I am remembering the first season of Horse Master episodes . We shot the first five episodes in three days and frankly we were amazed at how well it went. Now that we have five shoots under our belt and 26 episodes in the can, I can tell you our shoots are much more efficient with a trained and seasoned crew!
I’ll never forget the first episode—not only because I had never done a TV show like this and it was totally new to me to talk in 5 minute clips—but because the horse, Spanky, taught us something we now know is a consistent problem for horses we select to be on the show.
Did you ever hear the old saying about horses, as soon as you brag on a horse he proves you wrong? Invariably, if you speak poorly of a horse he acts like a perfect angel and if you dare brag on him, prepare to be humiliated. It’s almost uncanny, their ability to do this. I can only guess that it has something to do with our subconscious thoughts or actions that the horse perceives which causes him to act according to his own agenda. Has this ever happened to you or is it just me?
“Trail Trepidations” is the name of one episode, starring Spanky and his human, Pam—who is blissfully at home now with her newborn baby (she wasn’t even pregnant when we filmed the show last fall). So you can see, being in the show worked out very well for Pam! Maybe you should apply. Spanky is a big Paint horse with a lot of white on him and a mostly white face with one blue eye. It may come as no surprise to some of you that this is a spooky horse and not fun to ride on the trail. Now, before I generate any hate mail, let me say that I am not saying that all horses with white faces are spooky but most people that have been around tons of horses know that white faced/blue-eyed horses can be flightier than other horses. This fact is confirmed in Temple Grandin’s book, animals in Translation—one of my favorite behavior books.
The only problem was, Spanky was so focused on being on the TV show and having the camera and crew in front of him that we couldn’t get him to spook at anything! Who knows why he suddenly chose this moment to become a bomb-proof horse? At every shoot we’ve done, many, if not most of the horses that were being featured because of bad behavioral problems refused to demonstrate the bad behavior when we set out to film our “before” footage. As a result we’ve sometimes had to change the training topic for the episode or, in the case of Spanky, had to keep searching until we found something he would spook at! The dumpster with the lid blowing finally gave us some good footage. Sorry about that Pam!
I have learned a lot about the TV show because I tried to teach three different things to the horse and rider—way too much for a half hour show! Since then, I have learned to focus on one topic and try to teach that thoroughly in a very short time. Since this week’s episode is so cram-packed full of training advice, you won’t mind watching it again!
Enjoy the ride!