This eclectic playlist features multiple genres centered around a popular topic for songwriters: horses.
From rock songs like ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’ to country classics like ‘Beer for My Horses,’ the valiant animal can take on different meanings, both metaphorical and literal in music.
For inspiration from a dynamic mix of artists, here are some of the best songs about horses ever made.
- Tennessee Stud – Johnny Cash
- A Horse with No Name – America
- White Horse – Taylor Swift
- Beer for My Horses – Toby Keith
- No Reins – Rascal Flatts
- Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) – Big & Rich
- Live Like Horses – Elton John
- Chestnut Mare – The Byrds
- Black Horse and the Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
- High Horse – Kacey Musgraves
- Back in the Saddle Again – Gene Autry
- Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones
- Ballad of a Runaway Horse – Emmylou Harris
- Wildfire – Michael Martin Murphey
- Dark Horse – Katy Perry
- Only the Horses – Scissor Sisters
- A Horse in the Country – Cowboy Junkies
- Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses – U2
- Bring on the Dancing Horses – Echo & the Bunnymen
- American Horse – The Cult
- Three Horses – Joan Baez
- Crazy Horses – The Osmonds
- Rider in the Rain – Randy Newman
- Heavy Horses – Jethro Tull
- Chasin’ Wild Horses – Bruce Springsteen
- Dark Horses – Switchfoot
- Girls & Horses – Templeton Thompson
- She Rides Wild Horses – Kenny Rogers
- Runaway Horses – Belinda Carlisle
- Another Horsedreamer’s Blues – Counting Crows
- Just Like Them Horses – Reba McEntire
- Old Town Road – Lil Nas X
- The Wild Horse – Rod Stewart
- Wild Horses – Natasha Bedingfield
- Ride Me Back Home – Willie Nelson
- Three White Horses – Andrew Bird
- Which Way Does That Old Pony Run – Lyle Lovett
- Horses in My Dreams – PJ Harvey
- All the Pretty Little Horses – Becky Jean Williams
- Cowgirls Don’t Cry – Brooks & Dunn
- Fallen Horses – Smash Mouth
- Old Paint – Chris LeDoux
Tennessee Stud – Johnny Cash
‘Tennessee Stud’ tells the story of a traveling cowboy and his adventures with his prized horse. This single was included on a posthumous album called Out Among The Stars. It was released in 2014 after Johnny Cash’s son found a stash of lost recordings he felt uniquely captured his father’s patriot spirit.
Related: Saddle up and see our playlist of songs about cowboys.
A Horse with No Name – America
A moody song that makes the listener feel like they are walking through the desert as they listen to it, America’s lead singer Dewey Bunnell wrote the song after visiting the southwest with his father and being inspired by its vast, unforgiving landscape. The band was formed in England by sons of servicemembers stationed overseas.
Related: This one is super simple to play (just two chords). See our collection of easy guitar songs.
White Horse – Taylor Swift
Country-pop crossover star Taylor Swift uses romantic imagery in her song ‘White Horse’ to tell the story of a young girl waiting to fall in love and be rescued by a prince on a white horse. She ultimately realizes in the end she needs to save herself. This single appeared on her award-winning 2008 album, Fearless.
Beer for My Horses – Toby Keith
Country legend Willie Nelson joins songwriter-performer Toby Keith for this story-filled song about how bad men were dealt with in the wild west. For the songwriting process, Toby Keith called up a friend and fellow songwriter Scotty Emerick for his melodic abilities. ‘Beer for My Horses’ shot up to number one quickly on the charts after it was released.
No Reins – Rascal Flatts
Comparing a woman to a metaphorical horse, this song is about a girl breaking free from a controlling relationship. One of the country band Rascal Flatts’ lesser-known tracks, ‘No Reins,’ appears on their studio album Still Feels Good. Rascal Flatts is one of the longest-running groups in country music. They got together in 1999 and have been making music ever since.
