Thursday, June 26, 2008

Celebrities That Ride

Chatting about horse movies got me to thinking about how many Hollywood celebrities are involved with horses, and how many I've rubbed elbows with at horse shows and in other horse-related activities. Believe me, it's not like I'm standing in line next to a Hollywood celebrity at my local feed store. But chances are if you're like me, and you grew up close to Los Angeles and competed at upper level horse shows (especially in the hunter-jumper divisions), then you were exposed to some famous folks. At the Los Angeles Equestrian Center or the Indio horse show you might well have stood in line at the concession stand with a movie or TV star. Because of this early exposure to the "kind of rich" and "somewhat famous", I'm immune to being starstruck. Really, it's just No Big Thing to see an actor out of make-up at a dusty horse show.

When I was a teen and young adult it was not uncommon to have the likes of Paul Newman, Charles Bronson and Mel Gibson on the sidelines of the show arena. My sister competed in the same classes as Clea, Paul Newman's daughter, and she still laughs about how Clea's famous father was not above hanging over the arena fence line and coaching his kid just like any other Horse Show Dad.

When I earned extra horse show money by braiding hunters late at night, more than once I stood in the barn aisle chatting with Maura and Thea Nielsen, whose dad was Leslie Neilsen ("Naked Gun" and "Airplane!").

In more recent years I've interviewed, chatted with, spotted at horse shows or sat in grandstands next to William Shatner, Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot. I found William Shatner to be a very gracious, funny person who really is a very good horseman; I watched him ride several horses and I must say, I was impressed! Kurt Russell was nicer and more down to earth than the people at his agency. Sam Elliot is a cowboy at heart and a horse lover from way back and Tom Selleck (who rides western) fully supports his daughter, who's a world class jumper rider. My girlfriend, who is still gobsmacked by Tom Selleck, about fell over the poor man while climbing to her seat at the World Cup Show Jumping Finals in Las Vegas.

"By the way," I whispered to her, "that man you just kneed in the face? That's Tom Selleck."

She about died.

There are plenty of celebrities who ride that I've yet to meet in person or converse with, but hey, my life isn't over yet! Robert Duvall is probably the one A-list actor who is My Hero when it comes to riding. He's done it all: ranch work and western riding (that's why he looks so natural on horseback in all those westerns he films) and riding hunters both in the show ring and in the hunt field.

I realize that the actors I've mentioned are from my generation of stars. Maybe that's because these actors matured in an era where it was necessary to know how to ride in order to get work: it was the heyday of the western film and TV series. Perhaps they learned how to ride for a job, fell in love, and continued with their newfound interest. But today there simply aren't very many horsey flicks being made. The ability to look natural wielding a gun or driving a sportscar during a chase scene is more valuable than being able to sit to a horse's trot without looking like an idiot. However, that's what got two particular actors to learn how to ride a horse. Both Oded Fehr (in "The Mummy Returns") and Billy Crystal (for "City Slickers") wanted to preserve their dignity so they took riding lessons before filming began. And guess what? They realized horseback riding was an enjoyable, stress-reducing pastime, and they continue to spend time in the saddle whenever possible.

Who knew that we had so much in common with the world of Hollywood? So next time you're in line at the feed store-- or out on the trail or buying a chili dog at the horse show-- look around. Maybe you're rubbing elbows with a star. Or at least know that you share a passionate love of horses with some celebrities. When it comes to horses, we have something in common!

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Gina said...

And let's not forget Johnny Depp! He adopted the horse he rode in Sleepy Hollow. I can't remember his name, but I think it was the gray... a VERY pretty horse!

OK, I just looked it up - he adopted Goldeneye who played Gunpowder in the movie. I love it when celebrities adopt animals that they worked with in movies. I also know that Depp has PLENTY of money to take care of the horse properly. :D

Christina de Pinet said...

Well if we're including Johnny Depp, don't leave out Viggo Mortenson! I'm pretty sure he owns the horse who played Brego in Lord of the Rings. Maybe even one of the horses (I read they used 8 horses) who played Hildago. And then there was Elizabeth Taylor, who was given the horse she rode in National Velvet.

As for stars, I have met Sammy Hagar, though that was while I was waiting tables, not at a horse show. The horsey celebrity I have met is Clinton Anderson, if he counts as a celebrity!

Gina said...

Haha, I ran into Johnny Depp once in Manhattan. I was entering a store and he was walking out and I kind of walked into him.... but he was really nice and gentlemanly. I didn't realize it was him until YEARS after (I was like... ten?) when he did Pirates, and I was like "THAT'S THE GUY I WALKED INTO!"

allison said...

I wish I did bigger shows right now i'm that stage I just go to little shows that run out of food about an hour the show starts when only 20 poeple come to watch.So far the only big person i have met is Alton Brown from Good Eats.

Christina de Pinet said...

Allison, at the shows I have been to there are maybe 10 people in the stands, and you have to bring your own food! I'm small time. :P

Anonymous said...

I ride arab circuit, and i took my little neice to my show. Apparently there was a boy named Jason Earles there, from some show on disney channel. My little neice almost wet herself with exictment. Apparently his girlfriend was purchasing a horse showing at my show. I had to pracitcaly chain her to my tack trunk to keep her from running over to him.

Cindy Hale said...

*sigh* Johnny Depp, eh? I've always found him yummy. And now that he may know one end of a horse from another, he's even MORE appealing!

Oh, that's right. I'm a happily married "mature" woman.

Actually, I have interviewed Viggo Mortensen. It was a few years back and I chatted with him mostly about his book that he did. It was a collection of his photographs of horses. He's quite the talented "artiste." But he came across as nice but... high maintenance. Like a very expensive, high strung show horse, LOL!

Shelby said...

Yes, Jason Earles does ride horses. Well, actually his fiance/wife? is into horses. I live in California and saw him at a college horse show one day. My friend was talking about it to her mom, and so she went over and asked the fiance/wife if it indeed was Jason Earles, she said yep. The fiance/wife is super sweet & has a beautiful horse I hear!

Jo said...

I didn't realize this was Cindy Hale's blog until I saw she posted on it. I thought, "Oh my gosh this is so cool that a HI author commented on someone's blog!" ...then I saw who posted the blog post:P Perhaps, I should just go back to trying to get a paper for my grad. class done. Thanks for helping me procrastinate! I enjoyed the post!

muriel said...

Muriel (Brussels, Europe)

Why every body seems to forget the moooost wellknow horseaddict of the cinema industry ROBERT REDFORD !!!!
And more recently since she played in Australia I heard Nicole Kidmann became an horselover as well and Late Patrick Swayze bred Straight Egyptian Arabian (I own the grand son of his favorite stallion Tammen) and Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt (elephant Man /out of Afrika) with whom I was lucky enough to speak at the Berlin festival for the outstanding movie
"Champion" with ALDANITI the damaged racing horse playing his own role and John Hurt playing the role or the queen Mumm' jockey Bob Champion.

also the well known film producer Mike Nicols the owner of the biggest purebred arabian stud in the States ......
And in UK Mark Corkingdale and Suzan George (Straw dogs with Al Pacino) breeding and riding Arabs .....

And many French actors I will not mention as you probably don't know them

Anonymous said...

Many people dont know but Michael Jackson rode horses. Some of them he might have owned.

Joann Cumnins said...

Hi to all I help with a nonprofit that helps with abused horses here in Azrizona and we would love to get some big name people to help put on a fund raiser. If you have any suggestion please let me know