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Horseback Heroism

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Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need!
I need a hero!

Combine a Rearing Horse, a Big Damn Heroes rescue, some guns or a sword, a pinch of Dramatic Wind, and you get Horseback Heroism. The sight of "Lightning" rising up on his hind legs while thunder cracks in the background is enough to tell everyone involved that the Day is well and truly Saved.

This is an old trope, though this hero is by no means riding a "dead horse" when he uses it to rescue friends or lovers. It's just that awesome.

Updated versions may substitute a Cool Bike or Cool Car for the horse. In which case you can expect My Horse Is a Motorbike.

Not to be confused with The Cavalry, who only sometimes ride literal horses.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto, The Watson Angelo has his Meet Cute with the titular Cesare Borgia when Cesare rescues him on his faithful horse Romulus. (The Moody Mount that was trying to throw Angelo off is named Remus, and was a gift from Cesare to the head of Angelo's association. Angelo eventually learns to ride Remus, and Remus is given to him, allowing him to join Cesare as a horseback hero).
  • Kaiketsu Zorro: As staple of Zorro, the anime also uses the trope basically at least once per episode.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: In chapter 73, William arrives in Vermissa Valley to save Sherlock (and Billy) where they're pinned down in a bar by the enemy, on a white horse and a sword.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Akio swoops in on horseback in the nick of time to save Utena when she falls off of another horse. Of course, given that he's systematically working on molding Utena to fit the classic "princess" role, it's strongly implied that he orchestrated the whole thing so she would further associate him with her childhood prince.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Dark Knight Gaia/Gaia the Fierce Knight and his retrained versions invoke this, as this monster's whole aesthetic is about being a badass knight riding a mount. Gaia is often given badass moments to show this trope off, such as defeating Saggi when Yami Yugi is in disadvantage, destroying the Cocoon of Evolution to prevent the summoning of the Perfect Ultimate Great Moth, the ritual animation sequence of Chaos Soldier/Black Luster of Soldier, defeating one of the Big Five, or when Yami Yugi resurrects Gaia from the Graveyard to reveal that he predicted in advance that the Sangenma/Three Egyptian Gods would be defeated.
    • The Nameless Pharaoh and his servants ride on horses to chase after Thief King Bakura. The Doma arc, which knows of the content of the final arc, foreshadows in the first half of the arc by making Yami Yugi ride Rebecca's horse to go after Raphael.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman does it in The Dark Knight Returns after a nuclear EMP strike knocks out all motor vehicle transport.
  • In Sherwood, Texas #5, Loxley escapes an ambush in the stables and emerges on a charging horse; riding over one of the Nobles as he charges off to rescue Maria.

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise: When Sir Gerald's would-be assassin is fleeing on a motorbike in "The Killing Distance", Willie chases after him on a horse. And it's awesome.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In fairy tales classified as tale type ATU 502, The Wild Man as Helper, the hero is given a horse and armor to fight in a war to protect his father-in-law's kingdom. For example: Iron Hans and King Goldenlocks.
  • A more literal example in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index tale type ATU 314, "Goldener" or "The Youth Transformed to a Horse": it's the horse that rescues the protagonist from danger, carrying him away on its back. In the tale type, the protagonist (a boy or a youth) is hired by an employer of mysterious origin. One day, while he is away, the hero opens a door and finds a talking horse that warns him that his employer wants to devour him. The boy and the horse escape to another kingdom, and the horse advises him to become a gardener in the king's court, and eventually helps the hero marry a princess. In some variants, the horse is actually the princess's brother, cursed into equine form:
  • In Norwegian tale The Princess on the Glass Hill and its variants, the hero tames three horses of different colours and rides each of them to reach the princess atop a steep glass hill (sometimes as part of an "Engagement Challenge").

