport. His legacy lives on through successful progeny.
4. The Uffington White Horse
Whilst not strictly a ‘horse’ this magnificent prehistoric, 374ft horse spreads itself across an escarpment on the Berkshire Downs. It is one of the most uplifting landmarks in Britain and is the result of many pub signs and indeed names of pubs!
3. Red Rum
Ginger McCain found success with the notorious Red Rum by galloping on the Southport sands due to his poor feet. McCain was originally a car dealer, but found fame with Red Rum, winning the Grand National in 1973, 74 and 77 – also finishing twice in second place. After retirement, McCain opened supermarkets, turned on the Blackpool Illuminations and appeared on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year broadcast.
This horse was adorably lanky. Mark Todd and his horse dubbed the ‘fat, hairy pony’ became legends, winning back-to-back Olympic golds for New Zealand in 1984 and 88, and this was when Charisma was 16!
Todd and Charisma had a lovely bond, people spoke of how his horse would follow him around like a dog. Charisma was also the only horse to open the Commonwealth Games.
1. Warrior (War Horse)
Everyone knows the incredible story of War Horse. The remarkable survival of Gen Jack Seely’s horse during the First World War has been made into a West End play and has been met with huge success. Dubbed “The horse the German’s couldn’t kill” Warrior was given a post-humous PDSA Dicken Medal in 2014.
No horse can really be ‘judged’ on how they served their human counterparts. Each and everyone of these horses held a special place in their owner’s and even their country’s hearts, and this is the reason they made into my list!
Are there any that you are particularly fond of? Let me know in the comments below!