For centuries, horses have symbolized grace, beauty, and freedom, inspiring countless tales of human-equine relationships.
If you’re a horse lover or simply interested in learning more about these majestic animals, there’s only one logical next step (short of riding a horse): watch a horse documentary!
This article will explore the seven best horse documentaries, each offering a unique perspective on these magnificent creatures. Grab your bucket of popcorn, strap in, and dig into these flicks!
Directed by Cindy Meehl, Buck is a 2011 documentary film that follows the life and work of Buck Brannaman. He was a horse trainer and cowboy who developed a unique approach to working with horses based on mutual respect and understanding.
The film follows Brannaman as he travels around the country conducting clinics and working with horses and their owners. It explores Brannaman’s philosophy, his technique for training horses, and his journey toward healing.
Buck won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Praised for its beautiful cinematography and moving storytelling, it’s an excellent documentary for anyone interested in the psychology of horses and equestrianship.
2. Dark Horse
The next entry on our list is the moving and inspiring 2015 documentary film Dark Horse, directed by Louise Osmond.
The documentary tells the story of Jan Vokes, a barmaid and part-time cleaner who decided to breed a racehorse with her friends. The horse, named Dream Alliance, won the Welsh Grand National, a massive achievement for a horse from such humble beginnings.
Dark Horse features interviews with Vokes and the other people involved in Dream Alliance's life, footage of his races, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the world of horse racing. The inspiring film won the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Festival.
Unbranded, directed by Phillip Baribeau, is a 2015 documentary film that follows four young men as they ride wild mustangs from the Mexico border to the Canadian border, covering more than 3,000 miles of rugged terrain in the American West.
The film is partially a work of activism and awareness-raising, as the filmmakers and stars sought to promote awareness that 50,000 wild horses and burros live in government captivity.
Unbranded explores the beauty of the American wilderness, the challenges of wild horse management, and the close bond that develops between humans and animals.
It’s an excellent documentary that offers a unique perspective on the American West and the wild horses that call it home. Highly praised, the film won numerous awards, including the Audience Award at the 2015 Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.
4. Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O’Hyde
Suzanne Mitchell's 2013 documentary film, Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O'Hyde, tells the story of Dayton O'Hyde. O’hyde was a cowboy and conservationist, but he was also a 20-time author, World War II veteran, student of literature, and collaborator with local Lakota tribes.
Running Wild, shot on and around O’Hyde’s sweeping ranch, explores Dayton’s efforts to protect the horses from government roundups and his work to create a sanctuary where the horses can live in peace.
O'Hyde shares his thoughts on protecting wild horses and other wildlife throughout the film. He further expresses his frustrations with government policies and commercial interests threatening wildlife survival.
Running Wild is an inspiring documentary that shows the importance of conservation and the power of one person to make a difference. Dayton’s dedication to the wild horses is a reminder of the beauty and value of these magnificent animals.
5. Down the Fence
Directed by MJ Isakson and Lori Adamski-Peek in 2017, Down the Fence is an award-winning documentary film that explores the world of reined cow horse competition—but also shines an incandescent light on the lives of the trainers who compete.
The film follows several competitors as they prepare for and compete in the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Snaffle Bit Futurity, one of the most prestigious events in the sport.
It features interviews and footage of trainers and riders throughout their training sessions. These offer a fascinating look at the skills and techniques involved in reined cow horse competition, as well as the dedication and passion of the competitors.
6. All the Wild Horses
All the Wild Horses is an award-winning 2017 documentary film by Ivo Marloh. It follows a group of international riders competing in the Mongol Derby, a 1000-kilometer horse race across the Mongolian steppe renowned for its difficulty.
The horses they ride are semi-wild and untrained, adding an extra challenge to the already difficult race in the rugged terrain. The film follows riders of all skill levels, ranging from novices to seasoned trainers, all competing in the ultimate test of horsemanship.
Marloh’s powerful cinematography sets an epic scene for the race. At the same time, the documentary’s narrative offers a unique perspective on the world of horse racing and the cultural significance of the horse in Mongolian society.
7. Chasing the Win
The final film on our list is another competition-based documentary, Chasing the Win, directed by Chris Ghelfi and Laura Sheehy in 2016. In contrast with the inspirational films that populate the rest of this list, it documents the dark side of horse racing.
The documentarians investigate the high stakes and intense pressure faced by trainers, jockeys, and horses in the world of horse racing, as well as the devastating consequences of injury and performance-enhancing drugs.
Chasing the Win is a thought-provoking and sobering documentary that sheds light on the less glamorous side of horse racing. The film highlights the need for ethical and responsible horse management practices and the importance of protecting the welfare of these fantastic animals.
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These seven documentaries offer a unique and fascinating look into the world of horses and their relationship with humans.
From the inspiring stories of horse trainers and conservationists to the thrilling adventures of horse racing and wilderness riding, there is something for everyone on this list.
Whether you’re a lifelong horse lover or simply curious about these magnificent animals, these documentaries will capture your attention and give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of horses.