Related: See our playlist of songs about getting free.
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) – Big & Rich
One of country music’s most famous party songs, duo Big & Rich talks about their “old stud Leroy” as they ride through town, catching the ladies’ attention in this amped-up single. Big & Rich would go on to score other more serious hits like ‘Lost In This Moment.’ However ‘Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)’ continues to be their most popular single.
Live Like Horses – Elton John
A rare operatic-pop single on Sir Elton John’s late 90s album, The Big Picture, was co-written alongside John’s longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. Though the album version features only Elton’s vocals, the single recording released features opera singer Luciano Pavarotti’s powerful vocals trading verses and choruses with John.
Chestnut Mare – The Byrds
This early 1970s tune is about a cowboy’s relentless pursuit of a horse, the Chestnut Mare, a kind often found in America. Inspired by a mid-1800s Norwegian play, frontman Roger McGuinn worked with a Broadway director on a musical adaptation of the play, including The Byrds’ music. Though the play was never completed, the band used several of their tunes meant for the adaption on their albums.
Black Horse and the Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall was inspired to write this song while on a trip to Greece. While riding a moped, she came across a black horse that’d escaped from its fencing and was tearing through an olive grove. Feeling the experience took on a biblical role for her, she began writing the lyrics to ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.’
High Horse – Kacey Musgraves
Appearing on her 2018 album Golden Hour, ‘High Horse’ is an upbeat, funky tune about someone full of themselves and arrogant. Though it tackles a darker subject lyrically, Kacey Musgraves was on a Bee Gees kick when recording this album, so she gave the track a dance-able, disco vibe. She performed this song for her debut appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Back in the Saddle Again – Gene Autry
Gene Autry’s 1939 western-inspired release became his signature song. Autry reached stardom as a singing cowboy on the “silver screen.” Fellow country singer Ray Whitley wrote the tune, then got together with Autry to tweak the lyrics to Autry’s taste. The singing cowboy then used it in his film Rovin’ Tumbleweeds.
Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones
Written for Keith Richards’ infant son in the late 60s, the song draws on Richard’s wealth of emotions he felt about leaving his young family to go on tour. Though Richards originally wrote the song, once bandmate Mick Jagger got ahold of it, the only line he kept when rewriting it is, “wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”
Related: This also appears on our list of songs about undying love.
Ballad of a Runaway Horse – Emmylou Harris
Inspired by a series of poems known as “Ten Bulls,” Leonard Cohen wrote ‘Ballad of a Runaway Horse’ while reflecting on personal enlightenment. Cohen’s lyrical stanzas mirror the different perspectives of the poems throughout the song. Country singer Emmylou Harris went on to record her own version of the tune for her 90s album, Cowgirl’s Prayer.
Wildfire – Michael Martin Murphey
Coming to him in a dream, Michael Martin Murphey woke up his songwriting partner in the middle of the night to write this hit song. Murphey used the dream and inspiration from a childhood story his grandfather would tell him about a ghost horse native Americans communicated with to complete the lyrics. ‘Wildfire’ became a huge cross-genre success story for Murphey.
Dark Horse – Katy Perry
“Dark horse” is a term used to describe a mysterious figure whose talent and intentions are not yet known. Katy Perry co-wrote this single with fellow songwriter Sarah Hudson (who is related to actress Kate Hudson). Perry’s inspiration for this tune came from watching a popular 90s show based around modern-day witches, The Craft.
Only the Horses – Scissor Sisters
Released on their 2012 album, Magic Hour, the nonsensical nature of the lyrics to ‘Only the Horses’ leave the song open for interpretation. The song’s overall theme features emotions of loss and yearning for something as the protagonist talks about trying to get found and brought back home.
Related: Head on over to our playlist of going home songs.
A Horse in the Country – Cowboy Junkies
Representing a metaphorical dream, ‘A Horse in the Country’ may mean different things to different listeners. To some, the horse in the song symbolizes freedom and independence. For others, it represents a new start. Some speculate the horse could even symbolize a lover the protagonist visits on occasion. Take a listen and see what images come to mind for you.
