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The Horse Collection

Curated by the NZ On Screen team
26th January 2011

 The Horse Collection

The Horse Collection

 NZ On Screen team

Curated by the NZ On Screen team



This collection celebrates all things equine on New Zealand screens. Since the early days of the colony, horses have been everything from nation builders (Cobb & Co) to national heroes (Phar Lap, Charisma) to companions (Black Beauty) to heartland icons. Whether work horse, war horse, wild horse, or show pony, horses have become a key part of this (Kiwi) way of life.



 Hunchin' Down the Track

Rodeo thrills and spills — Kiwi style — are on display in this doco following two cowboys competing on the local rodeo circuit. Broncs, calves and bulls are ridden, wrestled or roped; but pride of place must go to spectacular shots of deer being captured by leaping from helicopters. Cowboy up indeed.

 Tales From Te Papa - Phar Lap

The life of Trans-Tasman icon Phar Lap — the pavlova of the equine world — is the subject of this mini-doco. Bred in NZ, he spent most of his outstanding racing career in Australia, before dying in suspicious circumstances in California. Includes some of the scarce footage available of the champ.

 Bred to Win

Made when racing could be described as our “national sport” this doco follows the life of a thoroughbred, from stud farm birth through to Wellington Cup race day when roads are gridlocked with “a congregation whose bible is a racing almanac”. Includes a 'good citizenship' school for jockeys.

 Heartland - Riverton Races

Occasional Heartland host Kerre Woodham visits the annual Easter races at r-r-r-Riverton, New Zealand's second oldest town, where the Southland locals have a big passion for horse-racing. Woodham talks to owners, trainers, jockeys and punters, and judges of 'Best Dressed Lady at the Races'.

 This Way of Life

Oscar-longlisted This Way of Life tells the story of Hawkes Bay hunter and horse wrangler Peter Ottley-Karena, wife Colleen, and their six children. Intercut with Peter's articulate bush philosophy, it captures the family's romantic, dignified relationship to each other and to the natural world.

 Wild Horse Wild Country

This NHNZ doco looks at the fierce debate between animal lovers and ecologists over the wild horses of the Kaimanawa Ranges. At issue: an ancient and rare tussock land ecosystem increasingly at risk from horses recognised for their uniqueness — whose numbers have grown tenfold in 15 years.

 bro'Town - Honky the Wonder Horse

This racetrack bro’Town episode opens with Jesus pretending he’s Mark Todd winning Olympic gold on Charisma, before following the lads preparing a horse called Honky to race in the Morningside Cup. Valea faces up to his horse phobia (and an underhand Pommie horse trainer) to ride on the big day.

 Workhorse to Dreamhorse

The major contribution made by horses to NZ’s development is investigated in this Bryan Bruce documentary. This excerpt features footage of some of the 10,000 horses sent to help fight in World War I (with only four returning); and talks to one of the last milk vendors to use a horse and cart.

 The New Adventures of Black Beauty - Ride a Black Horse

It’s cowgirl up in this continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls. Vicky Denning moves to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse — who does plenty of galloping along west coast beaches. Features a young Claire Chitham.

 Wild Horses

Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses, including a fabled silver horse. He clashes with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues.

 The Snowline is Their Boundary

The rugged challenges of farming the vast aprons of the Southern Alps are captured in this NFU doco. The centrepiece is the autumn muster where 16,000 sheep are worked down from “the tops” with the help of horse and dog. “It's mutton every meal out here - we chase sheep every day and eat them every meal.”

 Charlie Horse

A personal film diary by actor Martyn Sanderson showing the breaking-in and training of a young colt in rural Hawke's Bay, Charlie Horse was made when Sanderson was a part of the gang of Blerta creatives, based at Waimarama Beach in the 1970s. Alun Bollinger shoots the horse, doesn’t he.

 Heartland - Omarama

Heartland host Gary McCormick visits South Island town Omarama, which is “about as remote as you can get in New Zealand”. He attends the Omarama Rodeo where he meets the Church family of rodeo riding brothers, listens to a spot of yodelling, and takes in the children's sheep riding display.

 The New Zealand Thoroughbred

This NFU film looks at New Zealand's thoroughbred scene in its post-war boom period. In 1950 NZ boasted the most thoroughbreds in the world by population, 200 stallions and 5000 brood mares. Some of the most famous sires of the time are featured as the film visits the leading studs of the day.

 The Promise - Sir Tristram's Story

The Promise is the story of how an unpromising horse with a nasty personality became the greatest thoroughbred stud stallion in New Zealand racing history. Interviews and archive footage are used to tell the entwined histories of Sir Tristram and his owner, Patrick Hogan.

 Ellerslie - Episode One

Is the Sport of Kings headed for the knackers’ yard? In the first episode of this seven-part reality series a TV crew follows new Auckland Racing Club CEO Chris Weaver (at 35, the youngest in New Zealand’s oldest racing club’s history) in his efforts to gee up the venerable institution.

 Hunter's Gold - Episode One

This classic 70s kids’ adventure tale is set amidst the heady 1860s Otago gold rush. It was hugely popular at home and abroad, screening primetime on the BBC. This first episode sees plucky Scott Hunter steal away on the Cobb & Co coach to Tucker’s Valley, on a quest to find his missing father.

 Sensitive to a Smile

Herbs visited sometimes-troubled town Ruatoria in 1987 bringing music and aroha, and leaving with a mini-doco and this evocative music video. A beautiful video for a beautiful song (about beautiful people) it wouldn’t be East Coast without easy equine styles. Lee Tamahori co-directs.

 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy won a staggering 11 Oscars; A Ben-Hur-sized haul helped by epic battles scenes that featured 250 horses. One rider said of his experience on the Ben Ohau Station shoot: “I wouldn’t miss this for anything. I’m putting on weight, and so is my horse.”

 The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil

In this Oscar-nominated ode to the "nation of drunkards" (as New Zealand was tagged in the House of Lords in 1838) a shepherd tricks a barman out of a bottle of ‘Hokonui Lightning', but too much pioneer spirit sees him drunk in the saddle and haunted by the devil's daughter (or delirium tremens?).

 Papa People

A girl is in love with a weta. Sadly the weta has an affair with a horse. Consequently the girl tries to metamorphosise into an insect to be with her love ... of course, Mr Ed. “I don't think anyone really gets the story. But there is a great feeling to the video.” Band member, Geoff Maddock.

 E Tipu E Rea - Te Moemoea (The Dream)

The night before his granddaughter's birthday, a grandfather (Anzac Wallace) has a dream, the augury of which points towards a win on the horses. Te Moemoea was Rawiri Paratene’s directorial debut; the screenplay is by Patricia Grace, from her short story; and look out for a young Temuera Morrison.

The Riders

The Riders

Bestselling Pony Club Secrets author Stacy Gregg introduces the collection and recalls a horse-heavy East Coast upbringing. Read >

The horse in NZ History

The horse in NZ History

Te Ara looks at the history of the horse in Aotearoa, from when, where and why they came, to its place in our culture and identity.

... From snowy river

... From snowy river

We have agreed to share Phar Lap. Check out horse-tagged titles from our cobbers across the ditch, at Australian Screen.

Why the long face?

Why the long face?

Have we forgotten your favourite horse drama or doco (hold your horses, 90s teen series Riding High has been requested)? Let us know >