6 Inaccurate Things We Wish Horses Would Stop Doing in Movies

Posted by Allie Layos
rearing horse silhouette
The Man from Snowy River via Taste of Cinema

Horse movies are great, but they always seem to get a few things wrong. 

There are a lot of excellent horse movies out there, but with a few rare exceptions, accuracy has never been one of their strong points.

From movies about race horses and show horses, to Westerns and of course the classic "troubled girl meets unruly horse" plot lines, there are a few things most horse movies share in common ... and they drive horse lovers nuts.

Here are six of the most frustrating inaccuracies seen in horse movies.

1. Whinnying constantly.

Horses whinny almost solely when they are distressed about something, like being separated from their equine friends, yet for some reason horses in movies spend most of their screen time vocalizing their emotions in one way or another.

It's misleading, because unlike dogs that use barking as a way to communicate with people, horses don't stand around whinnying at the humans in their life; they prefer to communicate in other ways, like body language. And despite what directors would have you believe, they definitely don't whinny when frightened ... they just run.

2. Rearing.

As with whinnying, rearing is (or at least should be) a rarity for horses, but it seems that at least once in every horse movie the starring equine has to rear. It's somewhat understandable because it's an impressive move that looks great on the screen, but the truth is that rearing is considered by most equestrians to be the most dangerous habit a horse can have under saddle.

And unless they are fighting or "play fighting" with another horse, horses don't rear in the pasture (or the wild!) just for fun.

Two weanling Appaloosa Mustangs rear up and play fight

3. Pawing the ground.

While often used on the screen to demonstrate a horse's impatience, the truth is that pawing is an obnoxious habit that good horse owners try to stop in its tracks. It is equally unwarranted both under saddle or on the ground, where it's easy to get accidentally kicked by a hoof in mid-flight.

Some horses do paw, especially when tied or cross-tied for grooming, but a more accurate depiction of a horse's impatience under saddle would be a horse dancing in place or sideways -- picking up its feet and setting them down again in quick succession because it just can't wait to get going.

Cowboy on horse
Horse Nation

4. Gaping their mouths and shaking their heads.

So often horses in movies are seen gaping their mouths open or shaking their heads side to side when ridden -- especially when coming down to a halt from a fast gait. Directors must either think this is just what horses do when ridden, or that it doesn't matter that much, but far from this being the norm, it's a sign of bad horsemanship.

READ MOREHow Well Do You Know Your Horse's Behavior?

These actions are the direct result of the rider's hands on the reins, and any equestrian immediately begins judging the skills of the rider when he or she sees a horse acting this way. If the character the actor is playing is supposed to be an accomplished equestrian, they need to at least know how to halt their horse without causing their horse to gape its mouth.

5. Just galloping.

As any equestrian knows, there are a multitude of gaits to choose from when riding. In real life, riders spend most of their time at the walk, trot or canter, but in the movies all riders ever seem to do is gallop -- and they often go from a halt straight into a gallop without any warm up first, something no good rider would do in real life.

Black Beauty laying down
Screenshot from Black Beauty YouTube

6. Laying down when sick.

Horses are sensitive animals with touchy digestion, and unfortunately they do get sick or injured more often than owners would like. In movies the sick horse is always laying flat on its side to give the illusion that it's at death's door. 

However, in reality, even during a life threatening case of colic, most horses remain on their feet. A horse can be extremely ill and still be standing, but you would never know that from the movies.

Maybe someday directors of horse movies will take the time to learn more about the habits of horses, but for now we will continue watching horses whinny, rear, and paw their way across the big screen.

As long as your horse isn't doing that in real life, right?

What are your biggest pet peeves with horse movies? Tell us below!

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6 Inaccurate Things We Wish Horses Would Stop Doing in Movies