From Westerns to Modern Dramas: The Evolution of Horses in Television Storytelling

Horses have always found their way into movies throughout history. Maybe the genre has changed a bit and Westerns are a thing of the past, but this doesn’t mean that horses vanished from the world of cinema.

It is pretty interesting to see the evolution of horse movies throughout history. What started as a Western trend that couldn’t be imagined without horses, went through a complete overhaul and now horses are used in horse racing movies, dramas, thrillers, and much more.

But we are interested in how the use of horses changed throughout history and what led to this change.

Let’s find out.

Why Westerns Loved Their Horses

If we go back in time, we will find black and white TV screens and few channel options limited to only Western movies. Shows like “Gunsmoke”, “The Lone Ranger” and “Bonanza” are some of the most popular Westerns that dominated the airwaves.

These movies weren’t just about cowboys and outlaws, they were about that open range, gun action, love stories, and of course, loyal steeds that always took the main role. Every hero of a Western movie had a trusty horse by his side.

But why were horses so important in Western movies?

Well, first of all, there isn’t a cowboy without a horse. It’s like having peanut butter without jelly. Additionally, back in the day, horses were the main tool used for transportation. Therefore, the use of horses was the only way for actors to get from point A to point B.

Lastly, horses have always carried some symbolism. They represented freedom, power, and the untamed spirit of the American West.

So, as you can see, there is no Western movie without a horse.

Fun Fact

Did you know that horses in movies have stunt doubles just like human actors, even in old Westerns? Horses often had to perform dangerous stunts, and were replaced with trained doubles.

The Decline of Westerns and Rise of New Genres

So, why did Western movies vanish from our TV screens? Well by the late 60s and 70s, Westerns began to drop in viewership and the TV space dominated by these movies began to change. Why? Well, there is a simple reason, the public had too many Western movies to watch, and it seems like their tastes began to change.

They wanted more variety, which introduced new crime dramas, sci-fi, thrillers, and action movies. This was the time when we got movies like “Rambo,” “Star Trek,” and “Columbo”.

But what happened to the horses?

Horses in New Roles

Well, horses never left the world of cinema, and their roles didn’t die with Western movies. Instead, they found new genres where horses appear. After all, we share such a long history with horses, and it is not only about cowboys.

We started seeing horses in fantasy and adventure movies, historical dramas, ancient history movies and legends, and horse racing movies.

Modern Dramas and the Subtle Presence of Horses

If we move to the 21st century, we can see the use of horses in many different genres. For example, series like “Game of Thrones” also used horses quite a lot in filming just to enhance their narratives. They were great for painting the perfect medieval picture.

Horses in Modern Horse Racing Movies

Horse racing movies have become a beloved sub-genre, capturing the hearts of audiences with their thrilling races and emotional backstories. Recent films have continued this tradition, often focusing on underdog horses that defy the odds.

Horse racing movies are quite popular nowadays just because of their interesting storytelling, and hard-to-believe true stories that capture the hearts of both horse racing enthusiasts and people that aren’t interested in the sport that much.

Betting on horses is quite popular, which is why the horse racing movie genre is growing. Most people already placed a bet on and would love a good underdog movie that will shake up their imagination.

“Secretariat” (2010): This is a special movie about a special horse. A horse that has achieved incredible things that we’ve never seen since. This film tells the true story of the legendary racehorse Secretariat and his unlikely journey to winning the Triple Crown. Diane Lane stars as the determined owner, making it a compelling watch for horse lovers.

“Seabiscuit” (2003): Another real-life tale of the undersized Depression-era racehorse who captured the nation’s heart, “Seabiscuit.” Horse racing movies are quite inspiring and they often highlight a story where a certain horse is seen as the bright point in history.

“Dream Horse” (2020): This is quite a recent movie where we can see the true passion for horse racing. It is about a Welsh bartender who enters the competitive world of horse racing and goes against all odds.

In modern horse racing movies, the horses themselves often become celebrities. For example, several horses portrayed Secretariat in the 2010 film, each chosen for their specific abilities to replicate Secretariat’s unique traits and racing style.

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