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses – U2
Though the lead singer of U2, Bono, sings this song it’s actually about the band’s guitarist who goes by stage name The Edge. When Bono penned this tune, The Edge was going through a tough divorce. Though it was a hard song to record, the group felt it was important to release.
Bring on the Dancing Horses – Echo & the Bunnymen
‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’ is a commentary on art’s role in society. The “dancing horses” represent statues and how people view themselves in the sculptures. Art has a way of opening the door to self-discovery for people, and lead singer Ian McCulloch dwelled on that thought while writing the song’s lyrics. This track appeared in the 80s hit movie Pretty in Pink, starring Molly Ringwald.
American Horse – The Cult
Frontman Ian Astbury moved from England to Canada when he was just a young boy. While living in Canada, he became well acquainted with Native American culture and visited several reservations. The more he learned about their culture, the more he fell in love with their way of life. ‘American Horse’ was written from the Native American perspective. Astbury often wore feathers in his hair as a nod to his preferred way of life.
Three Horses – Joan Baez
With lyrics left open to interpretation, fans of Baez’s music often relate the different stages of growing up to the horse theme of the song. Throughout the lyrics, the horses take on different colors, shapes, and attributes, which can be contributed to how individuals respond to the different stages of life. Joan Baez’s work often took a spiritual path due to her work as a human rights activist.
Crazy Horses – The Osmonds
Known for their clean image and pop releases, The Osmonds took a page out of rock ‘n roll for their song ‘Crazy Horses.’ Singing about the ill effects of air pollution, the “crazy horses” in the song represent cars and their damaging exhaust. Though the song wasn’t a major hit in America, it was much more popular in the UK, rising to number two on the charts.
Rider in the Rain – Randy Newman
Chronicling a classic cowboy tale, singer Randy Newman talks about his “bride in Tennessee” and his mother in “St. Louis” as he makes his way toward Arizona. Riding his horse across the prairie in an attempt to find a better life, the singer references lines from old-timey western-style tunes when he mentions the banjo on his knee.
Heavy Horses – Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull laments the loss of work completed by the heavy horses of England with machinery taking their place on this track. Tull even names some of the horses, like Clydesdales and Suffolks, and seems to have a level of respect and wonderment when thinking about them. Darryl Way performs the track’s violin solo.
Chasin’ Wild Horses – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen uses cowboy imagery to tell a tale of his wild temper and the mistakes he has made in the past. He wants to escape his past and forget about it, but it’s about as easy to do that as to chase wild horses. The backing track adds emphasis to the story of the song.
Related: Want to undo something? Here are some songs of regret.
Dark Horses – Switchfoot
Here’s an ode to the underdogs. It developed from an essay that Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman wrote for the Huffington Post and made important points about giving a chance to those who may seem hopeless, such as homeless youth. This is one of several examples of songs that build upon “dark horse” imagery.
Related: Check out the best underdog music.
Girls & Horses – Templeton Thompson
This song discusses the bond between women and horses. It talks about how horses help girls and women through tough times and give them a safe space, especially once the safety of childhood is gone. Templeton Thompson even names her horse Jane as one of her co-creators on the song!
Related: Here are some more songs about an animal.
She Rides Wild Horses – Kenny Rogers
In this song, we meet a woman with a hard life where work and love are concerned. She is strong and believes her life will be better someday. However, she still needs to escape by dreaming of riding wild horses and being free. Smokie released the track in 1998; Kenny Rogers covered it the following year.
Related: Get away with these songs about escaping reality.
Runaway Horses – Belinda Carlisle
Belinda Carlisle is blown away by the excitement her love interest brings into her life on this track. She feels happier, freer, and more alive in his company. This song appears on an album of the same name. It charted in four countries after its release.
