By Louise Dando for Equine Info Exchange
Equestrians around the world may have different opinions on many topics, but all agree on one universal experience: falling or being thrown from a horse is the worst part of riding. Whether seasoned or novice, all agree that this common experience can be frightening, embarrassing and annoying—sometimes, all in the same moment. Despite this, I find consolation in the knowledge that it happens to everyone. These celebrities all have taken tumbles off of their horses. Read on and decide: who do you think suffered the worst fall?
Johnny Depp - During the filming of The Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp was thrown from his horse and narrowly missed being trampled. As the horses picked up speed, Depp's steed started bucking, causing the actor to lose his grip and fall to the side. The horse continued to gallop as Depp clung to its mane, before eventually falling onto the ground. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Depp said “There was one moment in particular where it got unpleasant… My horse decided to jump a couple of obstacles in the desert but the horse was unaware that the saddle was fake - to give the effect that I was riding bareback. So when we came down the saddle slipped and I went to the left, and grabbed the mane of the horse. And then the next thing I saw were these very muscular horse legs, this death machine, and one word popped into my head: "Hooves". I figured fear would kick in but it didn't, I was very calm.”
Audrey Hepburn had a bad riding accident while filming the western The Unforgiven in 1959. Her horse was spooked by one of the crew members and the pregnant actress was thrown, breaking her back in four places. Also, one of her feet suffered a bad sprain. Hepburn recovered in six weeks from the back and ankle injuries and was able to finish filming — but sadly, the fall caused her to miscarry her baby. Fortunately, she did give birth to her first child, Sean, less than a year later.
Madonna sustained some injuries after falling from a horse in 2005. She was married to film director Guy Ritchie and they lived in the English countryside. She learned to shoot and ride, and riding became a passion for the pop star. While celebrating her 47th birthday with her family, she fell from a new horse she was riding. She broke her hand, collarbone and a few ribs. Madonna was out of action for three months but recovered.
Paris Hilton was hospitalized after falling from a horse and being kicked in the stomach during the filming of The Simple Life 2 in 2004. She was released from the hospital that same day, amazingly with no significant injuries.
Katherine Heigl took up competitive horse training on her sprawling 25-acre estate, but admits she's "having a hard time getting back in the saddle" after losing control and splitting her knee open in a fall. Apparently, her horse suddenly leapt into a wall and she just jumped off. The experience made her wary of getting back in the saddle again. Even so, she overcame the fear and now owns several horses and practices dressage. In an interview with Female First she said "I just lost control and I couldn't stop him. The more upset I'd get, the faster he'd go. He was running into the walls and I just leaped off of him into these iron bars and I stood there bleeding watching him go berserk and I went, 'What have I done?'" She's lucky she jumped off when she did, because her injuries could have been much worse.
Elvis Presley, the King, was a novice-level horseman at the time he was filming Love Me Tender. He had to ride his horse through some trees for one particular scene and the test run for the scene went well. However, much to Elvis’ embarrassment, during the actual filming, the horse stopped listening to Elvis, refused to slow down while under the trees and ran straight into the tree limbs. Elvis slid off, landing only a few feet away, unharmed. He got slowly to his feet and walked to his dressing room, dusting the dirt off his clothes. He was so embarrassed at being knocked off the horse that he slipped into the stables later that day, looked his horse square in the eye, and scolded him.
Morgan Freeman is a renowned actor, but he's also a devoted, long-time equestrian. He had an accident that would have killed a rider of lesser experience and skills. Freeman's horse, Sable, got spooked when the bridle broke, and Freeman could not stop him. The horse was keen to get home and bolted. Sable, intent on getting home as fast as possible, approached a fence too big to jump, swerved and missed. Quickly they came to a smaller fence and Freeman prepared to make the jump, but Sable didn’t jump. Freeman fell off the horse and just as he was picking himself up, Sable decided to jump, giving Freeman a little kick on the head as he passed his owner! Freeman was not injured. He picked himself up, dusted himself off and walked the horse back home, in-hand.
The late actor Christopher Reeve was probably the celebrity most well-known for his tragic fall from a horse. While participating in a competition in 1995, his horse stopped dead, flinging Reeve into the jump. He landed head-first and the impact broke his first cervical vertebra and damaged the second. He was paralyzed from the neck down. Unfortunately, Reeves never recovered, living as a quadriplegic until his death in 2004. He created the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to educate people with paralysis, helping them live full, rewarding lives.
Kaley Cuoco is an established competitive show jumper. Even experienced riders fall from their mounts, and in 2010 Cuoco spilled during a lesson. She recalls laughing at first because she landed well and was fine — but before she could get up, her horse leapt over her, landing squarely on her left leg. Her leg was badly broken and she was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery. Doctors warned her that there was a chance they might have to amputate her foot. Luckily for her they were able to repair it with pins. Cuoco had to be written out of The Big Bang Theory for two episodes. When she returned, the producers decided not to include her leg cast in the storyline. Voila! Script change! The character she plays, Penny, became a bartender rather than a waitress for the next couple of episodes.
Kristen Stewart hates horses! The actress fell from a horse when she was nine years old, breaking her elbow, and has been scared of them ever since. Needless-to-say, she hated riding the entire time she worked on the film Snow White and The Huntsmen, because of her fear of horses and riding.
Kristen Stewart may not be a fan of horses, but there are many other actors and entertainers whose love for horses grows with the years, in spite of being thrown, kicked and maimed. Perhaps one day, Morgan Freeman or Johnny Depp can help Ms. Stewart work through her fears and learn to love horses again.
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