All the Presidents’ Horses
for Tri-State Livestock News
Today, the president and his family travel by airplane—a mode of transportation the founding fathers probably never dreamed of. While a groom may no longer be part of the White House staff, many presidents had a deep appreciation for the equine species, according to the White House Historical Association.
The Dakotas’ own Theodore Roosevelt was often found horseback, turning down automobiles for state functions, and declaring, “The Roosevelts are horse people.”
Horseback heroes have been depicted in paintings and sculptures for centuries, so it’s no surprise that American presidents would be included in that number.
George Washington’s war horses were symbols of his leadership. He can be seen elegantly attired and well-mounted. He also brushed his horses’ teeth.
Ulysses S. Grant is considered by some to be the greatest equestrian to ever hold the highest office in the nation. His natural connection with and feel for horses was evident from an early age. He was a standout at West Point and later in the Army, with a reputation for fearless handling and colt starting.
A Washington Post article reports him once being arrested for speeding with a team through the streets of D.C.
Abraham Lincoln had a soft spot for horses, and had to be physically restrained from saving his son’s ponies from White House stables when they caught fire. His horse, Old Bob, was dressed in mourning attire for Lincoln’s funeral.
Like several of the founding fathers, Jefferson was a full-scale farmer and a skilled foxhunter; he was also a respected breeder of Morgans. He favored bays within the breed.
It is said that Old Whitey often grazed the White House lawn during Zachary Taylor’s administration. Taylor was fond of riding side-saddle.
Under Andrew Jackson, the White House became a fully functioning breeding, training and racing operation.
John Adams is credited with building the first presidential stables in 1797, and Taft with tearing them down around 1910 to make room for a four-car garage.
FDR rode a little, despite his battle with polio.
Caroline Kennedy’s pony, Macaroni, lived at the White House during the Kennedy administration. But it was a Roosevelt administration pony named Algonquin that rode a white house elevator to visit a sick child on an upper floor.
Lyndon B. Johnson was a Texas cowboy with a drawl who often wore a bolo tie.
Ronald Reagan is the most notable equestrian president in modern times. He had served in the cavalry, and a special Secret Service agent had to be recruited to keep up with his pleasure rides.
As an actor, Reagan’s riding ability landed him many roles in westerns. He rode on his ranch in California and in the Washington area, and was known for objecting when his aides presented him with an itinerary that did not allow him time in the saddle.
He also rode with Queen Elizabeth.
The horse ridden to protect Reagan was Monty, a son of Montana Doc, a cutting horse champion. The last horse Reagan rode was a ranch-bred Quarter Horse he called Sergeant Murphy.
Bill Clinton was fond of borrowing park police horses and riding them out.