Sam Elliott: What Is the Cowboy Legend’s Favorite Horse Riding Experience?

by Matthew Wilson
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Sam Elliott has had a lot of experience with horses throughout his career. After all, he’s appeared in numerous westerns and historical pieces. The actor revealed some of his favorite and most memorable horse riding experiences.

Before he became an actor, Elliott was never much one for horseback. But he became well acquainted with riding the animals during his career. Elliott said he learned his way around a horse stall and also learned the different breeds of horses. The actor has gone horseback riding a lot during his films. But “Wild Times” and “Gettysburg” stand out as the most memorable.

“The most memorable are the most embarrassing, so I’ll keep those to myself,” Elliott told Cowboys and Indians. “I did some dressage once in ‘Wild Times,’ a miniseries. Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. were in it. And Tim Scott. They’re all gone now. Anyway, I rode this dancing horse named Mister, owned and trained by Pinky Randall. That was a real treat.”

Elliott said he always worked hard at learning horseback riding because he didn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of his co-stars. Elliott is keeping some of his most embarrassing experiences to himself.

“And there have been other times — like pushing a herd of horses in ‘Conagher,’ a movie I did with [wife] Katharine. Or loping around on a flat saddle in ‘Gettysburg,'” Elliott continued. “Any of those parts that required some iota of horsemanship always got my attention and made me work harder. If you’re going to get on a horse, you want to look good on one. There are too many people out there who know the difference.”

Sam Elliott Roped Horses with Tom Selleck

During Louis L’Amour’s “The Sacketts,” director Bob Totten convinced Elliott and co-star Tom Selleck to rope horses together. As part of training for that film, he had the actors practice riding horses, unsaddling them, and knowing the ins and outs.

The director wanted to make sure that Elliott and his co-star were well prepared before filming started. He realized that some actors may fib about their riding experience just to land a role.

“Before we started shooting, Totten got me and Tom [Selleck] and Jeff Osterhage into an arena,” Elliott said. “He had us catch our horses, saddle them up, ride around a little bit, get off, unsaddle them, and get the hell out. Totten knew some actors would say anything to get a part.”

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