    Film — Animation 
  • Subverted twice in Frozen.
    • When Anna sets off on a mission to save Elsa and the kingdom, she does so riding on a horse. Said horse later gets spooked and runs off, and she then continues on foot.
    • Sven is a huge reindeer but he is treated much like a horse in this way, and Kristoff dramatically rides him to help Anna during the whiteout at the climax until he's separated from Sven and Anna sacrifices her life for Elsa's.
    Olaf: There's your act of love right there! Riding across the fjords like a valiant, pungent reindeer king!
  • Hercules: Hercules doesn't ride just any horse to save Mount Olympus from Hades. He rides on friggin Pegasus.
  • Shrek 2:
    • Spoofed with Prince Charming, who rides to rescue Princess Fiona from her tower, only to find the ogre Shrek had gotten there well before and rescued her already.
    • Also parodied, then played straight in the climax, with Shrek and his "noble steed" (actually Donkey transformed into a horse).
  • The climax of Sleeping Beauty is a battle with the mounted Prince Philip up against Maleficent to save Princess Aurora.
  • Woody riding out on Bullseye to get Jessie off the plane in Toy Story 2.
  • In an earlier version of Turning Red, Mei fantasizes about Robaire riding up to her like a rescuing knight complete with a Rearing Horse.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • An Invoked Trope in And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself.
    • Villa is skeptical about Raoul Walsh, the American actor sent to portray him, and so the two men compete in showing off their horse-riding and shooting skills. Fortunately Walsh is good enough to satisfy Villa.
    • During the train ambush, Thayer sets up his cameras under fire, points them back at the train and shouts "ACTION!" Cue Villa and his cavalry riding out of the rail cars straight into battle.
  • At the end of Antebellum, Veronica, wearing a Union tunic and brandishing a hatchet, goes charging on horseback through the middle of a mock American Civil War battle.
  • Disturbing the Peace: Catie provides Dillon with a horse and a Winchester repeater that he uses to chase down Diablo as Diablo attempts to escape town on a dirt bike.
  • In Ella Enchanted, one of the many times Prince Charmont saves Ella's life is from an ogre's boiling pot when he comes up on his horse.
  • Enchanted begins with Prince Edward riding up to save Giselle from a troll and they plan to get married the next day.
  • Gladiator opens with a Big Badass Battle Sequence in which General Maximus leads Roman cavalry into action against a Germanic tribe, even though Roman tactics were actually centered around their infantry. It does however enable to make our hero to look more badass than if he were leading the action from behind a shield wall. In his first gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum, Maximus ends up on a White Stallion taken from the charioteers he's fighting.
  • In The Good, The Bad, The Weird, Do-won comes charging into the Ghost Market on horseback to save Man-gil from Chang-yi. He later charges into the middle of a Japanese cavalry troop.
  • Hot Fuzz: When Sergeant Nicholas Angel returns to take on the conspiracy, he rides into the town square on horseback at a casual canter, wearing enough weaponry to outfit a platoon.
    Angel: Mornin'.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level: When the heroes are surrounded by mandrills and it looks like this is going to be the end for them, they Alex (as 'Seaplane') comes galloping in on a black stallions and scatters the mandrills. The heroes are even more surprised that the horse is Bethany in the avatar of Cyclone, a new PC in the game.
  • In Kate & Leopold, Leo rides down a purse snatcher through Central Park on the back of a horse that he borrowed from a carriage ride.
  • Done in The Lone Ranger, especially in the scene where the Lone Ranger and Silver appear on top of a building to lasso a Gatling gun.
  • Gandalf and his army do this in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016): Chisolm and Faraday are fond of showing off their Improbable Aiming Skills while riding (such as accurately fanning a revolver from horseback), and make heroic charges at different points in the film.
  • In the 1940 Film Serial Mysterious Doctor Satan there's a minor character who's the secretary of the Kidnapped Scientist, but as her actress Dorothy Herbert worked as a circus trick rider, she always does something amazing whenever she escapes a predicament by getting on a horse. She looks great in jodhpurs as well.
  • As the prince of Prince Charming rides through the city he sees a woman being attacked. He jumps from his horse to go rescue her.
  • Jesse does this for the heroine of one of Joan Wilder's romance novels in the fantasy sequence at the start of Romancing the Stone.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: After escaping from the Big Bad's hideout, Watson obtains a horse (from somewhere) and seemingly gallops all the way to London to save Queen Victoria from an Action Bomb.
  • In Sunset, Tom Mix and Wyatt Earp are flying to Mix's ranch to rescue Tom's girlfriend Nancy from gangsters when engine trouble forces their plane down. Discovering they are only 15 miles from Mix's ranch, they borrow horses from a couple of friendly cowboys, and come charging to the rescue on horseback.
  • Odin gets to pull this off in Thor. For extra cool, the horse in question has eight legs.
  • In Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold, Yellow Hair conducts almost all of her raid to break Pecos out of the Mexican fort on horseback.
  • Many Zorro films feed this trope. Zorro's signature pose is raising his sword on top of a rearing horse.

