Filmmakers and photographers alike know the difficulties of capturing horses on film.
Horses are always moving, the wrong angle makes them look like giraffes, and bad lighting in indoor arenas makes even the most stoic photographer cry. Because the horse is so beloved and well documented (photographs, paintings, medieval tapestries, prehistoric cave art, crayon drawings) the constant challenge is to get a picture that does something original.
I mean, I could make a drinking game out of cliché horse shots.
Horse and rider, from behind as they walk heroically on to the next adventure: Down a drink.
Tight shot of just the horse’s eye: Take two.
Horse galloping in slow motion to the sound of hoofbeats: Roll your eyes and take a sip, it may be a long night.
As the old song goes, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.” Here are three fantastic new short films on the Equus Film Channel that prove there is still plenty of originality in filming horses and that even the most overdone equine scene can be turned into something of beauty with a fresh take.
The Ride (2018) directed by Erik Petersen
Montana Skijoring rider, Ebby Hansen, says, “If horses aren’t in heaven, I don’t want to go.” The Ride tells the story of Hansen and her once in a lifetime horse and skijoring partner, a sorrel named Zeke. Skijoring is a sport where a horse and rider tow a skier through a course with jumps and obstacles that the three have to navigate at a gallop. It is an adrenaline junkie sport, combining the cultures of cowboy and downhill skiers.
This eight-minute film is a lyric elegy to Zeke spun in spellbinding angles and action shots. It captures the power and speed of the sport as well as the exceptional condition of the horses as their bodies shimmer in under the Rocky Mountain sun. One of the most striking shots is towards the end of the film, where the camera is positioned in the mud near the horse’s feet. Mud and snow splatters spray the screen with a satisfying rush as the horse turns to head down the track.
Band of Rebels: White Horse of Camargue (2018) directed by Drew Doggett
At just over three minutes, Band of Rebels is worth watching over and over again. Not only does the story come across like a harsh fairytale, but it understands the symbiotic relationship between the stocky grey Camargue horse and the marshland habitat it calls home. Horse and water take up the bulk of the film’s imagery. A herd splashes through marsh grass, a lone equine plays in the waves, a mirror image of a rider reflects off the wet sand.
Band of Rebels follows Pierre Pages, a Guardian of the white horses that live in Camargue in rural France. Pages has been out tending the horses for over 30 years, the horses themselves have lived on the marsh for more than 500.
Thoroughbred Land (2018) directed by Jennifer Ajuriaguerra
Jennifer Ajuriaguerra brings a fresh view to this king of horses. Filmed at tracks and stud farms in both France and Kentucky, this homage to the breed has a wordless arc that follows the horse from goofy yearlings playing in a pasture to life on the track as a racehorse.
Thoroughbred Land’s biggest virtue is its willingness to take risks. The film often incorporates strange and risky shots, including an underwater scene of a horse in a pool and another of one at the end of the race, where the camera lingers at the tributaries of veins pumping blood near the surface of the horse’s skin. The film is a love note to the breed and the sport expressed with nuance and restraint.