Horses as Movie Stars

war horse, steven spielberg producer

Do you ever look away from the movie screen and cover your eyes when a horse, or any animal for that matter, is about to get injured? My husband and son came home from watching “The Revenant”, staring Leo Dicaprio, and they made sure to tell me not to watch that movie because of a particular scene involving a horse. I remember having to wait for the movie War Horse to come out in DVD simply because I didn’t want to be caught balling my eyes out in a public movie theater. I learned my lesson the first time after sobbing while watching a young Scarlett Johansson play teenager Grace with a troubled horse in “The Horse Whisperer.”  Well I’m here to remind you that the American Humane Association is always on set during the filming of those, sometimes violent, scenes to assure that “no animals were harmed” while in production.

Hollywood has the Oscars and the American Humane Association hosts the Pawscars, honoring the top animal stars in the movie and television industry. As Writing Horseback is an equestrian-themed blog, you know where I’m going with this post. That’s right, we’re going to take Scott Eastwood from “The Longest Ride” out on the trail and we’ll gallop Seabiscuit on the home stretch, making sure the “Hateful Eight” don’t eat all the alfalfa cubes while they rest up back at the barn.

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Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride. Photo courtesy Hollywood Reporter.

That ain’t no bull

In a nod to horse humor with a lick of salt, here are some behind the scenes fun facts from a few of this year’s Pawscar winners. I like Nicolas Sparks as an author. I was excited when I heard Hollywood was turning his book, “The Longest Ride” into a movie. My dad went to high school with Clint Eastwood. I’m a fan of the actor, producer and Carmel Valley resident, so I wanted to fall in love with his son, Scott Eastwood, who plays a cowboy bull rider in the movie. Romance and bull riding, yes that’s the weak story line woven with a horse hair rope, throughout the movie.

In “The Longest Ride,” Britt Robertson falls in love with a professional bull rider, played by Eastwood. In the bull riding scenes, real bulls are being ridden by real cowboys. Fortunately, I can’t say the same for Eastwood’s bull riding scenes. According to the American Humane Association, the actor never did any of the real bull riding. Instead, when you see the cameras pan in on Eastwood waiting in the chute, ready to ride, he’s really sitting on a fake bull. That’s using your head, Scott. No concussions for you! While you didn’t necessarily make my day, nor did the movie jangle my spurs, you certainly make a good looking cowboy. Needless to say, Ariat has some great product placement shots. Were you a fan of the movie or did you think it fell as flat as a cow pie?

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The Hateful Eight, directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Hateful Eight withstands Colorado cold

A moving performance was delivered by a team of horses in the post Civil War western movie “Hateful Eight.” During the movie (which I have yet to see) a hitch of six stallions pull a stagecoach through snow-covered valleys and mountains. It was bitter cold in Colorado during filming, but the American Humane Association was on hand (or should I say on set) to make sure the horses were accustomed to the altitude and weather. The movie production crew used Snow Cats to pack trails prior to filming to make the horses’ climb easier. Additionally, the horses hooves were covered with rubber ice pads to keep the snow from balling in their shoes.

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Seabiscuit statue. Photo courtesy Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation.

Seabiscuit favorite animal drama

For over 75 years the American Humane Association has been ensuring the safety, protection and welfare of the animals on the sets of commercials shoots, movie productions and tv shows. This year, they asked America to vote for its favorite animal drama. And the winner is….Seabiscuit. This movie, released in 2003, is a true story about an underdog race horse whose winning streak lifted the spirits of Americans during the depression.

Insider tip

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Willits, California is home to Seabiscuit’s home, Ridgewood Ranch. Back in the day, this Mendocino County town saw its share of Hollywood celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. If you find yourself in this part of Northern California, you’ll want to go on horseback riding at Ricochete Ridge Ranch. For additional insider tips follow luxury travel writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @nancydbrown and like Writing Horseback on Facebook.