Who knew that actor Richard Gere was crazy about Appaloosas? Amanda Ronan tells the story of how his equestrian passions came to be.
Best known for his roles in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Pretty Woman (1990), Richard Gere has been a leading Hollywood hunk for over four decades including notable horseback roles in Sommersby (1993), First Knight (1995), I’m Not There (2007), and he at least chased a horse during Runaway Bride (1999).
Gere felt intimidated by his Andalusian partner on the set of First Knight.
“I’d seen the horse first on tape, being ridden by this extraordinary Spanish rider, using no bridle and with his hands clasped behind his back. Voice and leg commands only. Unbelievably sensitive. He was far too good for me, and it took quite awhile for me to ride him properly. That horse taught me a lot.”
Gere as Lancelot, Photo Courtesy IMDB
Born Richard Tiffany Gere on August 31, 1949 in urban Philadelphia, Richard first fell in love with the horse culture while working on the 1970s Broadway play, Killer’s Head. While building his character for the play, he researched the Nez Perce tribes. There began his lifelong passion for the Appaloosa breed.
Gere bought his Appy, Drukpa, sight unseen after a friend’s recommendation just before filming Sommersby. The 8-year-old gelding had previously been used as a turnback horse at the rodeos held in Saratoga, New York. Drukpa was Gere’s first horse.
“I brought him down to Virginia where we were shooting. The production had built a Civil War-era town in the middle of a national forest, complete with fields and a stable. So, I just left Drukpa in the paddock there. When I had a 10-minute break, I just saddled him up and took off! It was a perfect situation.”
Drukpa and Richard became lifelong pals after that trip.
“This big Appy follows me around like a dog,” he said during an interview. “First horses are like your first girlfriend. You never forget.”
Gere and Drukpa, Photo Courtesy Pinterest
Gere’s wife, Carey, found her Appaloosa, Kali, during a road trip in Idaho. The previously “unrideable” mare turned out to be the perfect match for Carey, and the additional surprise of a foal, Jigme, sweetened the deal.
Gere’s involvement with horses doesn’t stop at the gates of his ranch in upstate New York, however. He and his wife are deeply involved in the Chief Joseph Foundation, an organization that promotes the Nez Perce cultural preservation primarily through community activities involving the Appaloosa breed. Richard and Carey were honored by the Foundation’s founder, Bonnie Ewing, with Appaloosa Pendleton blankets after they purchased Kali. The sale of the horses goes towards the nonprofit’s program expenses.
Photo Courtesy Chief Joseph Foundation
Rappaport, Jill, Wendy Wilkinson, and Linda Solomon. People We Know, Horses They Love. [Emmaus, Pennsylvania]: Rodale, 2004. Print.