It seems that either they're tainted with calamity (horses being mortally maimed during filming on the sets of "3:10 to Yuma" and "Flicka") or filled with silliness that goes beyond the realm of What We Really Know Would Really Happen. Like, come on. In real life could Dakota Fanning really gallop bareback across an open field on a runaway race horse? Not that I couldn't forgive some of the faults found in Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story because of the 3 minutes or so of screen time inhabited by the hunky Oded Fehr, but then, that's the topic for another sort of blog.
But it seems that films featuring horses rarely try to stick with the truth about horses and horse people. It's as if the script writers and producers don't think we'll notice when something's done wrong. Such is the case with Moondance Alexander, a film I recently watched and reviewed for Horse Channel. Here's a link to my commentary:
How Many Horse Handling and Horse Show Mistakes Can You Find in this Movie?
In Moondance Alexander I began taking mental notes the minute the pinto, Checkers, made his appearance. And then we have Don Johnson, as the horse trainer, tying Checkers up to the barn's fencing by the reins. Wasn't there someone on the set who could say, "Uhm, no, Mr. Johnson. Don't do that. Instead, while you're uttering your lines, just grab that halter that's hanging over there and casually buckle it over Checkers' head. Then use the lead rope to tie up the horse."
And Don Johnson should know better, because the man owned ranch property and has ridden recreationally for years. But then, who knows. Maybe he doesn't tack up his own horse.
Then we get to the horse show scene. Now, being a longtime huntseat competitor and also a lower-level hunter judge, I began to cringe at the entire horse show scenario set up in the film. While huntseat medal finals and hunter classics often have a pair of judges officiating, great pains are taken to ensure that they aren't collaborating in their score keeping. Horse shows aren't judged by committee. And when was there ever a tie for first place in a hunter classic? It doesn't happen as it does in this movie, especially with more than one judge. In real life the senior judge is deemed "the call judge" because he or she gets to make the final determination in the RARE event of a numerical tie in the scoring.
Then there was the "hunter" shown competing on course tacked up in a flash noseband. And yet not one of the judges in the movie managed to utter, "Tsk-tsk. Too bad that rider didn't read the rules. Flash nosebands are illegal equipment in hunter classes."
And look closely at the braids in Checkers' mane: first they're in, then they're unraveling like they were put in place by a groom wearing mittens, then they're miraculously tidied up. Perhaps others might not notice the lack of continuity, but any savvy horse person would.
The only reason I rant about movies like Moondance Alexander is because I truly believe that there is a market for movies for people who enjoy seeing beautiful horses up there on the big screen. I won't feel guilty for being upset when I'm horribly disappointed by what could've been a wonderful movie. What can be done to make me-- and other horse lovers-- happy? The film makers simply have to respect the audience; they cannot take too many liberties with horse handling or horse care or horse sports and think we won't notice. Look at The Horse Whisperer and Seabiscuit. Both were major theatrical films and were (mostly) true to the realities of the horse world. It can be done.
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