Celebrities & Horses: William Shatner, Queen Elizabeth II & Patrick Swayze

by Kristin Berkery

Sussim osim nissim — translated from Hebrew, “horses make miracles.”

William Shatner driving his famous Saddlebred stallion, Call Me Ringo, at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. AP photo

William Shatner
During the 1983 filming of a T.J. Hooker episode at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, William Shatner noticed a black Saddlebred stallion he couldn’t stop thinking about. The horse, Sultan’s Great Day, was a coal-black son of the legendary Supreme Sultan, but that didn’t matter to Shatner. All he cared about was buying the beautiful horse, which he paid a premium for because of his inexperience in the horse business.

With Great Day’s purchase, Shatner dove headlong into breeding and showing Saddlebreds in addition to his reining Quarter Horses. Great Day was twice World Champion in fine harness and was retired to the breeding barn at Shatner’s Belle Reve Farm in Kentucky while the reining horses remained in California. He has since added Standardbreds to their breeding program.

William Shatner aboard Smoke 'N War Wind at the 2010 Del Mar National Horse Show. Photo by Rick Osteen

In 1990 Shatner established the annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show, bringing together top reining horses and riders, world famous musicians, and a charity auction to benefit therapeutic riding programs for disabled children. One ticket to the event costs $300 and the 2011 show raised $375,000 for L.A.-area charities. Shatner even saddles up to give reining demonstrations at various charity events, like the 4R Performance Horses Celebrity Slide that benefits the Make A Wish Foundation.

Shatner and his wife Elizabeth established the Therapeutic Riding Consortium Endowment for Israel with the help of the Jewish National Fund in 2006 to benefit programs for children of various ethnicities throughout Israel. It was during his time in Israel that Shatner learned the Hebrew phrase, “Sussim osim nissim,” meaning “horses make miracles.”

A serious competitor in reining, Shatner was named Pacific Coast Year End Horse of the Year All-Around Amateur in reining in 2009. The following year he participated in the opening ceremonies of the FEI World Equestrian Games at Kentucky Horse Park with Call Me Ringo, a son of Sultan’s Great Day that he bred himself. In 2010 artist Katherine Bogucki sculpted Call Me Ringo for Stone Model Horses.

Shatner, always looking for opportunities to spend time with his horses, is able to sum up his passion for them in one sentence: “Riding a horse is freedom, love, and a connection with nature.”

Queen Elizabeth II on her favorite horse, Burmese, and Ronald Reagan riding Centenial at Windsor Castle in 1982. Photo from Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Queen Elizabeth II
The queen has been a lover of horses from early on. Her grandfather, King George V, gave her a Shetland Pony named Peggy when she was just four years old. Since then the queen has accumulated a large collection of different breeds, but her favorite is the Thoroughbred. One of her first racehorses, Monaveen, was co-owned with the Queen Mother and finished fifth at the 1950 Grand National. (Even that far back there were charges by animal rights supporters that the Grand National was a “cruel” race.)

Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite riding horse was a black mare of mostly Thoroughbred breeding named Burmese, given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. The queen rode Burmese for the Trooping the Color every year until the horse’s retirement in 1986, after which Her Majesty chose to ride in carriages for later Troopings.

Another horse given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Centenial, was also favored by the queen. A statue depicting the queen riding Centenial was erected in a park in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1992.

A statue in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, of Queen Elizabeth II riding the Canadian-bred Centenial. Photo by Fishhead64

The queen is an admirer of all horses, but especially those native to the British Isles. Her Majesty is patron of the British Horse Society and the breed societies of the Shire, Cleveland Bay, and Fell Pony. She usually has around 20 Thoroughbreds in race training every year and she frequently attends horse shows and races. At her Diamond Jubilee birthday celebration on June 5, 2012, 116 horses and riders will accompany the queen’s carriage as it travels from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace.

The queen continues to ride at the age of 85, although she refuses to wear a helmet.

Patrick Swayze and his beloved Arabian stallion, Tammen. Photo by Javan Schaller

Patrick Swayze
Almost everyone in horses knows about Patrick Swayze’s love for Arabians. His family had a long history in horses — his grandfather was a cowboy, his father was a rodeo champion, and the Swayzes were friends with Arabian trainers Tom and Rita McNair. The McNairs managed Gleannloch Farms near Houston, Texas, a prestigious Arabian stud that hosted influential people from around the world. Patrick’s mother was a dance instructor and her young students, including Patrick and his future wife Lisa Niemi, performed for world dignitaries at Gleannloch. There Patrick saw the imported Egyptian Arabian stallion *Morafic and was smitten.

As a teenager Swayze was also a rodeo competitor, but he turned his focus to professional dancing for the next several years. Missing horses in his life, Swayze built a ranch in Southern California in the 1980s and dedicated it to his horse-loving father who’d died a few years earlier. He started out with stock horses he used for calf roping competitions and a few Arabians, and in 1992 he attended the Gleannloch dispersal sale and took home the stallion Tammen, who had a lasting effect on his life.

Patrick and Tammen on the cover of the May 1996 issue of Arabian Horse World. Photo by Javan Schaller

Patrick and Tammen on the cover of the May 1996 issue of Arabian Horse World. Photo by Javan Schaller

Swayze frequently enjoyed riding Tammen at the Texas ranch where the stallion was cared for by Tom McNair. He described his relationship with the chestnut stallion: “I feel like my soul gets to fly when I’m with him.” Tammen died in 1999, but Swayze continued to own and show the horse’s offspring.

Swayze died from pancreatic cancer in 2009 at his ranch in New Mexico with his wife Lisa nearby and his horses in the pastures outside.

Below is a 1989 interview of Patrick Swayze with actor Tab Hunter at Swayze’s Southern California ranch.