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Horses in Movies – Phar Lap, War Horse & Others

Some of the horse movies that I have watched are listed below.

  1. Black Beauty
  2. National Velvet
  3. Phar Lap
  4. Sea Biscuit
  5. Secretariat
  6. The Black Stallion
  7. The Man from Snowy River

My favourite animated movie with horses in it is “Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron”.

The Man from Snowy River was filmed in 1982 in the mountains of Victoria, Australia.  It was partly based upon the poem by A.B. (Banjo) Patterson, which you can read by clicking on the link below the movie poster below.


 Click here to read the poem “The Man from Snowy River”

To hear the theme music to “The Man from Snowy River” on this site, watch the

Olympics video  here

Jack and Charlie Lovick provided the horses for the movie and found the men to ride them. They told the film crew what looked right and what looked wrong and they took them to the most beautiful parts of the Victorian High Country.    Charlie’s own buckskin horse Denny was the horse that the “man”, played by Tom Burlinson, rode in the movie.  During filming of the sequel, there was an un-planned fall by horse and rider, and some people thought that the horse Denny died as a result.  The information on Yahoo below shows that the Lovicks did not answer an enquiry about the fate of Denny.


The Lovick family has a website currently, if you want to have a look at it.


A page from the official Fan site of Tom Burlinson shows that Denny survived the movie and lived until 1999 when he passed at age 29.  Did you know that Tom Burlinson also played the strapper, Tommy Woodcock, in the Phar Lap movie?  You can visit the official Tom Burlinson Fan Site by clicking on the link below.

Tom Burlinson Official Fan Site

The Wow Horses website has got a great list of top Horse movies, at the link below.  The site gives links to video trailers of the movies.


The site below lists the top 30 U.S. rated horse movies, but I have not yet watched “All the Pretty Horses” which is rated number 1 in the list.  The book was written in 1992 by American writer, Cormac McCarthy, whom won the National Book Award for Fiction, and is part of the “Border” trilogy of books.

Having not watched it myself, I don’t know how many horses appear in the movie nor what prominence horses have in the movie.

Signed first edition copies of “All the Pretty Horses” are currently selling for thousands of dollars, shown here, so it must be a pretty well liked book and movie.

Top 30 Horse Movies List

Phar Lap

The website, ilovehorses, has good information about the movie War Horse and about other equine actors, such as Phar Lap, born on 4 October 1926, in New Zealand.

The horse that played Phar Lap in the 1983 movie was a 17 hand chestnut gelding called Towering Inferno. He was of Thoroughbred and Australian Waler breeding, and found on a ranch in Melbourne, Australia.  The film’s horsemaster, Heath Harris, bought Towering Inferno from his owner after filming finished, and took him on many personal appearances to raise funds for Australian charities.  Towering Inferno died in 1999 at 26 years of age.

Also, the website    “ilovehorses”    looks at equine actors like Hightower, pictured below, whom played Pilgrim in the Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford.


photo link

The equine star of the recently released movie, War Horse (written by Michael Morpurgo) is a California-bred Thoroughbred gelding named Finders Key.  The horse master on the film, Bobby Lovgren, owns “Finder” and selected his horse for its ability to take direction and look animated during the intense scenes.   Finders Key or Finder, as he is also known, was also the star in the movie Seabiscuit.  I have both read the book Seabiscuit (about a racehorse) and watched the movie, and enjoyed both.

Altogether, 14 different horses were used to play Joey’s role in the movie, chosen based on how closely they resembled Finder, as explained in the ilovehorses site below.


The book , “War Horse” talks about a painting of the horse, Joey.  Especially commissioned for the movie, artist Alexandra (Ali) Bannister, painted a picture of the war horse, to be used in the movie.  Ali Bannister has prints of Joey for sale, at her website below.


talking horse

Mr Ed was a popular series about a Talking Horse, that started in 1961.  Mr Ed was played by  a palomino horse called Bamboo Harvester, trained by Les Hilton.  They got him to talk, not by putting peanut butter in his mouth (according to some rumours), but by running a thin fishing line through the hourse’s mouth and pulling on the string when they wanted him to talk.  When the string was pulled, Bamboo Harvester would “yaw” or move his lips, which looked like he was talking.  He was an intelligent horse, and got to not mind this, and even to anticipate when he was expected to “talk”.

After Bamboo Harvester died in 1970, apparently from being given too much sedative when he had colic, the promoters didn’t want to disappoint children worldwide by saying he had passed, so they just got a replacement for him.

The pretended that Bamboo’s “stand-in”, a horse called Pumpkin, was the original Mr Ed.   However, they were in a dilemma, when nine years later, the print stand-in horse (a different horse to Pumpkin, and of unknown name) died in 1979.

When this horse, which was featured in the photo shoots instead of the real Mr Ed horse actor, died, there was such a clamour and grieving, that the actor, Alan Young, whom played Mr Ed’s owner in the movie, did not have “the heart” to tell the public that it was not the first horse actor that played Mr Ed that had died.

It was 20 years later in 1999 that the public was notified that the original horse that played Mr Ed, Bamboo Harvester, had passed away before his replacement died.

The print horse, of unknown name, but still important in the Movie series, and not Bamboo Harvester or Pumpkin, was given a gala send-off by fans devoted to the first Mr Ed horse, whom wrongly believed that the horse that passed in 1979 was Bamboo Harvester.


Horse and Man

HorseWyse magazine – September 2004 edition

I have already written about the Horses in the Lord of the Rings Movie, which can be read at the link below.


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