Another Horsedreamer’s Blues – Counting Crows
This track was partly inspired by Sam Shepard’s play Geography of a Horsedreamer. It seems to be about a girl or young woman with a rough home life. She escapes through substance addiction and betting on horses. The more she tries to be perfect and make everyone happy, the harder life gets for her, and the more she spirals out of control.
Related: Listen to the best addiction songs.
Just Like Them Horses – Reba McEntire
Songwriter Liz Hengber started writing this song about her friend, who was dying of cancer. Tommy Lee James had to help her finish it. Reba McEntire related to the lyrics, as her father was also dying. She ended up singing the gentle goodbye track at his funeral. McEntire had a hard time recording the tune as Hengber did writing it.
Related: See more of the greatest funeral songs.
Old Town Road – Lil Nas X
After a breakup, the narrator of this track is fed up with materialism and dreams of being a more down-to-Earth cowboy. TikTok helped this track blow up, as Lil Nas X was one of the first artists to use the social video platform to his advantage. A remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus was also a hit for the artist.
Related: Dance along with these popular line dancing songs.
The Wild Horse – Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart sings as a carefree and somewhat wild protagonist in this track. He escaped from home to find adventure and excitement with his friends. He also meets a similarly exciting girl along the way, and they fall in love. He calls himself a wild horse who will always be free.
Wild Horses – Natasha Bedingfield
In this track, Natasha Bedingfield feels stressed about all of the responsibilities and worries of life. She dreams of getting to be carefree and happy. The song highlights how beautiful it can seem to live a life free of worry and responsibility.
Ride Me Back Home – Willie Nelson
This is one of many songs that use horse imagery to symbolize freedom. It was inspired by Willie Nelson’s rescue horses and served as an ode to all horses do for humans. ‘Ride Me Back Home’ earned Nelson his 10th Grammy Award. He won the 2020 award for Best Country Solo Performance.
Three White Horses – Andrew Bird
While there is a lot to unpack in these lyrics, the main theme seems to be needing to appreciate the relationships in one’s life while special people are still around. The end of a relationship or death can take it all away. This is the first track on Andrew Bird’s seventh studio album.
Which Way Does That Old Pony Run – Lyle Lovett
The narrator here is tired of romance with immature young women. He is happy to find love with a more mature lady who understands life better. Later in the song, he rejects a fast and superficial life in much the same way, desiring something deeper, more satisfying, and more meaningful.
Horses in My Dreams – PJ Harvey
This entire track recalls a dream PJ Harvey experienced in which she rode a horse and was as free as all of the horses in her mind’s eye. Harvey said it was a difficult and emotional experience to create the song, which is a very personal piece.
All the Pretty Little Horses – Becky Jean Williams
This is actually a traditional Bluegrass lullaby. It dates back to African-American culture in the post-Civil War South and might be even older than that. In the lullaby’s lyrics, a mother attempts to soothe her baby as she has to leave the child unattended so she can earn money to keep them both alive. Becky Jean Williams’ is one of many recordings.
Related: Head over to our list of the best bluegrass songs.
Cowgirls Don’t Cry – Brooks & Dunn
A father encourages his cowgirl daughter to be strong through adversity in this track while also acknowledging the gentleness inside of her. A version featuring Reba McEntire became quite popular after she performed it live with Brooks & Dunn at the 2008 Country Music Association Awards in the United States.
Related: Feel all your emotions with these great songs to cry to.
Fallen Horses – Smash Mouth
Here’s a track that finds its subject contemplating and coming to terms with death somewhat comfortingly. Someone he loved has died, and he wants to be with them again. The narrator seems to have died toward the end of the song and is looking for the person he loved who has already passed on in the afterlife.
Old Paint – Chris LeDoux
Chris LeDoux sings of the bond between a cowboy and his horse in this track. The title does not appear in the song but refers to the American Paint breed of horse. These horses have striking spotted coats of contrasting light and dark colors and are descendants of the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred breeds.