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Hollywood Movie Features Real Horses From The Rescue It Depicts

by ihearthorses

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Every once in a while there is a movie that reaches you on an emotional level. For anyone who loves horses or animal rescue, Emma’s Chance (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2016) is a rare gem amidst this summer’s bad remakes and dumb comedies. True, there have been movies about rescue horses in the past, but this one is special. Not only is it based on a true story, the horses used in the film are all rescues from the very rescue in the movie.

In addition, the rescue’s founder, Susan Peirce, is not just a character, but a real person who was very involved in the making of the film. These differences make for a movie that truly feels real. It highlights the plight many horses face and how just one person can make a difference.

The True Story

In 2008, Peirce found a starving, neglected horse. She bought a red bucket, 50 pounds of carrots and after 6 and half hours, caught the filly whom she named Harlow. That was the start of Red Bucket Equine Rescue.

But this movie isn’t about that story – though I’m sure it would have been just as good – it’s about a horse named Paidraig (Chance in the movie). He was rescued by the real Susan Peirce (both are pictured below.)

“He had been a very expensive and exceptionally well-bred imported Irish Sport Horse,” Peirce told iHeartHorses. “After a successful show jumping career, he changed owners and was over trained. They also over faced him. And scared him. He started to stop and pretty soon it escalated to where he would not even walk over a pole on the ground.”

Paidraig formed a very special relationship with Peirce – he only allows her to ride him and he loves to jump, but only for her. He has a permanent home at Red Bucket.

“He is very, very smart, sensitive, and a bit naughty, but it is good-hearted and playful,” Peirce added.

The Film

The movie was the dream of Barbara Konney who wanted to find a platform to inspire people to get involved and support legitimate rescues. The writer/director Anna Elizabeth James was inspired by Paidraigs’s story and wrote the script based on his relationship with the real Peirce (played by Missi Pyle).

“The producers approached us about making the movie as they were impressed with our operation, branding, results, and the quality of our program and the overall care of the horses and our ranch,” Peirce said.

And while Hollywood could have come in, taken the story, and run away to create “magic” with trained movie horses and new stages, they opted to make it more real by filming it primarily at Red Bucket and the surrounding neighborhood. Most of the horses in the movie are actual rescue horses (so stay and watch after the end!).

The real rescue and the set of the movie:

Image Source: Red Bucket

Image Source: Red Bucket

Chance (based on Paidraig) was played by four Red Bucket horses, two of which have already been adopted.

Rubix is one of these horses. He is seen in all the jumping scenes at the ranch and is the horse Emma (Greer Grammer), rides in most scenes. He is pictured below.

Image Source: Red Bucket

Image Source: Red Bucket

He’s even featured on the movie jacket!


Peirce was extremely involved in the filming as was on the set the entire time. She did all of the horse casting, set prep, volunteer casting, technical consulting, wardrobe and prop consulting and coordinated  location scouting. The writer/director Anna Elizabeth James used Peirce’s actual dialogue and thematic content and relied on her daily throughout filming.

Image Source: Red Bucket

Image Source: Red Bucket

Local A-rated horse show trainer Ryan Pedigo (and Red Bucket’s horse trainer and dear friend) served as official Technical Expert for the horse show scenes. Peirce said he did all of Joey Lawrence’s riding scenes.

Peirce explained that while the movie took some poetic license (as all based on true events films do), the core struggles and reality of horse rescue are spot on:

“While the story was fictionalized for the movie, many of the themes, including the life-and-death nature of rescue and the extreme financial pressure that Red Bucket faces daily, are very real. Red Bucket is a very large non-profit organization that serves a great many high risk horses. We rely upon the generosity of others in an effort to continue doing our good work. We are hoping to get some local pastures donated in an effort for us to serve many of the horses who are too damaged to place or who need a little more time training prior to placement.”                                                                                                        

Watch the trailer for the movie below:

Emma’s Chance will be available on DVD in stores and on Amazon.com and digital July 5, 2016.   Trust me, this is going to be a movie you are going to want to watch! In fact, now that I know all the fun facts listed below, I am going to have to watch it again.

A Few Fun Facts To Look For As You Watch!

  • Even the Donkey and the little foal seen in the movie are residents of Red Bucket.
  • The tagline used in the movie – “a ranch that the horses own” – is the real tagline of Red Bucket.
  • During the Fiesta scene, the extras are real-life Red Bucket volunteers.
Image Source: Red Bucket

Image Source: Red Bucket

  • The numbers on the sleeves of the Red Bucket shirts reflect the cumulative number of horses saved every year. The right sleeve celebrates the number of forever homes found.
  • Lawrence’s character, Keven Chambers, tells Emma the story of Harlow, listen for it when she first starts at Red Bucket.
  • The real Susan Peirce and Ryan Pedigo are the horse show judges.
  • You can catch a cameo of the real Paidraig and the real Susan Peirce at the beginning of the movie.

You can help the real Red Bucket Equine Rescue by donating via their website and be sure to follow them on Facebook.


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