10 Famous Equestrians Every Young Rider Should Look Up To

July 14, 2022 5 min read

10 Famous Equestrians Every Young Rider Should Look Up To

Every budding rider needs famous equestrians to inspire them. The greatest horse people in history have always had someone else to look up to, to be the example they want to follow. Whether it’s the top horse trainers in the world, or just a neighbor who’s raised a great horse, these famous horseback riders can help you see just how you can achieve your own goals as equestrians. 

In this list, we’ll be sharing ten famous horse owners who set a fantastic example for younger riders. Some of them are renowned world champions, while others have impacted the world of equestrianism in other ways, from advocating diversity in the sport to writing a beloved series of horse stories for kids. Each one is inspiring in a different way, proving that there’s just so much to love about riding in the first place! 

Beezie Madden

Beezie will forever be in the equestrian history books not just because she’s one of the most famous horse riders ever, but she’s also one of the most successful ones. She is the first female show jumper to earn more than a million dollars in prize money, and she also operates the popular horse training and sales business, John Madden Sales.

Beezie was born into a family of top horse trainers, and began riding when she was just three years old. She made her debut in international competitions at 24, and eventually won gold in the Team Jumping event at the 2004 Olympics at the age of 41. It was that same year when she made her million-dollar milestone. She followed it up with another gold in the 2008 Olympics, to go along with a bronze medal in the individual competition.

By 2014, Beezie became the first woman ever to win the King George Gold Cup, and the first female rider to win the USEF Equestrian of the Year award four times. While she considers herself semi-retired today, she closed out her run in international competition by winning gold at the 2018 World Cup Final.

Charlotte Dujardin

Charlotte is known as one of Britain’s most decorated athletes, and one of the most dominant dressage riders of the 2010s. She was the first rider ever to hold the individual Olympic freedata-style, World Cup individual dressage and European Freedata-style, World freedata-style and Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix Special titles all at once, and set numerous records along the way with her equally famous horse, Valegro.

Charlotte first got on a horse when she was two years old, helping return her sisters’ horses to their vans, and won her first placing—second place at a show jumping competition—at the age of three. By the time she was 16, she was competing full-time.

It was in 2011 that the legendary Carl Hester paired her with Valegro, who would turn out to be the perfect horse for Charlotte. The two began to dominate one competition after the next, and set their first record together at the 2012 London Olympia, scoring 88.022% in the Olympic Grand Prix special discipline. By the time Valegro retired from competition, he and Charlotte had won 6 Olympic medals (three gold) and numerous world titles together.

As if her utter dominance at dressage wasn’t inspiring enough, Charlotte has also revealed that she grew up with dyslexia and developed anxiety in her early childhood as a result, but she learned to manage both on her way to becoming a champion equestrian.

Robert Dover

Did you know that the first-ever openly gay Olympic athlete was an equestrian? Robert Dover made waves when he came out ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where he was competing against other famous equestrians in dressage. At the time, gay men faced much more open persecution because of the AIDS epidemic, which made Robert’s coming out a major act of bravery.

In an interview with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum, he shared that he used to be uncomfortable with being out. A health scare led to him realizing that he didn’t want to live that way, and he wanted to help others overcome their fears, too.

“I made a statement that I was gay and I was very concerned about the fact that so many people within the equestrian community were dying of this disease,” Robert shared in an interview with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum.

After an award-winning career in formal competition, Robert was inducted into the United States Dressage Federation Hall of Fame. He is also the co-founder of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, which has been helping members of the equestrian community with financial support for accidents, injuries, and sicknesses.

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Isabell Werth

Isabell is one of the most famous horse riders in the world for good reason: she holds the most Olympic medals of any equestrian ever. From 1996 to 2020, she’s won a total of 12 medals, with 7 golds in dressage and 5 silvers.

She’s been around people riding horses her entire life, having grown up on her parents’ farm in Germany. Her enthusiasm for riding was noticed by everyone who met her, so much so that Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer Sr.—her family’s neighbor and one of the top horse trainers in the area—took her under his wing when she was 17.

Six years later, Isabell won her first Olympic gold medal in the 1992 Olympics, when she won the team competition in dressage, as well as the silver medal for the individual event. She would continue to compete in the 1996, 2000, 2008, 2016, and 2021 Olympics, winning at least one gold medal in each. 

As a testament to her skills as a rider and trainer, she’s won Olympic gold with different horses: Gigolo FRH, Satchmo 78, Weihegold OLD, and Bella Rose 2. 

Luiza Almeida

If you think the Olympics are reserved for older, more experienced equestrians, Luiza is living proof that the competition is for horse people of any age. The Brazilian star broke the record for the youngest Olympic rider when she entered the dressage event in the 2008 Olympics at age 16.

