The top ten horse riders in the world today are high achieving, world champions with Olympic experience, and a few medals to their credit.
In a time when the sports world is dominated by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and PGA, equestrian athletes often don’t receive the recognition they deserve, though they spend just as much time and effort perfecting their sport.
It’s difficult to ignore the achievements of multiple medal-winning riders, however. To those who love horses, some become household names. We’ve chosen the most accomplished equestrians in dressage, showjumping, eventing, and all other horse sports.
Famous Horse Riders and Equestrians
The 10 most famous horse riders & equestrians of today.
1. Charlotte Dujardin
Born on July 13, 1985, Charlotte has been a world-renowned British dressage rider for many years. Her fame took off with the winning of three Olympic gold medals, as well as setting three World Records with her famous dressage horse, Valegro. She set records at both the 2012 Olympics and the 2016 Olympics.
The pair also dominated at the 2012 World Cup and the 2015 World Cup to complete a 4th consecutive World Title.
Charlotte retired Valegro at the age of 14, but she continues to ride and train, developing new horses to FEI levels. She is currently working with a mare named Mount St. John Freestyle.
2. Sir Mark Todd
Born in New Zealand in 1956 and standing at 6′ 3″, Mark Todd was voted Event Rider of the 20th Century by the FEI. Mark Todd began winning World Championships in 1978 in Kentucky and has since won several prestigious competitions, including Badminton on his first attempt in 1980, then again in 1994 and 1996.
Mark won Burghley five times and won back to back Olympic titles in 1984 and 1988. He medaled again in the Sydney Olympics.
He became Sir Mark Todd in 2013 when he received a knighthood. In 2019, he announced his retirement from Eventing, but still stays involved in horse racing.
3. Pippa Funnell
Born 1968 as Philippa Rachel Nolan, Pippa Funnell became a British eventing star when she took the first-ever title of the Grand Slam of Evening in 2003, winning Kentucky, Badminton, and Burghley.
Pippa has won numerous prestigious titles since, including medals at the European Championships, International events such as Bramham, Barbary, World Equestrian Games in 2010, and 3 Olympic medals.
Pippa has created her own publishing and media industry. She has written around 22 children’s bestsellers, a series known as Tilly’s Pony Tales. She has also written an autobiography which is available here on Amazon.
4. Steffen Peters
Born in Germany in 1964, Steffen Peters is a famous Dressage rider who lives and competes in the United States. Steffen has participated in 4 Olympic Games and medaled twice. He has also been among the top performers in the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Kentucky, and Tryon.
In 2009, Steffen Peters became only the second American to win the World Cup Final. He led the U.S. to team gold in the 20111 and 2015 Pan American Games, winning individual gold. He continues to ride and train at his state-of-the-art facilities hidden away in the hills of California.
5. Beezie Madden
Born in 1963, Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden is an American show jumper and has been referred to as the world’s most successful female showjumper.
Beezie Madden is a 4 time Olympian claiming 2 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medal. She has medaled in several World Championships and Pan American Games as well.
Beezie Madden plans to semi-retire following the 2020 Olympics but hopes to continue to train riders and horses.
6. Michael Jung
Born in 1982, Michael Jung is a professional German eventer and a 3 time Olympic Gold Medalist. Michael Jung is the second rider ever to win the Grand Slam of Eventing (2016) and was inducted into the Eventing Rider Hall of Fame in 2013.
Michael Jung began riding at age 6 and became the first rider to ever hold the Olympic, World, and European championships all at the same time.
7. Anky Van Grunsven
Born in 1968, Anky Van Grunsven is a Dutch dressage rider who won three consecutive Olympics in dressage. Anky is the only equestrian to have competed at every World Equestrian Games where she has claimed numerous wins.
Born Theodora Elisabeth Gerarda van Grunsven, she has competed in the Olympics four times and holds the record for the most wins at the Dressage World Cup.
Anky now spends most of her time training young athletes and riding for enjoyment.
8. Isabell Werth
Isabell Werth is a famous dressage rider and the most decorated Olympic equestrian of all time. Born in Germany, 1969, she is a World Champion and 5 time Olympian with 10 medals to her credit, 6 of which are gold.
Isabell Werth credits the majority of her success to the horses she rides. She is still competing and hopes to continue to ride her top mounts in the most prestigious competitions for years to come.
9. McLain Ward
McLain Ward is an American show jumping rider born in 1975. McLain has won 3 Olympic medals and became the youngest horse rider ever to win the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Show Jumping Derby at the age of 14 in 1990.
McLain Ward is also the youngest horse rider to win the USET Medal Finals. He was the first and youngest to win both titles in one year.
McLain Ward was a part of the silver medal team at the World Championships in Aachen in 2006 and the bronze team in Lyon in 2014. He also won Longines FEI World Cup Championship and earned a #1 ranking in the Longines FEI world rankings in April 2017.
McLain Ward continues to ride competitively and train both horses and riders for the future.
10. Phillip Dutton
Phillip Dutton is an Australian-born U.S. eventing rider that has won 2 Olympic medals before moving to the U.S. in 1991. He currently competes successfully on the U.S. circuit after changing citizenship in 2006.
Phillip Dutton has competed 4 times for the U.S., making him a 6 time Olympian. Phillip has also competed in the World Championships and medaled in the Pan American Games.
Dutton now coaches young riders at various levels. He is a founding member of the Eventing Riders Association of North America.
As you can see, the notoriety of these riders is well-earned thanks to their hard work, dedication, and achievement. Another notable name is the legendary jockey Frankie Dettori. However, we left him off our list as we chose not to include jockeys.
There are many other notable and successful riders out there. Who have we left out that you admire? Please let us know in the comments section!