QUEEN ELIZABETH II: A look at an extraordinary passion for horses and the equestrian arts

In the honor of the Her Majesty, we prepared a brief history of the sculptures and paintings dedicated to her horse passion, paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II as an inspirational true horsewoman and extraordinary horse lover, who has ridden horses for most of her nine decades.

Elizabeth II, along with the rest of the British royal family, also was a prolific art collector. Passionate about the arts, The Queen supported talented equestrian artists whose works accompanied Her Majesty throughout her life.

As a child, Elizabeth was given her first horse, a Shetland pony named Peggy, at age 4, which she was riding by the age of 6. By age 18, she was an accomplished rider, and continued to ride for pleasure into her nineties.

In her role as monarch, Elizabeth also rode in a ceremonial role. From her first appearance as princess in 1947 and throughout her reign as queen until 1986, she attended the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on horseback. Initially, she rode a bay police horse named Tommy in 1947.

When her father, King George VI, was unwell, she rode in his place on his chestnut horse Winston, and she rode Winston after George VI's death. Later she rode a chestnut horse named Imperial. For eighteen consecutive years, from 1969 to 1986, her horse was a black mare named Burmese. Burmese was a gift from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. From 1987 onward, since Burmese retired, she would attend in a carriage.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Uniform of the Scots Guards, on 'Imperial' by Leonard Boden

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Uniform of the Scots Guards, on 'Imperial' by Leonard Boden (1963).

The first equestrian portrait of The Queen painted by Leonard Boden.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Uniform of the Scots Guards, on 'Imperial' by Leonard Boden from Beacon Arts Centre. The portrait was commissioned by Mr D G Mitchell Chairman of Greenock Arts Guild.

Leonard Boden (1911–1999), the portrait painter and teacher, born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, married to the artist Margaret Boden, who assisted him in many of his major works. Boden painted 19 portraits of members of the British Royal family, including ten of Queen Elizabeth II and five of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Before painting in oil on canvas, Boden sketched his sitters in sanguine (red chalk). The subjects of his portraits often asked to buy his lifelike sketches. Boden asked for six to eight sittings of an hour and a half each for his royal portraits. His first picture of the Queen hangs alongside a portrait of Prince Philip at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.

Four of his portraits of the Queen were painted for government institutions in Canada. The Queen often recommended Boden if asked whether she would prefer any particular artist's depictions of her. Boden's daughter, Daphne, sometimes played the harp for the Queen while her father painted.

Susan Crawford’s ‘Her Majesty the Queen on Worcran’ 1977

Her Majesty the Queen on Worcran by Susan Crawford (1977) 

To celebrate the Silver Jubilee, the regiments of the Household Division commissioned a portrait of The Queen as a gift. The choice of artist chimed with The Queen’s own interests, for Scottish-born Susan Crawford (born 1941) is a leading equestrian artist, who has painted 22 Derby winners and such household names as Njinksy, Mill Reef and Dancing Brave. For this portrait, The Queen rode Worcran, an ex-racehorse that belonged to the Queen Mother and came third in the 1965 Champion Hurdle. He was used by The Queen for hacking. The artist travelled to Windsor for sittings and sketched The Queen riding, becoming dizzy as she rode in circles around her. She studied Worcran’s movement and physique, as well as the relationship between horse and rider, and finished the painting after a further sitting at Buckingham Palace.

The result is a relaxed portrait of The Queen dressed in tweed jacket and jodhpurs, a smile playing across her lips. It is also a spirited depiction of Worcran, ears pricked and tail outstretched, striding through the fields above Windsor Castle. Worcran turns to face us, white blaze gleaming, as his rider looks into the distance, enjoying a rare moment of peace. The two are in their element, riding through the leafy countryside. Only the grey clouds threaten to dampen their spirits, alluding to the many responsibilities from which The Queen has only momentarily escaped.

Susan Crawford was born in Scotland in 1941 and was brought up on a farm in East Lothian where her parents bred and trained racehorses. She has to date painted 22 Derby winners. Her first joint exhibition was with the Tryon Gallery in 1969, where she sold all her pictures on the opening night.

Over the next 40 years she travelled widely; firstly to the USA then Canada, Germany, Brunei, Australia and the Sultanate of Oman as well as with numerous visits to Ireland and throughout the UK.

Queen Elizabeth II By Arnold Friberg

 Queen Elizabeth II on Centennial by Arnold Friberg (1991)

Arnold Friberg (1913 – 2010) was an American illustrator and painter noted for his religious and patriotic works.

Friberg had the chance to paint Prince Charles and Charles was so pleased with the results, that he was chosen to paint the Queen. In both paintings we see a beautiful horse, Centennial who was the great-grandson of the famous horse Man-O-War.

