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How Horses are Used in Movies [Video]
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th Apr 2015   •   2,576 views   •   0 comments
How Horses are Used in Movies

I recently watched the movie Secretariat with my eight year old niece. I hadnít watched the movie for quite a long time, and as I did, I noticed a few things that are common in horse movies. Now, a while back, I wrote an article about things horses do in movies that they donít do in real life. But, as I watched Secretariat, I noticed a few things that most people, who know little about horses, might not.

Related: What Bugs You About Hollywood Horses
Related: How to Become a Trick Horse Trainer for Movies

In Secretariat, as in many horse movies, more than one horse plays the lead role. Often, horse cosmetics are used to disguise this, or a horse with similar markings are used. Itís not unusual to see a horse with four white stockings and a blaze be replaced by a horse with three white stockings, a sock and a stripe in another scene. According to IMDB, five horses were used to play Secretariat, one of them an American Quarter Horse. Cosmetics were used to recreate stockings and facial markings, but if you watch, youíll be able to identify the various horses. In some movies picking out the different horses is ridiculously easy.

During many movie race scenes itís not unusual to see jockeys holding their horses back so the main character appears to win. Watch movies with horse races and youíll see riders with death grips, and their horses pulling, straining to go faster. The star has to win however, and even if the extras can run faster in real life, it just doesnít fit into the script if another horse outshines the star.

And when the human movie actors canít ride, or itís too difficult to get close-ups while they are actually on horseback? Since the early 1980s, a mechanical horse called the Equicizer and similar machines have been used. It was used in the movie Seabiscuit for the closeups of Toby Mcguire playing jockey Red Pollard as he raced. If you want to see how they did it prior to then, hereís a clip of a Boris Karloff movie as he rides through the trees laughing manically.



I hate seeing horses fall, and thank goodness they donít fall as often in real life as they do in the movies. There are standards for horse care in movies that help prevent real injuries to the animals that are used. There was a time when there wasnít. It was common practice for horses to be tripped and thrown when a fall was needed in the scene. this was done with a trip wire, or with a device that the rider used. Now, horses are trained to fall. If you see a horse fall with its head thrown up, it is falling on a cue from its rider. If you see a horse that is falling with its head down, it has likely been tripped.

Movies like The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) and Jesse James (1939) are infamous for the horses that were injured and killed and after they were made, the American Humane Society started taking notice of cruelties used to mimic falls and jumps on set. It wasnít until after the 1979 movie Heavenís Gate was filmed, and a horse had to be euthanized because explosives were placed beneath its saddle, that AHA was granted authority to protect animals used in movies. The contract with the Screen Actors Guild protects all animals used on film sets.

What do you notice about the horses in horse movies?
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