Celebrating Horses In Song

HRL‘s Mustang Month celebrates the influence of horses in every capacity, including music!

When it comes to music and horses, people often assume Country & Western is the chosen genre to represent the equine world. Granted, horses are mainly associated with Country & Western music, with stars such as Willie Nelson and more contributing to the scene – but there is always more than one page in a book, and so it is with songs and music.

Whether referring to horses literally or symbolically, here are a few musical classics to enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: Horse & Rider Living does not own the rights to these songs. All rights belong to the owner. No copyright infringement intended.


“Mustang Sally” is one of those iconic songs with the mustang being symbolic.  The rhythm and blues song was recorded by Mack Rice in 1965 – the same year Ford started producing Ford Mustangs! – and by Wilson Pickett in 1966, released in his “The Wicked Pickett” album.

John Lee Hooker recorded a completely different song in the same year with a similar title; “Mustang Sally & GTO”.  

So who was Mustang Sally?  She was a fictional character in Mack Rice’s head…which all of the Sally’s and Mustang car lovers in the world took to heart.

The song originated when Mack Rice was visiting Della Reese, who was planning to buy drummer and band leader Calvin Shields a new Lincoln Continental for his birthday. However, Shields did not want a Lincoln – he’d rather have had a Ford Mustang. Rice had no knowledge of the Ford Mustang at that time as it had just started production, but when he learned the Mustang was a smaller car, he teased Shields about wanting it. 

Somewhere in the midst of this exchange, Rice started thinking: there might be a song to be made.  However, he decided that a woman would be the topic – a woman that just wanted to ride around in her new car, the Mustang. An early version was called “Mustang Momma”, but he changed the title on Aretha Franklin’s suggestion when she pointed out the name Sally being used in the chorus. Rice had taken part of the chorus from a children’s game song recorded by various artists, “Little Sally Walker”, which included the lyrics “Ride Sally ride, wipe your weepin’ eyes”.  His version was All you wanna do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride,…One of these mornings, you’re gonna be wipin’ your weepin’ eyes”.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Wilson Pickett’s recording of the song as #434 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2010, a Rolling Stone update lowered the song to #441.


Originally composed by the Rolling Stones  in 1969 the song was not released until 1971. Keith Richards started writing the song after his son was born, and was experiencing anguish at the thought of going on tour and leaving his son behind.  The words “wild horses, couldn’t pull me away” was his emotional response to going back on the road.  However, the song took a different mental direction when Mick Jagger took over writing the lyrics; it became about a relationship and his own mental anguish. 

So once again, horses became a symbolic gesture, this time by one of the most beloved musical groups in the world. 

Still, one of the most heartwarming versions of “Wild Horses” is sung by Willie Nelson and his family. Though the lyrics still originated from the thoughts of the Rolling Stones, this version truly was recorded with wild horses in mind. He is a wild horse advocate that has contributed much to saving America’s iconic equines (including saving 70 bound for slaughter and bringing them to his 700 acre property, called Luck Ranch) and continues to campaign for their protection and humane treatment. HRL appreciates and admires him and his work immensely.


Written and performed by Rod Stewart (featuring Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor on guitar), “The Wild Horse” was featured on the 1988 album Out of Order. While little is known about the origins of the song, the lyrics paint a clear picture of the storyteller living a traveler’s life, with references to the open road and sleeping under the stars, that seems to embody the spirit of actual wild horses. Lyrics like “I knew right then I could never go home / Cause the wild horse runs free forever” and “Oh here’s to the heart / and the hands of a man / That come with the dust / and are gone with the wind” make this song one that requires little analysis, and can simply be listened to and enjoyed for the expansive, untamed spirit it captures so well.


“Live Like Horses” was written and performed by the incomparable Sir Elton John (with a single version featuring Luciano Pavarotti) for his 1997 album The Big Picture. Like “The Wild Horse”, there is very little background information available about further details on the thought process of writing this, but the intended sensation is not difficult to understand. The lyrics and expansive instrumentation effectively capture a sense of yearning to break free: “Someday we’ll live like horses / Free rein from your old iron fences / There’s more ways than one to regain your senses / Break out the stalls and we’ll live like horses”

Sky, sunshine, fresh air, grass, water…humanity can’t live like horses all the time, but it’s an excellent reminder that it’s good for our heart and soul to do it as often as we possibly can.

While America’s wild horses are symbolically powerful in marketing and arts, we need to remember they are real and continue to campaign for the preservation of their future and the environment they inhabit.  Please contact your legislators and demand they represent the 80 percent of citizens who want to see the BLM end their campaign to destroy America’s wild horse herds.

Barb currently resides in Central Florida with her three horses; when she’s not writing or riding for HRL, she loves to read and travel. horseandriderliving@gmail.com