Politicians and Their Infamous Riding Fails

A “Gallop Poll” from Mother Jones explores the international history of politicians playing lawn darts.

I think we can safely assume that pretty much any person, politician or not, who  has ridden long enough has fallen off at least once. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is simply the most recent to make headlines when his fall caused him to break 8 ribs and be hospitalized at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center to drain fluid around his lungs.

Until now, though, no one has attempted to catalog the history of politicians’ ill-fated riding adventures. In response to McAulliffe’s fall, Mother Jones gave it a shot–not an easy task, since most heads of state prefer to keep their riding failures under the radar.

Our favorites:

Rough Rider: Theodore Roosevelt


Teddy Roosevelt jumping at the Chevy Chase Club

Teddy Roosevelt, well known as a rider and a sportsman, supposedly once fell 10 feet off his horse while crossing Rock Creek in DC. Just think about that for a moment. He had to have chosen a really nasty spot to cross! This would have come as no surprise to anyone who rode with him on regular jaunts to Rock Creek or Potomac, an affluent community just outside DC. Roosevelt had exacting rules for anyone up to the challenge of keeping up with his daily hacks:

Rules of the Road for Those Invited To Accompany the President on Horseback Rides:

First: The president will notify whom he wishes to ride with him. The one notified will take position on the left of the president and keep his right stirrup back of the president’s left stirrup.

Second: Those following will keep not less than ten yards in the rear of the president.

Third: When the president asks anyone in the party to ride with him the one at his side should at once retire to the rear. Salutes should be returned only by the president, except by those in the rear. Anyone unable to control his horse should withdraw to the rear.

Very Bad Sport: Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov

In 2013, the President of Turkmenistan’s racehorse tripped, fell, and violently launched him from the saddle mid-race. Embarrassing, maybe, painful, definitely…but Berdymukhamedov’s reaction was extreme. Once the video of the fall went viral online, he cut Turmenistan’s access to social media sites, and throttled Internet speeds overall. Due to government control and censorship of Internet content, Turkmenistan has been named an official “Enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders.

And the thing is, people wouldn’t still be talking about it if he had just accepted that everybody falls.

Don’t Drink and Ride: Denny Rehberg

In 2004, Denny Rehberg, a Republican congressman from Montana, was on a delegation to Kazakhstan, when he got drunk after one too many vodka shots and toppled off his horse on a riding excursion. It didn’t help that his opponents circulated a rumor that he drank 20 shots and chanted “meep meep” to his hosts. Seriously, how do people come up with this stuff?

Check out the rest in the original Mother Jones piece.

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