The Shakespeare Equestrian Collection

“Shakespeare in the Saddle” by Long Rider artist Katie Cooper. The use of this specially commissioned and copyrighted image is prohibited without prior written permission. Any violation will be strictly and immediately enforced.

By CuChullaine O’Reilly F.R.G.S.

When asked to describe William Shakespeare, most people recall the sculpture that depicts the playwright as a middle-aged, balding, rotund pedestrian holding a quill pen. This represents an image intended to show the author when he resided in London’s narrow lanes. Alternative evidence has created a new world view that reveals Shakespeare in the Saddle. Seen for the first time by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the painting discloses a young man in love who is riding a stallion to retrieve the money needed to marry his fiancée. This exciting image is but a foretaste of what awaits inspection in the Shakespeare Equestrian Collection. It took more than five years to complete this intensive examination that documents how horses deeply influenced the personal and professional life of England’s most famous author. Her Majesty was the first to inspect this treasure trove that contains a rare pictorial biography, the first illustrated list of equine actors and an outstanding collection of articles.

Acknowledged by Queen Elizabeth II

Balmoral Castle – August, 2022

“Dear Mr. O’Reilly,

Her Majesty was sorry to learn that your wife, Basha Cornwall-Legh, sadly died just before completion of the Shakespeare Equestrian Collection, and sends her sincere sympathy to you for your loss. The Queen was touched to know that it was Basha’s last wish to send her the preview copy of the SEC which Her Majesty was interested to see.”

Shakespeare: Pedestrian or Horseman?

When asked to describe William Shakespeare, most people recall the sculpture that depicts the playwright as a middle-aged, balding, rotund pedestrian holding a quill pen. This represents an idealized image intended to depict the author when he resided in London’s narrow lanes. When sufficient evidence was uncovered indicating that the author had undertaken equestrian journeys, Long Rider artist Katie Cooper was commissioned to create a new world view of Shakespeare in the Saddle. It shows a young man in love and riding a stallion to retrieve the money needed to marry his fiancée, Anne Hathaway. What inspired this change?

the Origins of the Shakespeare Equestrian Collection

In 2017 the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation received an unusual research request. Two scholars investigating William Shakespeare’s marriage had detected evidence indicating that the most celebrated English playwright in history might have been a Long Rider. While attempting to confirm or deny that possibility, the LRGAF began a search for clues that would reveal how horses had influenced the best-selling author of all time. What emerged was a treasure trove of equestrian evidence.

Shakespeare and Horses - Facts and Findings

During the years in which the Shakespeare Equestrian Collection was being assembled, world-wise equestrians, highly literate scholars and knowledgeable citizens of many countries unanimously expressed wonderment when told that William Shakespeare and horses were inescapably intertwined. Shakespeare and Horses: Facts and Findings is a special summary article designed to provide the average reader with an easy to understand but vitally important list of facts about how horses exerted such a strong influence on Shakespeare's personal and professional life. It contrasts the remarkable differences between the equestrian worlds of Queen Elizabeth 1 and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Horses in Shakespeare's Life

This collection of articles provides evidence of how horses played a significant role in William Shakespeare’s personal life, including his marriage, his knowledge of horses, and his subsequent employment as a horse handler in London. This collection of articles provides evidence of how horses played a significant role in William Shakespeare’s personal life, including his marriage, his knowledge of horses, and his subsequent employment as a horse handler in London. Shakespeare Leaving Home-- The Farewell depicts the family standing on Clopton Bridge which spans the river Avon. The illustrated biography contains this first image of Shakespeare in the saddle.

  • An Illustrated Biography of William Shakespeare by Charles Cattermole

  • Glossary of Tudor Equestrian Terms by Walter Skeat

  • Horse Fairs in Stratford-Upon-Avon by Victoria County History

  • Shakespeare on Horseback by Charles Edward Flower

  • Shakespeare and Horsemanship as an Art by Anthony Dent

  • Shakespeare and Literary Long Riders by CuChullaine O’Reilly

  • Shakespeariana and Horses by Unknown

  • Shakespeare – From the Stable to the Stage by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps

  • Shakespeare in the Saddle by Mark Moran and Anjali Saini

Horses in Shakespeare's Plays

Horses or equestrian references appear in all of Shakespeare’s plays!

This collection of articles focuses on equestrian influences in the different plays.