Friberg said the horse was so magnificent and the saddle and gear so fine, that when he was doing a sketching session with the queen standing in front, he asked her if she could move out of the way so that he could better paint the horse. He said she didn’t laugh or even crack a smile.

While painting Charles and the Queen, he was invited to stay in Buckingham Palace and said that he was in a massive room, all alone for much of the time. The Queen would come in from time to time to sit and check on the progress.

Friberg was invited to be a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and added the RSA to his paintings signatures thereafter. 

A statue in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, of Queen Elizabeth II riding the Canadian-bred Centenial by Jack Harman (1992).

A statue in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, of Queen Elizabeth II riding the Canadian-bred Centenial by Jack Harman (1992).

Unveiled on July 1st, 1992, by Queen Elizabeth herself, the statue is the first equestrian statue of Her Majesty in the world and it was dedicated in honor of her 40th year of ruling and Canada’s 125th anniversary.

The statue stood till 2019 on the east side of Parliament Hill. Due to archeology and other work, it was temporarily relocated to the roundabout in front of Rideau Hall’s main gate, the official residence of the Governor-General, the queen representative in Canada.

Made by sculptor Jack Harman, commissioned by the Canadian Parliament, the 4-meter statue stands on a 3.7 meters tall granite base. It depicts Queen Elizabeth riding astride on her horse Centenial, whom she received as a gift from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in commemoration of their 100th anniversary.

Jack Harman (1927–2001) was a Canadian sculptor from Vancouver, British Columbia, the "creator of some of Canada's best-known public art. He received the Order of British Columbia in 1996, cited for creating "some of Vancouver’s best known sculpture.

Equestrian statue of Elizabeth II, Windsor Great Park by Philip Jackson Equestrian statue of Elizabeth II, Windsor Great Park by Philip Jackson

Standing in The Great Park, Windsor, this statue was commissioned by The Crown Estate to celebrate Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee, and unveiled by HM The Queen in 2003. The statue is approximately 1.5 times life-size and is located at the highest point of Queen Anne's Ride in the park. Elizabeth II is depicted as she would have looked like in the 1970s, while the horse is intentionally not modeled after any specific horse.

Philip Henry Christopher Jackson (born 1944) is a Scottish sculptor, noted for his modern style and emphasis on form. Acting as Royal Sculptor to Queen Elizabeth II, his sculptures appear in numerous UK cities, as well as Argentina and Switzerland.

Philip Jackson describes his art in the following words:

"My sculptures are essentially an impressionistic rendering of the figure. Where you see the figure seemingly grow out of the ground, the texture resembles tree bark, rock, or lava flow. As the eye moves up the sculpture, the finish becomes gentler & more delicately worked, culminating in the hands and the mask, both of which are precisely observed & modelled."

Statue of Elizabeth II aboard her favorite horse Burmese by Susan Velder (Canada)

Statue of Elizabeth II aboard her favorite horse Burmese by Susan Velder (Regina, Canada, 2005) 

This is a statue of Queen Elizabeth riding on Burmese, a horse given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She rode the horse in 18 consecutive birthday parades. In 1986, Burmese was retired to Windsor, where she died in 1990. The statue is located on the grounds of the Saskatchewan Legislature in Wascana Park (Regina, Canada).

Velder’s experience with the Queen also includes a story about the hat in the sculpture. The St. Walburg artist says she was having some difficult with the shape of it so she called the palace to see if she could get a better picture. One of the Queen’s staff said to expect a call with the answer the next day, but instead, ten minutes later, the palace called and said when she approached the Queen, she said Velder could have the hat as long as she sent it back afterwards, which she did.

Velder jokes that she had a lot of visitors while the hat was in her studio, once the community found out about it. Her Royal Highness unveiled the statue in front of the Legislature in 2005 when she visited Saskatchewan. 

Susan Velder, born in 1939, received her training at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, Alberta, graduating in 1977. She later received a diploma in art education from the University of Calgary and left Alberta to move to Saskatchewan in 1986.

Velder's work has been exhibited in solo and group shows and is part of numerous corporate and private collections. She has completed numerous public sculptures in materials including bronze, concrete, and steel.

The Queen's statue in Newmarket near the entrance to the Rowley Mile 

This statue was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 3rd November 2016. It was placed here to mark Her Majesty's 90th birthday and to celebrate her special relationship with Newmarket and the thoroughbred horse.

Her Majesty is depicted in 1977, the year of her Silver Jubilee. Cast in bronze and set on a plinth of Portland Stone, the statue portrays Her Majesty with a mare and foal at 120% life size.

This project was made possible by the support and generosity of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Planned by the Newmarket Commemoration Committee, the statue has been gifted to the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art and will be maintained by Newmarket Town Council.