  • 1632: Morris Roth, in the novella "The Wallenstein Gambit"note , assumes the role in the defense of Prague from Holk's mercenaries, but not just with the traditional rearing horse and sword waving. As the defenders first gathered he did all that, but when Holk's goons showed up the next day, Roth, riding a horse borrowed from Pappenheim, simply kept his uptime rifle close to hand, ready to use. His coolly awaiting the arrival of the mercenaries served the purpose of calming his poorly trained troops far better than the sword waving routine.
  • Occurs a couple of times in The King's Justice:
    • Duncan fights for his life when his army is surrounded by Loris' troops and the main Mearan army, then casts a spell for a diversion while ordering Dhugal to leave and warn Kelson.
    • Kelson and Morgan, riding with their forces, cast spells to save Duncan from arrows as he's being burned at the stake.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: During the annual horse race, Rielle sees a horseless Audric about to be attacked by assassins from an enemy country. Without a second thought, she rides to where he is and uses her powers to stop their assault.
  • The deghans in the Farsala Trilogy clearly think they're this, and in the beginning they are - it's mentioned that Farsala is one of the few countries to have an effective cavalry. However, they are easily defeated by Hrum foot soldiers.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar invariably ride graceful white horses, who are their Bond Creatures and reincarnated comrades-in-arms. Heralds who've completed their Equitation classes can do anything on horseback that they can do on foot, including diving headfirst into a river to rescue drowning victims.
  • House Of Night vampyres dislike technology, so every House has a stable of fine horses and offers its students training in equestrianism. This comes in useful in Hunted, when the heroes escape Neferet's grasp by fleeing her House on horseback. It's a risky endeavour, since the streets are dark and covered with snow, but they eventually get to safety.
  • Journey to Chaos: After Nolien mana mutates into a unicorn, Tiza rides into battle like a mounted knight.
  • The Rohirrim, Gandalf on Shadowfax, and various other instances in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Sandor Clegane's rescue of Sansa in the second book of A Song of Ice and Fire certainly qualifies, even though technically he's afoot at the outset. Still counts, though: he appears in the nick of time, prevents her from getting pulled off her horse and raped, swings up onto her horse in front of her, and gallops her to safety through a rioting mob. Another instance is his rescue of Arya when she suicidally tries to save her mother at the Red Wedding. This one's odd because he does show up a horse (as lightning illuminates the scene, even), and does ride up to her at a gallop while rain pours and thunder rolls...and then whacks her unconscious with the flat of an axe. (So that he can take her away from the unfolding slaughter.) Heroic!
  • In the second Time Scout book, Skeeter uses his hard-earned horseback skills to win a duel in the Roman arena, then pole vault out and save a friend from slavery.
  • A frequent occurrence for Zorro (2005).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Referenced in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where Fitz-Simmons tell Skye that the reason May is called "The Cavalry" is because she took out a hundred hostiles while riding a horse.
  • Angel. Winifred Burkle becomes smitten with our hero after he rescues her from execution by demons, riding off with her on a horse "just like a fairy tale".
  • The A-Team, "Showdown". The fake A-Team rig a van so it will drive down and hit one of Winnetka's tents. Hannibal, grabbing one of the horses from the show, catches up to the truck, jumps into its cab, and manages to stop it Just in Time to prevent it from hitting the tent and two people.
  • The fifth episode of Burn Notice, "No Good Dead", features the Cool Car variant. Michael says, "When your back's against the wall and time is running out, there's nothing like seeing an old friend." Cue the Cool Car moment as the perfectly restored 1973 Dodge Charger (destroyed at the end of the last season) comes screeching into frame, driven by Fiona.
  • Doctor Who: At the climax of "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor jumps a horse through a mirror to save the day.
  • Game of Thrones: Lyanna Stark is officially introduced galloping at the Winterfell grounds.
  • This is a staple of The Lone Ranger, which showed such a sequence in its opening credits each episode.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel kills Orcs left and right with her sword while riding a White Stallion during the Battle of Tirharad.
  • Person of Interest. In "A More Perfect Union", Root rides up on a black horse Just in Time to kneecap the two hitmen who are about to shoot John Reese and the Victim of the Week. She then puts the Damsel in Distress on the back of the horse and they ride off together.
  • A staple on Queen of Swords.
  • In the pilot episode of Roswell, Liz is accidentally shot when a fight breaks out at the diner she works at. Max, against his better judgement, uses his alien powers to heal Liz's wound before running out and driving away in an open-topped jeep.
  • Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes a horseman known as Zorro...

