Here are our 10 must-see horse movies. Is your favourite listed? If not, which is your all-time great?
1 | The Horse Whisperer
A worldwide sensation when it came out in 1998, the Horse Whisperer is a dramatic and emotional screen version of the book by Nicholas Evans. When 14-year old Grace loses her leg in a horrific accident in which her best friend and her horse die, Grace’s own horse Pilgrim is traumatised too. The film is about the rebuilding of the relationship between Grace and Pilgrim with the assistance of Montana-based horse whisperer Tom Booker. His methods may be more tough love than gentle encouragement, but Grace and Pilgrim find salvation with his aid, while Grace’s mother has her own emotional encounter with Tom. Beautifully shot, this movie never fails to engage the viewer.
2 | Black Beauty
Black Beauty is the classic horse story, having had literally hundreds of book editions, TV series and film versions since its publication in 1877. This tale of a horse viewed from his own perspective takes the viewer from his idyllic days as a foal to his final years as an aged horse in a loving home. Along the way, Black Beauty suffers vicious cruelty at the hands of man and also receives kindness from good horsemen such as John Manly and Joe Green.
3 | Hidalgo
Gripping and dramatic, the story of Frank T. Hopkins is a controversial one. Hopkins claimed to be a famed American distance rider when he was allegedly asked to participate in a 3000-mile endurance race through the Arabian desert with his Mustang Hidalgo in 1890. However, the truth of this tale has been widely questioned. Nonetheless, this is a great movie in which Hopkins and Hidalgo contest with Bedouin riders and Arabian horses to win the race. The survival of horse and rider becomes the ultimate test of endurance.
4 | The Black Stallion
The black stallion of the title is surely one of the most beautiful horses in the movies, with a story to match. This 1979 film about the young boy Alec and the wild Arabian stallion who are shipwrecked on a desert island is now a classic. Their bond develops through the various adventures together. Once they are rescued, horse trainer and former jockey Henry Dailey begins to train them for the challenge of their lives: the race of the century in which they will have to compete with the world’s leading thoroughbreds.
5 | Warhorse
Prepare yourself with a box of tissues – better make it two – for this deeply moving 2011 film about the relationship between Albert, a young man growing up in the early years of the twentieth century, and his remarkable horse Joey. Their lives are split apart when Joey is sold to a British soldier at the beginning of the First World War. Joey is now a British cavalry horse, who is later taken by German soldiers. In another turn of fate, Joey is loose in no man’s land and unlikely to survive. However, Albert has never forgotten his beloved horse and is desperately searching for him.
6 | Secretariat
This thrilling 2010 Disney-produced horse movie tells the story of Secretariat, considered by many people to be the best racehorse of all time. The tale starts in the early 1970s with a crisis at the stables belonging to the father of Penny Chenery, a housewife and mother with no knowledge of the world of racing. Penny has to take up the challenge when her mother dies and her father is taken ill. With the help of the experienced trainer Lucien Laurin, Penny quickly learns about the pitfalls and foes she will have to overcome. Struggling with money worries, she finds a way to bring her horse Secretariat to success in the Triple Crown, something no horse has done for twenty-five years. Based on a true story.
7 | Dreamer
A tense tale of changing family fortunes and relationships. Trainer Ben Crane finds himself working for arrogant stable owner Everett Palmer to earn money for his family. His young daughter Cale accompanies him to work and is present when the promising horse Soñador (Sonya) breaks a leg in a race. Determined that his daughter will not witness the mare being euthanised, Ben refuses to follow his employer’s instructions and loses his job. Sonya is taken in by the Crane family but can neither race nor be bred to a stallion, as she is infertile. Both Sonya and Cale have hidden strengths, however, and the mare’s racing career is far from over. This exciting film is based on the true story of a horse called Mariah’s Storm.
8 | Jappeloup
Another film inspired by a true-life story, Jappeloup is about the marvellous little horse Jappeloup de Luze and French show jumper Pierre Durand. The film opens with Durand enjoying a high-flying career as a lawyer in the early 1980s. Show jumping was once his passion. One day, in a move that takes many by surprise, he gives up the legal profession to devote himself to show jumping. Taking a risk on the small, quirky horse Jappeloup, he goes back to the jumping circuit with the support of his father. With Pierre’s determination and Jappeloup’s amazing jumping ability, it’s not long before the pair are on their way to the top, ultimately participating successfully in the Olympic Games in 1988. However, success comes at a price.
9 | Windstorm
It looks as though this summer is going to be a dead loss. Mika should have been going to a holiday camp, but because she’s failed to advance in school, she’s going to have to spend the entire time studying. Even worse, it will be at the stable belonging to her oh-so-strict grandmother. However, although she’s supposed to be concentrating on her books, Mika has other plans. Why is the nervous stallion Windstorm kept hidden away In the darkest corner? It turns out neither Michelle, the best show jumper on the farm, nor Mika’s grandmother have been able to tame the supposedly dangerous horse. Drawn to the sensitive animal, Mika sneaks into the barn in spite of all the warnings. Here, she learns that she has a special gift – the gift of communicating with horses. An adventure story from 2013 that will appeal to everyone who has wanted to communicate with a horse.
10 | Flicka
This 2006 movie is based very broadly on the classic book by Mary O’Hara. It’s a story of difficult family dynamics that are resolved through the taming of the wild horse Flicka. 16-year-old Katy McLaughlin is desperate to stay on the family’s ranch in Wyoming and eventually to run it herself. However, her father wants her to go to a private school and get an education. The ranch will eventually pass to her brother Howard who would rather go to college. When Katy finds a wild foal one day and begins to train her, Katy’s father Rob is even more unhappy. Only after an attack by a dangerous mountain lion is the bond of Katy and Flicka made clear to Rob.