The silver screen has bought us many iconic collaborations, from the Marx brothers to Laurel and Hardy.
There are also plenty of instances where an actor has found a brilliant equine co-star on set, eventually ending up happily saddled with a horse for life. Here’s some of our favourite Hollywood stories of lifelong horse and actor teams…
Robert Redford and Let’s Merge
Robert Redford has been a heartthrob through the decades but he was also known for his love of horses. In 1979 film The Electric Horseman, Redford played a down-on-his-luck rodeo star who steals a racehorse. The actor did all his own stunts with the equine actor, a five-year-old bay thoroughbred called Let’s Merge. Afterwards, Redford was so attached to the horse that he took him back to his Utah ranch after filming, where Let’s Merge lived for the rest of his life.
Viggo Mortensen and Uraeus, Kenny and TJ
Actor Viggo Mortensen has got a habit of adopting his equine co-stars. Not only did he purchase 14.2hh paint pony T.J. from his film Hidalgo, but after starring in Lord of the Rings, he bought three horses from the film. Two were the horses he rode as the character Aragorn — Uraeus, a bay Dutch warmblood and Kenny, a quiet chestnut. The horses lived out in New Zealand in the care of a vet out there, and Mortensen visited periodically before Uraeus passed away in 2015. He also bought the white stallion that has a starring role as elven princess Arwen’s horse, as a present for the stuntwoman who had grown attached to him.
Elizabeth Taylor and King Charles
Elizabeth Taylor already knew her co-star before she starred in National Velvet. She’d been riding seven-year-old thoroughbred King Charles at her country club, and personally chose him to play her character’s horse, The Pie, in the film. King Charles was reportedly a diva of a movie star, even biting crew members. The only person that he did respond to was Taylor, and once filming was over, she was gifted King Charles for her 13th birthday by the studio. She kept him at stables in California and visited him when she could, speaking fondly of the stallion years later.
Roy Rogers and Trigger
Legend of the Golden Age Westerns, Roy Rogers was known for his roles as a singing cowboy, but he also shared a large portion of the limelight with his equine pard’ner, a 15.3hh palomino stallion. Originally called Golden Cloud, Rogers bought the horse and renamed him Trigger after riding him in his first feature film. The two became iconic, with plenty of legends about the pair — for example, Rogers claimed that he’d trained Trigger to sign fan autographs in the shape of an ‘X’ with a pencil and to bow when he heard applause. Trigger died peacefully aged 30 at Rogers’ ranch.
Brendan Fraser and Pecas
Blockbuster star of the 90s, Brendan Fraser came to the public eye in films like The Mummy and George of the Jungle, where he had a notable sigh-worthy scene rallying horses. His affinity with horses in that movie was replicated in real life when he worked on a 2015 drama series called Texas Rising. There, he met a fleabitten grey Percheron gelding called Pecas, a name which appropriately translates in Spanish to ‘Freckles’. He instantly felt a kinship with the quiet horse and brought him back to his farm in upstate New York. Pecas still lives there happily and is best friends with Fraser’s son Griffin.
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James Stewart and Pie
One of the most popular stars of classic Hollywood, James Stewart did around 17 Westerns, and was accompanied in each one by chestnut stallion Pie. One popular story about the duo comes from the filming of 1954’s The Far Country, when the director asked Stewart if he thought Pie could manage a particularly difficult scene. Stewart had one response — ‘I’ll talk to him’. After a short chat with the horse, Pie walked onto that set and executed the scene perfectly. Although Stewart never managed to buy the horse from its owner, he rode Pie for 22 years, and when he passed away, Pie was buried on Stewart’s California farm.