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3 Ways Westerns Lie To You About Horses

When we go to the movies, we all know that not everything we see is real. We sit there for two hours, knowing that the dragons don’t exist (anymore, right?) and intergalactic space travel isn’t a possibility. We willingly suspend our disbelief and go along for the ride…even if it’s a horseback ride!

How Hollywood treats horses in movies can be exciting to watch, but it’s seldom how it works in real life. And we’re not just talking about magical water horses in movies like Lord of the Rings, either; we’re talking about “historical” movies that are anything but. Let’s take a look at how horseback riding and the treatment of horses differ when compared to a horse’s nature.

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Movie Mistake: Long-Distance Horse Can Just Graze

As we discussed in this article about horse idioms, there’s a very good reason the phrase “eating like a horse” exists. While it varies by the size of the horse, an average horse eats about 20 pounds of food a day. When in the wild, a horse will spend nearly every waking minute grazing on grasses.

But what about when a horse is running all day with a rider on his back? If a horse is running for hours on end, they’re working hard (burning extra calories) and don’t have time to graze. Because they’re exerting themselves so much in this cross-country run, they require something much more high-calorie than typical grasses, but the movies show horses grazing like normal after a long run. In truth, the rider would have to find some form of high-calorie food to feed the horse, such as grain.

On a long-distance horseback ride two hundred years ago, where does this grain come from? The rider might stop by a town or happen across a pre-planted field. But it’s much more likely they’ll carry this food with them. But food weighs a lot, and the horse is already carrying a rider. Who’s carrying the supplies?

Movie Mistake: Riders Ride Alone

The “lone wolf” is a popular trope in Hollywood. This is usually a character who rides into town alone, with only his six-shooter and his horse. One horse.

What’s the mistake? In reality, the lone wolf would have two horses, or maybe even three. The American West is a huge expanse of land, with days or weeks between settlements in the early days. That means a person on horseback would need to take an expanse of supplies, including dried meat, beans, and coffee. Because the horse they’re riding is already loaded down with a rider and tack, a second — or even third — horse is needed to carry the provisions.

Hollywood seldom shows a second horse trailing along behind the hero. If a second equine is around, it’s usually a mule that’s only there for snowy mountain excursions.

Movie Mistakes: Horses Run Down Inclines

Even if you’ve never seen the 1982 Australian movie The Man From Snowy River, you might be familiar with its most famous scene: the horse running down the very steep, rocky grade. It was such a stunt, in fact, that it’s featured as the cover to the DVD.

It’s important to remember that the scene was, in fact, a stunt. The horse was specifically trained to do that, and the angle from which they shot it made it look much more precarious than it actually was. In reality, horses will head down a steep grade in much the same way as humans would: get on your behind and scoot! The booty-scooty doesn’t look quite so exciting or noble.

Of course, getting horses downhill isn’t something that’s ever a problem during horseback riding here in Lake Worth…we don’t really have hills! The highest point in Florida, Britton Hill, is only 345 feet above sea level, and it’s seven hours away up in the panhandle! No, during your trail riding or horseback riding lesson, you won’t have to worry about getting your horse down any hills.

Learn More About Horses During Your Trail Riding!

No matter why you’re visiting our stables — trail riding, horse riding lessons, or a birthday party — we want you to leave knowing more about horses than when you got here. If you have any questions about horses, never hesitate to ask. As we’ve shown today, you can’t always trust everything you see in movies!

Ready to ride some horses and not have to worry about any of the above problems? If so, we look forward to having you! Schedule a ride or lessons right here!