Horses have been an integral part of movies since The Great Train Robbery debuted in 1903 as a silent film. That pioneer production opened the floodgates for the western movie, and horses began galloping across the screen in waves until the late 1960s and early 1970s, when westerns went into decline.
Of course, other types of movies through the years have featured horses. There have been movies about racehorses, jumpers, eventers, pets, ranch horses, and companions. That doesn’t include the ancillary roles they have played in chariot races, as backdrops, and even for comic relief (remember the horse that leaned against the wall in Blazing Saddles?).
During the heyday of films that featured horses, a sub-industry evolved to supply horses for movies. One of the major horse suppliers, along with providing stagecoaches, wagons, and other equipment, was Randall Ranch in Newhall, Calif. The owner of the ranch was Glenn Randall Sr., the man who trained Trigger for Roy Rogers’ personal appearances.
Assisting him were sons Glenn Jr. (J.R.) and Buford (Corky) Randall. Today 75-year-old Corky Randall, trainer of The Black Stallion, is retired, but he has some vivid memories of those early days on the movie sets. More about that later.
A recent film featuring horses is Hidalgo, portraying a Paint horse that allegedly won the Ocean of Fire 3,000-mile race across the Arabian desert. Some historians are skeptical about some of the facts in Hidalgo, but at this stage, it doesn’t matter much. It is a colorful and adventurous tale, filled with excitement, action, and great companionship between horse and rider.
Another recent, popular movie that featured horses in some horrific action sequences was The Last Samurai. And who could forget the blockbuster Seabiscuit? Or Dreamer?
Who Looks After The Animals?
On the set of almost every movie filmed in