Few famous equestrians can say they were born into the sport as definitively as Luiza can. Her father Manuel is one of the most famous horse owners in Brazil, and his team was named “Best Breeder” for four straight years at Brazil’s International Lusitano Expo. Her mother Thereza, on the other hand, founded the CAPA Project, a program that uses advanced sports science to analyze and improve a horse’s performance in competitions. Her younger brothers Pedro and Manu are both talented competitors as well.

Hiroshi Hoketsu

Known in equestrian circles as an “ageless” athlete, Hiroshi made history when he represented Japan in the 2012 Olympics at the age of 70. This made him the third-oldest Olympian in history and the second-oldest equestrian to compete in the games next to Arthur Von Pongracz, who rode at age 72.

What makes him so remarkable, however, is his determination to break the record. He unfortunately had to pull out of contention for a spot in the 2016 Olympics due to health issues with his horse, and the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to his bid to join the 2020 event. His next opportunity will be in 2024, when he’ll be 83 years old. Whether or not he makes it into the competition by then shouldn’t diminish the fact that he is an inspiration to senior athletes everywhere.

Brianna Noble

Brianna is that rare kind of equestrian who’s famous to people who aren’t even that interested in horses. You might recognize her from one of the most iconic images from 2020’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, raising her fist atop a majestic steed. 

Growing up, Brianna always felt like the riding camps she attended were predominantly white spaces, and that most attendees came from high income-level families. The experience is part of why she decided to establish Mulatto Meadows, a ranch that aims to make equestrianism more accessible to communities that historically haven’t had an equal opportunity to participate in the field. Through her company, she teaches horsemanship to youth of color and members of lower-income households.

Brianna hopes to become a better rider and succeed in competitions someday, which would help show kids that people of color can become famous horseback riders, too.

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Pippa Funnell

Pippa is one of the world’s most recognizable famous equestrians, with a career that goes beyond the track. Not only has she been the star of several video games, she’s also the accomplished author behind the Tilly’s Pony Tails children’s book series.

She’s no slouch when it comes to competition, either. Along with being a three-time Olympic medalist, Pippa holds the distinction of being the very first equestrian to win the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing. She’s also a five-time gold medalist at the European Championships, and was voted 2003’s Sportswoman of the Year by the Sunday Times.

Since 2009, she’s been regaling kids with Tilly’s Pony Tails, a book series about an adopted child who discovers she can connect with them in a very special way. With each book containing real horse care advice from Pippa, not only do readers get a good horse story, they also get tips from one of the world’s top horse trainers!

Alycia Burton

Famous horseback riders don’t usually go viral, but that’s exactly what happened when the internet discovered Alycia’s impressive free-riding videos on YouTube. Free-riding is the practice of riding a horse without the help of a saddle—and sometimes, without the bridle, too. It takes an extremely skilled trainer to do it, and requires a strong bond between the horse and her rider.

Alycia’s story began when she quit her banking job at 22 to pursue her dream of working with horses. She eventually met Gold Rush, whose original owners asked her to sell on account of his difficult temperament. After two weeks together, Alycia knew that he was the perfect horse for her, and they’ve since become one of the most famous horses and riders online. It’s the kind of thing you think you only see in horse stories, but it’s proof of just how magical these bonds can be.

Today, Alycia runs Free Riding New Zealand, where she and Gold Rush teach horse owners how to develop relationships with their “untrainable” horses and turn them into incredible athletes.

Sir Lee Pearson

It’s no surprise that Lee is called the “Godfather of Para Dressage”—he is such a talented horseman that he won three gold medals at the 1999 World Championships, his first international competition ever. He followed up that feat with three more golds at the 2000 Paralympics, and has been the picture of success ever since. He’s a true British icon, and one of the most famous equestrians in modern history.

Lee was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition that caused the muscles in his limbs to develop into a sort of scar tissue. This resulted in curving around his joints, and made it so that he only took his first steps at the age of 6.

After watching the 1996 Paralympics, however, he decided to give the sport a shot. He learned several techniques that allowed him to work around his condition, such as using his shoulders to pull the bridle to make up for the lack of muscle on his arms, and quickly became a phenomenon in para dressage.

To date, Lee has won a total of 30 gold medals in international competition, along with 6 silvers and 1 bronze. In 2017, he was officially knighted for his services to equestrianism.

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Feeling inspired yet? There’s nothing like reading about famous equestrians to make you want to get back on the saddle and ride towards greatness. When you do, just make sure that you’ve got equipment that’ll help you keep your horse in their best shape, so you can be the best rider you can be. Check out our full collection of saddle pads, horse boots, bandages, and bit accessories by clicking the button below. 

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