Polo ponies standing in corral at the Peachtree Ranch in Texas, 1939.
Polo ponies standing in corral at the Peachtree Ranch in Texas, 1939.Carl Mydans—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Polo ponies standing in corral at the Peachtree Ranch in Texas, 1939.
Championship horse Seabiscuit standing in stall after winning Santa Anita Handicap, 1940.
Doctor listening to horse's heart beats with stethoscope and recording them on Stetho-Cardiette at University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, 1940.
Moroccan soldier of the French expeditionary force, holding the General's Arabian horse, at garrison in the great citadel, 1940.
Stallion trying to make friends with a barn cat, 1943.
Man watching his work horse drink from a water trough, 1944.
Elizabeth Taylor posing with saddle horse after her smash movie debut in "National Velvet," 1945.
Boys riding a horse to schools, 1946.
Lucky horse playing roulette in Las Vegas, 1947.
Gene Autry astride his horse Champion surveying his Ranch, 1948.
Foreman of the JA Ranch Clarence Hailey Long sitting in shade of his horse on prairie, 1949.
Mrs. Mary Breckenridge who runs Frontier Nursing Service, petting her horse. Leslie Country, Kentucky, 1949.
"Lady Wonder," a clairvoyant 27 year old talking horse, can count and spell its name by tipping over lettered panels, 1952.
Child standing beside a miniature horse, showing size comparison, 1952.
Baby horses scampering down the stretch at Los Alamitos track, 1952.
In mid air the horse sails gracefully toward the tank, 1953.
Midget thoroughbred filly, Big Bertha, and her mother on Woodland farm, 1954.
6 year old cowboy learning how to shoe a horse, 1954.
Young girl riding her pony as colt follows, 1956.
"Misty of Chincoteague" wild horse at farewell party before returning home to Chincoteague Island, 1957.
Harness racing at All-Russia horse show at the Hippodrome, 1958.
Trader Horn nuzzling young friend in stall at Roosevelt Raceway, 1959.
Israeli children of Habad sect, frolic with horse and cart at farm village, 1960.
Troika race at Hippodrome, 1963.
Jimmy the horse rollerskating down road in front of its farm, 1963.
Polo ponies standing in corral at the Peachtree Ranch in Texas, 1939.
Carl Mydans—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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The Mane Event: LIFE's 25 Most Memorable Horses

Dec 13, 2017

In 2004, when the Senate agreed to designate December 13 as the National Day of the Horse, the resolution acknowledged that "horses continue to permeate the society of the United States, as witnessed on movie screens, on open land, and in our own backyards" and are "a vital part of the collective experience of the United States."

Nowhere is that vital role clearer than in the archive of LIFE Magazine's great 20th century photography, which features these majestic creatures in all of their many roles. They're athletes (Seabiscuit), movie stars (National Velvet), military troops, farm workers, even gamblers — not to mention beloved companions. In one 1952 gimmick, a horse that supposedly possessed clairvoyant powers even composed a headline for a LIFE story about herself. (She was clairvoyant, not creative: the headline was "Talking Horse.")

To mark the celebration of horses now and then, here's a look back at 25 of the most memorable horses in LIFE's pages.

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