True Story Horse Movies: 8 Must-Watch Inspiring Films

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Last Updated on March 6, 2023

Struggles, triumph, sadness, and love, are all parts that make these true story horse movies memorable. Here we will introduce you to some of the best true horse movies to hit the silver screen over the years. You will recognize some of them straight away, but hopefully, you will discover something new.

From some of the most legendary racehorses to the life of actual cowboys, these true-story horse movies are a must-watch for any equestrian. They will inspire you and are a great way to unwind and relax after a long day at the barn.

The Best True Story Horse Movies

Any horse-lover will appreciate a quality horse film based on real events. These true-story horse movies are great to enjoy with the whole family or your favorite riding buddies. Not only are they entertaining but they are also educating as well.

While there are plenty of horse films out there, many of them are fictional. While these films can still be worth watching, some horse movies tend to be unrealistic in many aspects. Fortunately, these true-story horse movies do a great job telling the story of some of the most famous horses and what life is really like as an equestrian.

The names of horses in movies featured on this list include the legendary Secretariat, Seabiscuit, and Phar Lap. These horses and riders have made a lasting impact on the equine industry.

1. Secretariat

Secretariat brings the story of this legendary racehorse to your screens and Disney’s streaming service. This is one of the most recent, and successful horse movies based on a true story. The film hit movie theaters in 2010.

The main focus of the Secretariat is the horse’s owner Penny Chenery. The movie does a good job of sticking to the story with some added Disney magic. Since Disney is responsible for the movie, it follows a family-friendly theme.

The movie starts at the beginning of Secretariat’s life, and his owner’s struggles as the pair navigate their way to Triple Crown victory. Secretariat stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich, and Dylan Walsh.

Secretariat true facts:

  • Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973.
  • Secretariat holds the record for the fastest run in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
  • Part of Secretariat’s success was due to the fact his heart was 2 1/2 times larger than average.


2. Phar Lap

Phar Lap follows the story of a New Zealand-born racehorse that became one of the most famous Thoroughbreds in the world. After his birth in New Zealand in 1926, Phar Lap arrives in Australia when Harry Telford, a trainer buys him, despite his lack of pedigree. The horse did not have a great start to his racing career, but with determination from his groom Tommy Phar Lap shines

The end of the film shows Phar Lap’s tragic death, which is still shrouded in mystery and conspiracy today. Phar Lap stars Tom Burlinson and Martin Vaughan. It hit cinemas in 1983.

Phar lap true facts:

  • At 17.1 hands tall, Phar Lap was considered tall for a racehorse.
  • Phar Lap was purchased for only $336.
  • Phar Lap holds the record for the shortest odds winner at the Melbourne Cup.

3. Seabiscuit

Like most horse movies based on true stories, Seabiscuit brings us the story of another legendary racehorse. Seabiscuit thrilled racegoers in the 1930s. He brought hope in the time of the Great Depression in America when the people wanted something to believe in.

He was a small horse on no one’s radar as a potential champion, until three men saw behind the ordinary exterior. This is a story of a true underdog that overcomes challenges. The 2003 movie stars Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges.

Seabiscuit true facts:

  • Seabiscuit beat Triple Crown champion War Admiral in a thrilling one-on-one race.
  • At 15 hands tall, he was on the shorter side for racehorses.
  • Seabiscuit traveled with a companion horse named Pumpkin.

4. Champions

The 1984 movie, Champions, tells the true story of Bob Champion, a British steeple chase jockey. The story follows Bob’s health struggles during the late 1970s. Instead of letting his cancer diagnosis get the better of him, Bob overcomes it, going on to win the 1981 Grand National.

Not only does Bob suffer a catastrophic diagnosis, his Grand National winning horse Aldaniti sufferers a career-ending leg injury, yet makes a miraculous recovery. Champions star John Hurt.

Bob champion true facts:

  • Bob Champion’s 1981 Grand National victory earned him the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team Award.
  • He later became a trainer based out of Newmarket.
  • In 2021, Bob Champion was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

5. Shergar

Shergar was an Irish racehorse worth an estimated 10 million, that was kidnapped in 1983. What exactly happened to Shergar and by who is still a mystery? Ransom demands were made, but nothing ever came of them.

However, the horse vanished without a trace. Shergar, the movie is loosely based on the facts of this story. The story follows the fictional aftermath of Shergar’s kidnap.

Shegar true facts:

  • Some of Shegar’s biggest wins include the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
  • The Sheghar Cup was inaugurated in 1999 in his honor.
  • Legendary jockey Lester Piggott was one of his jockeys.

6. Ruffian

Ruffian is a TV movie from 2007 featuring one of the most legendary racing fillies of all time in the United States. This is a sad movie that tells to story of this fantastic racehorse. Due to her success, Ruffian takes part in a match race against the 1975 Kentucky Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure.

Ruffian suffered a life-threatening leg break during the race. To save the filly, surgery on her leg was attempted. However, on waking from the anesthesia, Ruffian had a bad reaction, which re-injured the leg. Because of this Ruffian was humanly put to sleep.

Ruffian true facts:

  • Ruffian was undrafted in her first 10 races.
  • Since 1976, the Ruffian Handicap has been raced in her honor.
  • She was the only non-human to be featured on Sports Illustrated‘s top 100 female athletes of the century, ranking at 53rd.

7. Walk. Ride. Rodeo

Walk. Ride. Rodeo., a 2019 movie, tells the true story of equestrian Amberley Snyder. In 2010, Amberley was traveling from Utah to the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo. After feeling unwell in the car, she took off her seatbelt to feel more comfortable.

Tragedy struck when she took her eyes off the road for one second, resulting in a horrific accident that threw her from the car. As a result, Amberley would never walk again. This movie follows her determination to ride again.

Amberley Snyder’s true facts:

  • Only a year and a half after her accident Amberley competed in her first barrel racing competition.
  • Amberley won her Women’s Professional Rodeo Association card in 2016.
  • Amberley uses a seatbelt and velcro straps to keep her in the saddle.

8. 50 to 1

50 to 1 is based on the true story of Mind That Bird who won the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The 2014 film follows a group of cowboys from New Mexico who win big with their undersized Thoroughbred.

Despite facing a series of mishaps on the way to the Kentucky Derby, the cowboys find themselves to be the ultimate underdogs. Despite facing 50-to-1 odds, Mind That Bird managed to win the Kentucky Derby incredibly.

Mind that bird true facts:

  • After winning the Kentucky Derby, Mind That Bird came in second at the Preakness Stakes and third in the Belmont Stakes.
  • Mind That Bird narrowly qualified for the Kentucky Derby.
  • Mind That Bird was unanimously voted the New Mexico Horse of the Year in 2009.
Walk. Ride. Rodeo

True Story Horse Movies Conclusion

We hope this article gives you some great ideas for true story horse movies to watch. Our favorite on the list is Secretariat, followed closely by Phar Lap. In addition to horse movies based on true stories, there are many more fictional movies based on classic books.

Do you have a favorite horse movie? If so, tell us about it in the comments below.

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