  • Altering a Race of Jades - Horse Breeding and Geohumoralism in Shakespeare by Ian MacInne

  • Arcite's Horsemanship by MacDonald Jackson

  • Caparisoned like the Horse - Tongue and Tail in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew by LaRue Love Sloan

  • Enobarbus on Horses - in Anthony and Cleopatra by Gordon N. Ross

  • Flying Horse in Henry V by Haldeen Braddy

  • Gertrude's Elusive Libido by Richard Levin

  • Hollow Men and False Horses by Sydney J. Krause

  • Horse for Richard III by Stephen Derry

  • Horse-Handling in Shakespeare's Poems and Renaissance Codes of Conduct by Jonathan W. Thurston

  • Horsemanship in Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy by Robert Watson

  • Horses and Hermaphrodites: Metamorphoses in The Taming of the Shrew by Jeanne Addison Roberts

  • Horses and Women in the Taming of the Shrew by Joan Hartwig

  • Horses of Hamlet by Mordecai Gorelik

  • Horses of Macbeth by Bert States

  • How Many Horses has Sonnet 51 by MacDonald Jackson

  • Lady and her Horse Keeper by Cedric Watts

  • Lear's Soiled Horse by David Blythe

  • Missing a Horse: Richard and White Surrey by Erica Sheen

  • More Ladies and their Horse Keepers by Richard Levin 

  • My Kingdom for a Horse by Paulo Cericei

  • My Kingdom for a Horse by Ceri Sullivan

  • Shakespeare's Horses - An Illustrated History of Equine Actors by CuChullaine O'Reilly

  • Shakespeare and the Post-Horses - A New Study of the Merry Wives of Windsor by J. Crofts

  • Shakespeare's Quotes about Horses

  • Stepping Out of Narrative Line: A Bit of Horse Play in Venus and Adonis by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton

  • The Hobby Horse's Epitaph by Robert L. Chibka

  • Think when we talk of Horses by Gregory Dornan

  • Time and Horsemanship in Shakespeare's Histories by Hugh MacLean

  • Venus, Adonis and the Horses by Robert Miller

The Shakespeare Equestrian Collection was created to encourage further research into this special aspect of the author’s personal and professional life. These websites represent the valuable equestrian research done to date and the LRGAF would like to commend their creators/authors for their ground-breaking studies.

Equestrian References

  • Bard Film

  • History on Horseback 

  • Murray and Blue – Equestrian Research

  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

  • Shakespeare: Horses and Horsemanship

  • Shakespeare’s horses: nags, jades and steeds, or wonders of nature

  • Shakespeare Online

  • The Tudor Dynasty

  • The Tudor Horse 

  • VictorianIllustratedShakespeare


“At every crossway in the road that leads to the future, tradition has placed, against each of us, ten thousand men to guard the past,” wrote Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian horse lover and Nobel Laureate author.

The Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation was created in 2009 thanks to the inspiration provided by Prince Philip. His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, had long championed an alliance between lucid scientists and enthusiastic amateurs. He said, “Many of our pioneering engineers started without any formal training but had a passion, and a talent, for invention and development. The system does not seem to be able to cope with the ‘hands-on’ enthusiast, who has no immediate interest in academic qualifications.”

Scientists and the equestrian public need not be strangers. The challenge, according to the Duke, is to entice the public to become enthused and involved. The need to engage the public in equestrian research was articulated as far back as 1987 when Harold Barclay observed, “The horse journals and popular horse books are too full of gross historical and ethnographic error, and the historians and anthropologists who deal with the horse sometimes hardly know the difference between a crupper and a collar.”

The Shakespeare Equestrian Collection has thrown open the barn door and reveals that Shakespeare’s involvement with horses, be it as a Long Rider or as an author, is neglected by scholars, misunderstood by audiences, and warrants further examination.

Yet Shakespeare and horses is not a topic restricted to a rarefied few. This is an exciting new type of equestrian exploration, one that invites participation by all of those who love horses and the Bard’s plays. For this reason, the creation of the SEC is intended to be a long term global project, one that welcomes contributions from established academics but also values the discoveries made by independent “citizen scientists.”

The Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation would like to thank the dedicated academics, impassioned amateur scholars, inquisitive librarians and equestrian artists whose contributions inspired the creation of this singular anthology.

The Shakespeare Equestrian Collection contains more than 350 pages of unique research. If you would like to investigate this ground-breaking project, please visit the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation.

If you would like to contribute to the Shakespeare Equestrian Collection, please contact CuChullaine O’Reilly at –

All rights to the image “Shakespeare in the Saddle” are owned by CuChullaine O’Reilly and the Long Riders’ Guild. You may not copy, store in any medium (including in any other website), distribute, transmit, re-transmit, broadcast, modify, or show in public any part of this image without the prior written permission of the creator and owner. You agree not to adapt, alter, or create new work from this image or use it for any other purpose. Any unauthorized copying or editing in whole or in part is strictly prohibited. Any such action establishes liability for a civil action and may give rise to criminal prosecution.

CuChullaine O’Reilly is the Founder of the Long Riders’ Guild and the Editor of Equestrian Investigations for HRL magazine. An award winning journalist, O’Reilly has spent more than forty-years investigating equestrian exploration and history. He is the author of The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration and The Horse Travel Handbook.