8 Famous Horse Riders in History

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Last Updated on March 10, 2023

Just like any sport, equestrianism is filled with legendary riders, let’s meet some famous horse riders in history, you can get to know them here. Not only are these riders famous, but the horses that helped them achieve such recognition are also equally, if not more famous.

1: William Steinkraus

William Steinkraus, better known as Bill, is one of the most famous horse riders in history. Bill was born in 1925 and grew up in Darien, Connecticut. He started his riding career at the age of 10. His first major equestrian win occurred in 1941 at the age of 16, when he won the Maclay National Championship, the coveted equitation final for junior riders.

Bill then went to Yale University and was sent to Burma during World War II, where he was part of the Army’s last mounted regiment.

He soon set the showjumping scene alight, winning some of the most important events a rider can. Steinkraus represented the United States in five Olympic games, winning four medals. One of these medals was the first-ever won by an American.

William Steinkraus

He won this gold medal at the 1968 games in Mexico, which contained some of the biggest fences ever seen in show jumping. In addition to his Olympic medals, Steinkraus won four Pan American Games medals, four gold, and one silver. In 1972, Bill retired from competition but never ended his involvement in the sport.

He died on 29 November 2017 at the age of 92.

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2: Marion Coakes

Marion Coakes is a retired show-jumping rider from the United Kingdom. She is most famous for her achievements on her horse Stroller. What makes this team extra special is that Stroller stood only 14.2 hands tall; a pony. 

When Marion reached age 16, the age at which riders graduate to horses in the UK, she would not let her father sell Stroller. She competed with Stroller in some of the most prestigious showjumping events, against much larger horses, and jumping the biggest courses around.

Marion and Stroller took part in three British Nations Cups, winning a World Championship, and the President’s Cup. In 1964, this against-the-odds duo won the trial for the Hickstead Derby and finished second in the Hickstead Derby itself. They came back in 1967 to win the Hickstead Derby.

In 1970, they won the challenging Hamburg Derby, where Marion was the first woman to win it. Marion and Stroller tie in nicely following Bill Steinkraus, as they too tackled the formidable 1968 Mexico Olympic Games course. Here they took the silver medal, despite Stroller suffering from a damaged tooth.

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3: Bertalan De Némethy

Born in Hungary in 1911, De Némethy honed his riding at the Hungarian Cavalry School. In 1952, De Némethy emigrated to the United States. It is here, he met and worked with Bill Steinkraus. De Némethy served as the US show jumping coach from 1955 until 1980.

In a book about De Némethy, Steinkraus provided the forward stating, “today, in comparison, he is nationally recognized as one of the most influential figures in equestrian sport in the post-war era, a man whose teachings, both directly and through his many pupils, have exerted a profound influence on the success of our international team and the general standard of equitation in the United States, and indeed, Europe as well”

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4: Charlotte Dujardin

The British rider, Charlotte Dujardin, while still young, earned herself legendary status at the 2012 London Olympics. As of 2021, she is just 35 years old and the most famous British dressage rider in history. She started her riding career competing in show jumping on ponies.

After her switch to dressage, she took a temporary job as a groom with Carl Hester and never left. It is here that she partnered with Valegro, aka Blueberry, now a celebrity in his own right. Charlotte went on to win the individual and team gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics, the individual gold and team silver in Rio 2016, and the champion of the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

In 2013, she was awarded the title of CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Valegro retired in 2016 as he had nothing else to prove and enjoys a happy retirement at Carl Hester’s hacking in the English countryside. Charlotte continues to compete and has some exciting horses in her string.

Expect to see many more fantastic achievements from Charlotte in the years to come.

5: Monty Roberts

Monty Roberts is an American horse trainer who specializes in natural horsemanship. Born in 1935, Roberts won his first rodeo trophy at the age of four. He went on to win two National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) National Championships during his college career.

To find a gentler, more effective way to train horses, Roberts went on to found the Join-Up program. Join-Up relies on a bond rooted in trust and an environment of cooperation. The training method is nonviolent and non-coercive, with no time constraints and both horse and person must be willing to enter the process.

Roberts’s training methods have gained him worldwide recognition. Queen Elizabeth II was so impressed by the training methods that she invited him several times to demonstrate them at her stables.

Roberts has published multiple books about his training techniques. His book The Man Who Listens to Horses has sold over six million copies across the globe. Roberts is also the owner of Flag Is Up Farms which has been the starting point for some of the world’s most successful racehorses.

6: Sir Mark Todd

Sir Mark Todd is a New Zealand equestrian noted for being one of the most successful eventers ever. He was named Rider of the 20th century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

Todd has won four Olympic medals during his career including two gold medals in individual eventing. He has also won multiple medals at the World Equestrian Games including two gold medals. Todd has also won the coveted Badminton Horse Trials on four occasions, and the Burghley Horse Trials five times.