The piece was created by Etienne Millner, who sculpted the Queen, and Charlie Langton, who was responsible for the animals.

Etienne Millner (b. 1954) is a London based figurative sculptor working mainly in life-size and monumental portraiture.

Charlie Langton (b. 1983) is one of the most sought-after equine artists of our time. His commitment to the Classical principles of the old masters underscored by a deep understanding of equine anatomy and a love for the horse, renders his work painstakingly accurate and astonishingly true to life.

Major works include his over life-size bronze tribute to four-time Gold Cup Winner Yeats in the parade ring at Ascot Racecourse. The piece was unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen on the opening day of Royal Ascot in 2011 when Charlie was just 26.

It is said the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man, and horsemen the world over will confirm that the outside of a great horse is something very special indeed. It is this feeling that Charlie seeks to capture through his work.

Crown coins 

Commemorative coin of the coronation of Her Majesty The Queen (1953)

To celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, a special commemorative crown coin was issued. It was the first-ever commemorative crown to be issued during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and in the years that have passed since Her Majesty’s coronation, it has become one of the United Kingdom's most iconic and sought-after coins.

The obverse portrait was designed by sculptor Gilbert Ledward, and instead of the usual obverse portrait of a monarch, it featured Her Majesty mounted on her horse, Winston, dressed in her uniform as Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards, at the Trooping of the Colour ceremony. The image of a monarch on horseback had not been seen since the James I Crown in 1603, which makes this coin and its design highly prized and instantly recognisable amongst collectors.

The reverse design was of a shield with a crown in the centre of an emblematical cross, formed from a thistle, rose, leek and shamrock. In the angles, there are four shields bearing the arms of Scotland, England and Ireland.

Befitting the occasion which it celebrated the words from the dedication that Prince Philip made to the Queen during the Coronation Service: “Faith and truth I bear unto you” are inscribed on the coin’s edge.

Gilbert Ledward (1888 – 1960), was an English sculptor. He won the British Prix de Rome for sculpture in 1913, and in World War I served in the Royal Garrison Artillery and later as a war artist. He was professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art and in 1937 was elected a Royal Academician. He became president of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and a trustee of the Royal Academy.

1953 Elizabeth II 5 Shilling, Commemorative Crown


Commemorative coin of the 25th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II (1977)

The obverse of the coin is an equestrian portrait of The Queen by Arnold Machin. The Queen is shown in uniform as Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards. This is one of the uniforms worn by Her Majesty at the ceremony of Trooping the Colour.

The reverse which is also by Arnold Machin shows a crown and the ampulla and anointing spoon that were used in the coronation ceremony, surrounded by a floral garland.

Arnold Machin (1911 – 1999) was a British artist, sculptor, and coin and postage stamp designer.

He was a prolific artist and sculptor throughout his long life. He is perhaps most famously known as the creator of the iconic “Queens Head”, which was used on British coinage between 1968 and 1984. This design was based on an effigy that Machin was commissioned to create in 1964 after winning a competition to model Her Majesty the Queen for decimal coinage. He continued to design commemorative coinage throughout his career, notably the Royal Silver Wedding Commemorative Crown in 1972 and also the crown for the Silver Jubilee in 1977. He also travelled to the Bahamas in 1964 to design their coinage.

The Machin design is instantly recognisable and has become an icon of the British monarchy. Great Britain is the only country in the world where the name of the country doesn’t feature on the stamp. As the creators of the stamp, "the image of our monarch denotes the country and since 1967 Arnold Machin’s image has been doing this".

1977 Elizabeth II Jubilee Silver Proof Crown by Arnold Machin

Commemorative coin of the Golden Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II (2002) 

As part of Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, The Royal Mint released a series of commemorative coins to mark Elizabeth II’s fifty years as monarch. 

In keeping with the designs of the 1953 coronation crown, and the 1977 silver jubilee crown, the queen is shown on horseback. This new equestrian portrait is the work of Ian Rank-Broadley.

In addition to the usual inscription, there is also "AMOR POPULI PRAESIDIUM REG" which translates loosely as "The Love Of The People Is The Queen's Protection". This inscription but with the word REGIS for king instead of REG for queen first appeared on gold angels of Charles I.

A superb portrait of the Queen in robes and diadem graces the reverse. Both designs are the work of Ian Rank-Broadley, the artist who created the Royal portrait approved for the circulating coins of the United Kingdom from 1998.

Ian Rank-Broadley (born 1952) is one of the foremost sculptors working today. His effigy of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II appears on all UK and Commonwealth coinage since 1998. In 2012 he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Vicenza Numismatica.

2002 Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee by Ian Rank-Broadley



Royal Collection Trust

Beacon Arts Centre 


The Royal Mint