Striking as the image of
Bella Hadid midair and bareback on a giant white stallion was when it appeared on Instagram this week, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. Suddenly, it seems, horses are everywhere. Celebrities including Hadid, her sister Gigi, and Kendall Jenner are no longer just publicly attempting to out horse girl one another; they’re starring in campaigns alongside horses, for brands as major as Longchamp and Calvin Klein. (The latter rolled out its own images of Bella Hadid on a horse, which they turned into an underwear ad, just last week.) And yet, this isn’t the first time that a version of the horse girl with waist-length hair who you no doubt knew in elementary school has shown up in the mainstream; Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and even Queen Elizabeth II have all embodied versions of her for decades. Study up on some of the most iconic moments in celebrity horse girl history, here.
As memorable as it was short-lived,
Audrey Hepburn’s tenure as a horse girl came to a sudden halt when the actress broke her back while filming the 1960 film The Unforgiven. And yet not even that could dampen the up-and-coming equestrian’s spirits; as she was boarding an ambulance plane after being strapped into a stretcher, Hepburn appeared to be having the time of her life. Courtesy of @kendalljenner
Don’t let this image fool you: Kendall Jenner looks perfectly content here, prancing around the Château de Chambord in France, but horses aren’t all fun and games, as the supermodel well knows. For Jenner, horses have been everything from
her only friends in middle school to campaign costars to, apparently, vehicles for starting some vicious drama, as seemed to be the case in the wake of the death of Sofia Richie’s horse Dragon—the same name that Jenner ended up giving the new horse she got while Richie was still in mourning. Rose Hartman/Getty Images
As legend has it, in 1977, during a brief but admirable stint as a horse girl, Bianca Jagger made her presence known at her 30th birthday party by casually riding into Studio 54
atop a giant white horse. But Jagger, an animal rights activist, has since clarified what actually went down that night: She did not arrive on the horse, but she did ride it all throughout Studio 54, led by a naked “ giant” covered in gold glitter—which, all things considered, is no less impressive. (To Jagger, however, there’s clearly a distinction; she wrote a letter to the editor of the Financial Times in an effort “put this Studio 54 fable out to pasture.” Courtesy of @marthastewart
Of the many talents
Martha Stewart has long been recognized for, riding horses is not one of them. And while she may not be a full-on horse girl, her love for the animals, which periodically pops up on her illustrious Instagram feed, should not be overlooked—at least when it comes to this glorious Instagram that she somehow turned into spon-con, anyway. Jackie Kennedy, who first rode a horse when she was just one year old, was such a renowned equestrian that in 1962 Muhammad Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan, gave her a horse—a bay gelding named Sardar. Eventually, Kennedy convinced her husband President John F. Kennedy to allowed Sardar to skip customs and board a military plane so that he could join them for strolls like the above, with their daughter, Caroline, and her horse Macaroni, in the U.S. Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images
Just two months after breaking her hand and collarbone and cracking three ribs by falling off of a horse, Madonna made her official horseback comeback on the streets of New York City with fellow equestrian David Letterman. She took the comeback a step further, with six stallions and a whip,
in the pages of the very next year, in 2006. W Lady Gaga’s peak horse-girl moment is a tragic one: Earlier this year, she rushed out of the Critics’ Choice Awards to be with her dying horse Arabella, who was a gift from her record label and the first horse Gaga ever rode. (Not that that stopped her from riding her bareback.) “Our souls and spirits were one. When she was in pain, so was I,” she later wrote in a tribute on Instagram, which included her memories of “galloping through canyons” with Arabella and feeding her cookies. “She will forever be a part of me.”
On a lighter note, Bella Hadid is also a fan of riding bareback—and so skilled at it that she and her horse maintained the above position long enough to capture three striking Instagrams, which she posted just a week after cozying up to another horse
in a Calvin Klein campaign. Then again, from a former aspiring Olympic equestrian whose family owns a horse farm, we’d expect nothing less. Elizabeth Taylor began riding horses at the age of four, but it wasn’t until 1944, around the time this photo was taken, that the actress proved just how dedicated she was to the animals. To land the lead role in National Velvet, Taylor not only had to commit to practicing riding but also get braces and have two of her teeth pulled before MGM would let her appear onscreen as the film’s star horse girl. Samuel de Roman/Getty Images
Before Bella, before Kendall, and before pretty much any other self-proclaimed horse girl,
there was Mary-Kate Olsen, who’s been committed to steeplechasing since she was all of 6 years old. The rest of the world may have forgotten about that commitment, with everything else she’s had going on since then, but Olsen most definitely has not; last week, she even traveled to Spain to partake in a riding competition. Samir Hussein/Getty Images
Young as she was when she ascended to the throne, “queen” wasn’t Queen Elizabeth II’s first title; at that point, she’d already more than established herself as a horse girl, which she remains to this day, even in her 90s. To get an idea of her priorities, look no further than the day that Kate Middleton gave birth to the then newest member of the royal family, which many chose to spend camped out in front of Middleton’s hospital wing.
But not Queen Elizabeth: In the spirit of a non-nonagenarian, she spent the morning on the back of Carltonlima Emma, sans helmet, instead.