Todd has been hailed a pioneer in eventing in New Zealand, paving the way for many other riders. His consistent success in the sport of eventing has earned him numerous honors including a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to equestrian sport. In addition to eventing, Todd has also been involved in training Thoroughbred racehorses.

7: Isabell Werth

Isabell Werth is a German equestrian who has excelled in the sport of dressage. Born in 1969, Werth holds the record for the most Olympic medals won by an equestrian.

During her career, Werth has competed at the Olympics six times in dressage, bringing home 12 medals, seven of which were gold. Werth success also goes well beyond the Olympics, as she has won nine gold medals at the World Equestrian Games and five gold medals at the World Cup Finals.

Werth has also won an incredible 21 European Championships. She grew up riding from a young age and has been around horses her entire life. She is considered to be one of the greatest dressage riders of all time.

8: Beezie Madden

Beezie Madden is an American show jumper born in 1963. She is the first female to pass $1 million in earnings for show jumping. Madden has become one of the most famous female horse riders in the world.

Throughout her show-jumping career, Madden has won two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal in team jumping, and a bronze in individual jumping. She has also brought home two silver medals and two bronze medals at the World Equestrian Games. In addition, she has won five medals at the Pan American Games including two gold medals.

Madden is the only person to have won the USEF Equestrian of the Year. She is also the first woman to the King George Gold Cup at Hickstead.

famous horserider

Who is the Best Horse Rider in the World?

With so many different disciplines and talented riders out there, it is impossible to name just one rider as the best in the world. There have been numerous riders to break records and take home some of the biggest honors in the equestrian world.

William Steinkraus, Marion Coakes, Bertalan De Némethy, Charlotte Dujardin, Monty Roberts, Sir Mark Todd, Isabell Werth, and Beezie Madden are all considered to be some of the best horse riders. However, there are many other incredible equestrians out there such as Steffen Peters, Frankie Dettori, Lester Piggot, Pippa Funnell, and Anky Van Grunsven. However, the list of successful equestrians can go on and on.

Conclusion: Famous Horse Riders in History

Here you’ve met just a few of the most famous horse riders in history. A true look at all the equestrians who contributed to the sport can fill a very large book! If you’d like to learn more about a legendary rider, let us know in the comments below.


Who was the first horseback rider?

There is no doubt that India’s rich history of horse riding started long ago in an era where man’s dominion was on top of nature. However, it is widely believed that the Brahmins were the ones who really popularized the sport in India with their horse riding skills. This belief has been further strengthened by the fact that the word “horses” was used as a synonym for Brahmins in ancient Indian literature.
On the other hand, the Chinese culture claims that riding horses has existed since 4000 BC. The Chinese consider it to be a “sacred animal” and that they should never be ridden by anyone who is not a member of the Chinese imperial family. The Chinese also consider horse riding to be one of the “Four Great Virtues”.

Who is the most famous trick rider in the world?

A trick rider is someone who rides a horse while performing a stunt that involves either jumping or walking off the back of the horse, usually while balancing on the back of the horse. A famous trick rider was Connie Griffith. She was born on March 9, 1942, and died on August 15, 1998.
Connie was a legendary stunt rider and one of the best-known female stunt riders in the world. She first became famous for her work as a stunt woman on the television series Bonanza. In 1965 she was offered a contract to perform stunts for the feature film The Great Race, which was directed by Michael Curtiz. This was the first time that she worked on a feature film.

Who were the best horse riders in Hollywood?

Some of the best Hollywood horse riders are listed below:
Wes Studi – actor and stuntman studied equestrianism at The American School of Equitation in New York City, and later trained under a professional rider. He studied at the famed “Hollywood Ranch” and worked as a stuntman on many Westerns and action films. 
Robert Redford – actor and director studied at the prestigious Western Institute in Los Angeles where he learned from world champion saddle-maker, Robert Nunn. Redford has been riding since childhood and became proficient with both English and Western styles.
John Wayne – actor and director. He was a competitive horseman who was known to be an excellent rider. He learned to ride at the age of 4 on a horse that belonged to his father and continued riding throughout his life.
Wendie Malick – actor and fashion model. She began riding horses as a child and won the United States Junior National Dressage Championship in 1980. She attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles, and after graduating, made her acting debut in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

How did Charlotte Dujardin become famous?

Charlotte Dujardin is a legendary dressage rider who’s also known as one of the best in the world. Her partnership with her horse Valegro is unparalleled: Dujardin and Valegro won every single class they entered throughout the pair’s remarkable career.
Charlotte Dujardin has been riding for over a decade. During that time, she’s achieved some pretty impressive results with Valegro. Over the years, Charlotte Dujardin has become known for being an extremely talented dressage rider with a winning pedigree. The two-time World Champion and her horse Valegro had an amazing partnership. They dominated dressage events and were the best at what they did. Their careers together ended a few years ago when Valegro died.

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