    Music Videos 

  • "A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! ... With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, most characters with ability-based charmsets like the Solars and Sidereals can do this to one extent or another. The Solars invoke the trope the hardest though, particularly Hero Rides Away.

  • The boxart of BIONICLE's special-edition Toa Lhikan & Kikanalo set depicts the hero Lhikan riding the rearing beast, despite the fact that in the story, he never shares a scene with any Kikanalo.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed games give you a button specifically for making your horse rear up.
  • This is Odin's standard operating procedure in the Final Fantasy games: appear ominously out of the darkness while lightning flashes around him, raise his sword/spear, have his steed Sleipnir rear up on his hind legs and whinny, then charge the enemy with deadly intent.
  • Bartz of Final Fantasy V comes riding in on his charger to save Lenna, and then Lenna and Galuf. This being Final Fantasy, though, his charger is a chocobo. And the chocobo kind of had to talk Bartz into the second instance.
  • In Kessen, your generals would always rear up their horses like this, along with uttering some sardonic/heroic line or another, after accepting an order to march or attack.
  • Link of The Legend of Zelda has been known for his horseback-riding skills since Ocarina of Time, but the first time full-fledged mounted combat was used in the series was in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, when you fight King Bulbin for the first time.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The second half of the Final Boss involves Link fighting Dark Beast Ganon on horseback, shooting at Ganon's weak points with the Bow of Light.
  • In Paladins, you start each match, and return after each respawn, riding into battle on horseback to get to the battle faster.
  • Pushing the 'jump' button while your horse is stationary in Red Dead Redemption also does so, and it triggers automatically when you successfully break in a wild horse.
  • In Super Robot Wars the Tatsumaki Zankantou (aka "Tornado Blade") Combination Attack has the Aussenseiter transform into a horse ridden by Dygenguar, who pull off this pose (with a BFS) before charging at the opponent.
  • Similarly, in World of Warcraft, pressing the jump button while on a horse and stationary causes it to rear up like this, with similar results for most other ground mounts.
    • Inverted in Warcraft III, before his Faceā€“Heel Turn Arthas as a paladin is without a mount, after he becomes a death knight he is almost always seen riding his undead steed.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Cartoon Network Groovies short El Kabong Rides Again, the title character rides in wielding a guitar to smite the villain.
  • In the "Hair-Raising Harness Race" episode of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Penelope and her horse rescue the Ant Hill Mob from falling down a deep chasm.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Spike the dragon hopes for this when he goes to rescue Rarity from the Diamond Dogs during A Dog and Pony Show. Twilight (the steed) is less than happy with the concept, but humors him. (And if you think about it, he's trying to do this to impress another pony. What would they think of this?)
    • He does it again with more success while he is in the shape of a humanoid dragon-knight during the shared dream in Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?, choosing a giant-sized Derpy Hooves as his mount and the Pegasus mare enthusiastically going along with it.