Whether it’s a dainty flick of the toes or a double-barrelled corkscrew with a twist, some horses just love to throw in a feel-good buck or two — and usually at the most inopportune moment, such as the gallop to the finish in a jump-off, or while the judge is watching your every move in a dressage test. Whether you can remain glued to the saddle while your horse is dreaming of a starring role in a rodeo is perhaps one of the biggest tests of horsemanship, so a round of applause please for some of these riders who are defying gravity with grace and style — and these cheeky horses with a glint in their eye…

1. Doing handstands

Maikel van der Vleuten NED riding Verdi, during the 1st Qualifier of the individual Show Jumping competition at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro near Rio, Brazil on 14th August 2016

Dutch showjumper Maikel van der Vleuten’s playful stallion Verdi cannot reach the finish line without throwing in a buck or seven, as seen here at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He could even give superstar gymnast Max Whitlock a lesson or two in the art of the perfect handstand. But the cheeky bay is one of the fastest horses on the circuit nevertheless — just imagine how quick he’d be on four legs…

2. Hey judges, look at me!

 

Ensuring all eyes are on her (possibly for all the wrong reasons) during the championship at the New Forest Show is this beautiful foal. What happened next? Well, she pulled over her handler and made a bid for freedom. But we love this little New Forest pony’s sense of spirit. She’s going places.

Mallards Wood Goddess - naughty foal pulled handler over and escaped (to the delight of the crowd)

3. On tiptoes

ROBERT WHITAKER - USA TODAY BUCKING REARING NAUGHTY

Well sat Robert! We have no idea how Robert Whitaker sits this mighty buck from USA Today and this impressive display of walking on tiptoes seems to defy all gravity.

4. If you’re happy and you know it!

ELLEN WHITAKER AND LADINA B

Ladina B was the Queen of puissance for Ellen Whitaker — but she also had the biggest buck in the business. When there’s a towering red brick wall looming, the last thing you want is for the ejector seat to be activated — but luckily Ellen doesn’t bat an eyelid, remaining perfectly poised as the mare throws up her heels in delight. What a partnership.

5. The bucking bronco wannabe

BAR7TF Horse leaving paddock at Sedgefield Races UK. Image shot 03/2009. Exact date unknown.

When the back end goes it’s bad enough, but when the front end starts bouncing too, you know you’re in trouble. The excitement of hitting the Sedgefield turf gets a bit too much for this racehorse.

6. Like something out of Swan Lake…

BUTTONS TWO, ridden by Shaunie Greig in The Winter 138cms Championship during The Longines Royal International Horse Show (CSIO 5*) held at The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead in West Sussex in the UK between 25 - 30th July 2017

The gracefulness shown by 138cm Buttons Two at Hickstead is pure ballet — the 13-year-old mare has even managed to point her toes. And gutsy little rider Shaunie Greig hasn’t moved a muscle.

7. A hair-raising experience

Suzy Ottewell and Unforgettable IV

Unforgettable IV, complete with helicopter tail, shows a flick of the heels with rider Suzy Ottewell at Lincs County

8. Spring heeled

One minute you’re proudly showing off your equine pride and joy with one eye on the winner’s sash, the next minute that coiled spring has unleashed her full joie de vivre in the middle of the arena. It happens to us all — and as this handler expertly shows, just keep smiling…

9. And finally…

Bucking (Tamarillo)

His competitive days may be behind him, but a return visit to Badminton Horse Trials still illicits the same squeal of excitement (that actually we feel, too) from William Fox-Pitt’s star ride Tamarillo. “I want to go cross-country!” he says.