On the rare occasions that I have time to myself, one of the things I like to do is watch movies. I’m not sure if you’ve caught on, but I love horses, and so films about them are always in the rotation. Some of the ones I like best are based on true stories – heroism immortalised is always good thing, so that the next generations always have something to inspire them. Here’s a list of my favourite horse movies.
War Horse. Imagine being a young boy named Albert, minding your own business, happily living on a farm with your pony, who also happens to be your best friend. War comes to break up the idyllic situation (as they are wont to do). The pony gets sold to the cavalry. What do you do? You enlist, of course.
War Horse is an epic story of loyalty and bravery. Albert risks his life to be reunited with his friend, and touches countless lives in the process.
Seabiscuit. We are inevitably drawn to larger-than-life heroes, but underdogs have a way of stealing our hearts and inspiring us. Seabiscuit, a real thoroughbred foaled in 1933, was just such a horse: small in stature and fiery in temperament, but possessing and heart of a champion.
What’s even more noteworthy about Seabiscuit’s story is that it happened during the Great Depression, a time when inspiration was especially needed. Small wonder then that he became legend.
National Velvet. When you enter a raffle in a fair, you could win a nice pie and that would be the end of it. But sometimes, the pie is actually a horse, and you might just decide that you want to train him for the Grand National steeplechase, because why not? Never mind that you’re a girl at a time when professional horse racing was reserved for men.
This film not only introduced us to the wonder that is Elizabeth Taylor, it also captured that bright, unbridled love that only young girls can have for horses. For this reason, it will always be at the top of many people’s favourite horse movies.
Secretariat. Remember when I mentioned earlier how larger-than-life heroes have a way of capturing us? Secretariat, a real American thoroughbred racehorse, did just that. In 1973, he became the first U.S. Triple Crown winner in 25 years. He set records that still stand today, and is fondly remembered as one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time.
This film captures the story of how Secretariat turned from being an unimpressive “big clown” who was “real clumsy,” into the legend that he is today.
Black Beauty. This beloved children’s book by Anna Sewell has been adapted to film five times, but that’s really no surprise. In the 1994 version, Black Beauty’s story is told again with Andrew Knott, Sean Bean, and David Thewlis. Alan Cumming serves as the voice of our hero.
In a series of unfortunate events, Black Beauty changes hands several times, with each situation worse than the last. There’s not a lot by way of heroics, but if anything, it’ll teach you to hold on, because the bad situations never last.
The film itself may not make to people’s lists of favourite horse movies, but the story is a classic, one that many parents will want their children to read.
Phar Lap. It’s been more than eight decades since this legend passed, but his exploits are still fondly remembered. His myth is held even more dearly by Australians, because that’s what we do with one of our own. Phar Lap won a Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates, an AJC Derby, and several other races, including one in Mexico.
Phar Lap’s hide is on display at the Melbourne Museum, and his heart at the National Museum of Australia.
Racing Stripes. This is a fairytale more than anything. If you like “Babe” and horses, or if you have kids watching with you (or all of the above), then this is a nice change of pace.
A horse trainer and his daughter come upon a baby zebra that they name Stripes (what else?). The daughter, played by Hayden Panettiere, has dreams of being a jockey and, against all odds, wins at a local derby.
Check all disbelief at the door for this one, and enjoy the musical number where two flies call Stripes a “racetrack referee” in a rap.
Run Wild, Run Free. Philip has autism, and has refused to speak a word since the age of three. A chance encounter with an albino colt, however, provides a breakthrough. Philip is fascinated by the animal, who in turn seems also fascinated by him.
If you have a child who has ever suffered from anything, you’ll understand the frustration and overwhelming desire to make things better for them.
You may also want to read about what it takes to win a horse race. My husband Danny has trained champion horses, and knows a thing or two about winning a race.
What are your favourite horse movies?
Track Mode is a site dedicated to horse racing and fashion, founded and curated by Nina O’Brien.