Why Horse Movies Present a Serious Dilemma

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There are some great horse movies to watch that have won numerous awards and stolen our hearts. However, the prevailing train of thought has changed regarding the use and portrayal of horses for entertainment. The manner in which horses are portrayed and even used in movies needs to be re-evaluated and some of the best-known horse movies have questions to answer about the manner in which horses have been used, and perhaps why no horse has won an Oscar. It is true that they can win races and awards, and the movies they star in can also win awards and praise, but what of the horses?

Horse movies at the box office

The top horse movies of all time arguably include: Hidalgo, The Horse Whisperer, Seabiscuit, Black Beauty, and War Horse. Seabiscuit is currently also the highest grossing horse racing movie of all time and one of the few horse movies to score big at the box office. The common theme has been both the strength of the animal and the classic struggle to achieve, but also the ability of the horses to make positive changes in human lives. However, the treatment of the “star” horses—both on- and off-screen—has been questioned.

These are awesome horse movies and every year before the Oscar awards it’s interesting to see what new offerings on Equus caballus have been released and if they stand a chance at winning. Dream Horse and Black Beauty have been on the radar recently and the tone of both leans more towards what the long-time horse lover expects. There is a more human and humane approach, at least from what we have previously seen on-screen, and we hope that the equine equivalent of the actors guild is looking after our interests in acting behind the scenes.

Horse lovers and horse movies

For horse lovers and those who own their own horses and understand these animals, it is difficult to watch some of the Hollywood graphics and action shots. From the death scenes in War Horse to the aggressive racing in Seabiscuit, it is not generally a view of horse ownership and equestrian care that is promoted. Furthermore, it is somewhat distasteful for those who know and work with horses, to see how many horses are used in these productions without ever knowing what happens to these animals after their fame and where they are now. We have yet to find a way to use technology to avoid using animals in the movie industry and the protection of these animals has definitely improved, but there are still questions of ethics that abound.

There is a disconnect between the horse whisperers used on set and the real-life horse people out there, and this is clear in the manner in which these films are made and promoted. As aforenoted, there have been some great horse movies and this will certainly continue to be the case—yet one wonders when a horse movie will be made by a horse lover, someone who is able to showcase the numerous stars that exist in equine circles in manner that we will understand.

The dilemma is to produce a horse movie that can pull in the audience, and yet be sure that the horses used are treated, pampered, and preened as are the human stars in these productions. All acting animals need protection, and it is up to the equestrian community out there to ensure that this is the case for horses that are used.

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