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Combine a Rearing Horse, a Big Damn Heroes rescue, some Cool Guns or a sword, a pinch of Dramatic Wind, and you get Horseback Heroism. Guaranteed to make any nearby potential Love Interest swoon as 'Lightning' rears onto its hind legs while thunder cracks in the background.

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.

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

Examples of Horseback Heroism include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sakaki did this in a dream sequence in the Azumanga Daioh anime.
  • 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.



  • 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.
  • Spoofed mercilessly in Shrek II with Prince Charming.
  • In Kate and Leopold, Leo rides down a purse snatcher through Central Park on the back of a horse that he borrowed from a carriage ride.
  • Gandalf and his army do this in The Two Towers.
  • Odin gets to pull this off in Thor. For extra cool, the horse in question has eight legs.
  • 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.
  • The climax of Sleeping Beauty is a battle with the mounted Prince Philip up against Maleficent to save Princess Aurora.
  • Enchanted begins with Prince Edward riding up to save Giselle from a troll and they plan to get married the next day.
  • In the film version of 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.
  • Many Zorro films feed this trope. Zorro's signature pose is raising his sword on top of a rearing horse.


  • The Rohirrim, Gandalf on Shadowfax, and various other instances in The Lord of the Rings.
  • A frequent occurrence for Zorro.
  • 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.
  • 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 ahorse (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!
  • 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.
  • 1632: Morris Roth, in the novella "The Wallenstein Gambit"[1], assumes the role in the defense of Prague from Holk's mercenaries, but not just with the traditional rearing horse and sword waving. While when the defenders first gathered he did, when Holk's goons actually showed up the next day, while astride a horse borrowed from Pappenheim he simply kept his uptime rifle kept handy but not yet being wielded, his calmly awaiting the arrival of the mercenaries serving the purpose of calming his poorly trained troops far better than the sword waving routine.
  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • The Doctor in the Doctor Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace" (jumping the horse through a mirror for extra awesomeness).
  • A staple on Queen of Swords.
  • Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes a horseman known as Zorro...
  • A staple of The Lone Ranger, which showed such a sequence in its opening credits each episode.


  • In the music video for Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much", one of the hunky gents she encounters while hitchhiking in the desert is something like an Arabian adventurer on the back of a charger. She waves him on, the ice princess.

Video Games

  • Link in Twilight Princess, when you defeat King Bulbin for the first time.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Assassin's Creed games give you a button specifically for making your horse rear up.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Western Animation

  • 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.
  1. in the first Ring of Fire anthology