How famous do they have to be? When I was a teen, my instructor leased a 27 year old mare named "Dolly" who, years before, had been a big winner in the jumpers at the Del Mar horse show (a very big deal back then). I got to ride her a few times; she was hot and fast and tricky, but so much fun. Oh, and I got to get thrown over her head so I landed on the far side of the jump, standing, still holding the reins, while that darn mare stood on the near side of the jump and said "Gotcha!"
I got to gallop a former World Champion racing QH at the track once. He was well past his prime but I hadn't been galloping long and boy was I nervous! Only rode him once but it was still cool to say I had been on a World Champion!
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On my only foray to KY, I got a picture of me with Skip Away, one of my heroes as a young teen. My heart was pounding SO fast when we walked in that barn. Actually, that meeting was set up by a COTHer. We saw so many nice horses but that was the BEST. Such an accomodating, down-home farm and people.
Haven't got to ride anyone famous, I would be far too petrified. Only exception would be Lava Man, given the chance.
I exercised one of Peter Gray's advanced horses while it was on layover for a couple of weeks...it was so famous I can't remember its name. But it was a bay gelding and I remember thinking "Oh my God, this is the nicest thing I've ever sat on!" And he was sweet in the barn, too.
Got to "meet" all the famous horses at KYP - Da Hoss was my fave.
If I could ride any "famous" horse in the world, I'd go back in time and ride the buckskin horse, Denny, from The Man from Snowy River...loved that horse.
When I was younger, back in the late '70's, I groomed/tacked up/cooled out Tuscaloosa II, Dudley Do Right, Hummer and Lyrical Lou for Dennis Murphy when he came back to Alabama for the Winter let down. My favorite was Tuscaloosa. He was a really cool horse. He was the Reserve Horse of the Year for jumpers in '79 or '80 (I cannot remember the exact year).
My friend, Susan, and I went on the Claiborne farm tour, when we came up to watch the 1978 World Championships at the KHP. Like one of the other posters', Secretariat's groom pulled him out of the stall and we posed for photos with him. Even though they are starting to fade a bit, I still have them.
When we went up to Chesterland to watch an event at Bruce Davidsons farm, Dennis and Mr. Warner had me go over to Tad Coffin's place to check on a mare that Mr. Warner had donated to the event team. Tad was really nice. While I was there, I got to meet Bally Cor.
In the late 80's, I got to ride a GP dressage horse named Palladin. He was owned by a Romanian GP dressage rider. It was the first and only time that I got to do a passage and piaffe. It was very cool.
This story, you have to imagine through the eyes of an 11 year old horse crazy girl. (early 1980's) My mother and I had recently moved to Vienna Austria- we were staying at a pension in the center of the city while we looked for an apartment. The city was very safe (or my mother was very irresponsible) and I was allowed to explore in the touristy areas by myself- and I naturally gravitated toward the carriage stands where I could watch the horses come and go- and I loved to hear the pairs travel through the giant domed tunnel of a street which passed right through a wing of the Hofburg. Well, I was walking on a very quiet sidestreet and I caught the scent of horses, and stopped to see if I could tell where it came from- and I heard that familiar soft fluttery equine blow from the window directly above my head. The window was an old european casement style which was propped open with iron bars- so I took hold of the bar and did a chin up with my feet against the wall so I could see in the window- and there I was eye to eye with a Lippizan stallion in his stall. OMG my heart just flip flopped with wonder and awe as I watched him there munching. I hung on till my arms cramped and then I hung on longer still... It was, up till then, surely the most magical amazing moment of my life. What I didn't know was that if I had simply walked around the block to the stable entrance on the other side- at the right time of day, for only about a quarter, I could have toured the stable (which I eventually did)
Not especially famous, but when I was about 12 or so, I worked for the woman who owns Tattersall (who in her heyday had been a very successful hunter in FL, and is the namesake of the soap of the same name) and got to ride her one day. I was "working" for her, for free, in exchange for the knowledge and experience I was acquiring (she had Tattersall, a yearling, and a HOTHOTHOT jumper mare, so awesome experience for a kid), since I was so young and had only been riding for 3 years. Still one of the nicest horses I've been on to this day.
Oh, I remembered another! I rode an older grey horse who had won the Fountain of Youth Stakes once. It was only bareback, just to switch pastures. I don't even know his name, soncewe just called him Fountain of Youth.