Did you know that many famous people throughout history have been avid horse lovers? From past army generals, to old Hollywood starlets and current big screen actors, the amount of equine enthusiasts and horse lovers may surprise some people. For many of these famous equestrians, it started as a mode of transportation or as the starring role in a film, but ended up turning into a love outside of work.
Here are just a few of the famous names from the past and present who have a love of horses that so many of us share:
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant – Before Grant became the 18th president of the United States, he served as the commanding general who led the Union armies to victory in the Civil War. Prior to being the Commanding General, he was an avid horse lover. As a young boy, Grant developed a love for horses. By the age of 10, he was so good at handling horses that people began to bring their horses to him to train. By age twelve, he became an excellent horseman and remained one for the rest of his life.
Throughout his life, Grant had several famous horses. Their names were Jack, Kangaroo, Cincinnati, Fox, Jeff Davis, Rondy, and Methuselah. Cincinnati was the son of a famous race horse and also Grant’s favorite horse. This is the horse depicted in paintings, drawings, and statues of Grant, and most famously, is the horse seen in the statue with Grant in Washington, D.C. which is located at the base of Capitol Hill.
Johnny Depp – A well-known actor and producer, Depp has had countless roles on the big screen. In some of his most famous roles, he is accompanied by a few equine friends. Not only does he show his love for horses in his films, but the same also goes for his life at home. In the movie Sleepy Hollow, Depp rides a horse named Goldeneye. He later adopted the horse to be his own after he heard he could be put down after filming ended.
Amber Head, an actress and love interest of Depp, is also a known equine-lover. It was rumored that he not only bought her a horse, but also bought them a ranch in Nashville, Tennessee, so they could ride their horses together in the rural surroundings. Depp’s experience with horses can been seen through his choice of having no stuntmen on sets and riding on his own in other films like The Lone Ranger, Dead Man, and The Man Who Cried.
Elizabeth Taylor – Made famous by her Old Hollywood stardom, Taylor was also known for her love of horses that started at a young age. This love began when she was given a pony as a pet as a young girl in England.
National Velvet, which was released in 1944 and stars Taylor, tells the story of the bond between a horse and its owner. This story line was mirrored by Taylor’s real life experiences and the horse that starred in the film. The horse went through vigorous training but only seemed to listen to one person, Taylor. The two developed a very special bond, which was clear to see in the film. After the movie premiered, many were aware of Taylor’s love of horses. After filming wrapped, Taylor received the horse as a gift for her 13th birthday. Later in life, Taylor attended horse races in Europe and the United States. She even presented the Beaumont Stakes trophy in Lexington, Kentucky.
Winston Churchill – Although he famous for many great things, including his leadership of England during WWII, many people don’t realize that Winston Churchill was an avid equestrian and horse lover. During the war, the British military had purchased over a million horses from Britain, the U.S., and Canada. The horses did their part, but once the war ended, the horses were stranded in Europe. Churchill made sure that extra ships were sent to return these horses to their homelands and he was successful in his actions.
Churchill was a lover of animals big and small, and one of his famous quotes speaks to that: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II - At almost 90 years old, Queen Elizabeth II is still doing what she does best - riding horses. Horses became present in the Queen's life at just three years of age when she was given her first pony, a Shetland Mare Peggy, by her grandfather King George V. At the same time, she also had her first riding lesson in the private riding school at Buckingham Palace.
Queen Elizabeth II was recently recognized for her lifetime with horses when she became the first recipient of the FEI Lifetime Achievement award in 2014, which recognized her leading role as a supporter of equestrian sport.
The Queen also takes interest in horse breeding. The horses bred through the Royal Family have won virtually every major race in Britain in the past 200 years. The Queen has about 25 horses in training each season.
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee – Another famous Army General, Robert E. Lee also had a love for horses that he expressed throughout his life, and most notably, in his years as a military leader. Many pictures and paintings of Lee show him on horseback. According to some descriptions of Lee, he had proportionally short legs, but when he was seated on a horse, he looked like a much larger man.
Traveller, Lee’s most known horse, was one of, if not the most famous horses from the Civil War. He became so because he had good stamina and was very difficult to frighten. Like Grant, Lee and his famous horse are depicted in a statue at the Virginia Memorial located along West Confederate Avenue.
History is full of people famous and not so famous whose hearts are filled with love of all things equine. People from all walks of life love horses – from presidents and queens to actors and actresses. Knowing how much you love horses, it’s easy to see why they do too.