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
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.
3. On tiptoes
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!
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
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…
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
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…
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.