ISSUE 59
OCTOBER 2020
FABULOUS FOALS
TO BREED OR NOT?
KERRY MACK’S
KINDERGARTEN TIPS
& ADVICE FROM THE VET
CHRIS BURTON’S
SUNNY OUTLOOK

PLUS: EMMA FLAVELLE-WATTS & CABARET C, EVENTING ABROAD WITH LISSA GREEN & ISABEL ENGLISH, A SECOND CHANCE FOR A SPECIAL RACEHORSE, RACING WITH HIGHCLERE, NAVIGATING THE LAMINITIS LABYRINTH & MORE

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 59

CONTENTS

OCTOBER 2020
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Opinion

THE NEW AGE OF EA

FROM THE CHAIRMAN ROBERT MCKAY

Opinion

OLYMPICS FULL STEAM AHEAD

RYAN’S RAVE BY HEATH RYAN

Dressage

A TALE OF TWO EMMAS

BY EQ LIFE/ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Special feature

COURAGEOUS KIWI BLAZES HER OWN TRAIL (Part 3)

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Eventing

DIFFERENT PATHWAYS, SAME GOALS ABROAD

BY ELLI BIRCH

Racing

HIGHCLERE RACING DELIVERS A CHANGE OF PACE

BY ADELE SEVERS

Dressage

10 TIPS FOR RIDING THE MEDIUM TESTS

BY EQ LIFE & ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Health

FOAL DIARRHOEA
(DON’T PANIC!)

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Special feature

ALL EYES ON THE PRIZE

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Health

NAVIGATING THE LAMINITIS LABYRINTH

BY EQ LIFE

Eventing

CHRIS BURTON SEES THE BRIGHT SIDE OF 2020

BY ADELE SEVERS

Training

WELCOME TO KINDERGARTEN FOR FOALS

BY DR KERRY MACK

Breeding

TO BREED OR
NOT TO BREED,
THAT IS THE QUESTION…

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Lifestyle

POETRY JUMPS TO LIFE & YES, HORSES CAN TALK!

BY SUZY JARRATT

My Favourite Dish

SLOW BAKED LAMB SHOULDER

WITH EMMA FLAVELLE-WATTS
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The remake of The Man From Snowy River grossed over $17 million at the box office in Australia alone.
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One is a movie based on a legendary poem that stockmen loved reciting by the campfire. The other is a TV series with a theme song that is still an earworm in the head of any child of the ’60s! These are the two latest candidates in our series about horses on the silver screen.

“Snowy… would go
on to gross over $17 million
in Australia alone.”

THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982)

This was not the first time a movie was made based on Banjo Paterson’s famous poem. In June 1920, Beaumont Smith, a South Australian producer/director, began filming The Man From Snowy River on location at Mulgoa, Wallacia and Luddenham in New South Wales. Horsemen from the region participated in races, which Smith used to represent the “terrible descent”.

Jim Craig (“The Man”) was played by Cyril Mackay, who had retired from the stage after suffering a nervous breakdown. Whether he experienced another one after acting in Smith’s unexceptional silent film is unknown!

The female lead, Stella Southern, was discovered by Smith when she was working as Lucy Emma Winks in a hat shop. Her stage name, which she selected herself, means “star of the south”. Her subsequent screen appearances were few and minor.

Some Australian reviews were kindly about the production which premiered in Brisbane: “Charming scenery and the story is wholesomely exciting”, praised Smith’s Weekly.  The UK’s Kine Weekly, however, found it: “A very mediocre affair. The race scene quite fails in its effect largely because it is impossible to identify the horses. The acting bears the impress of amateurism and lifeless direction”.

Fast forward 60 years and producer Geoff Burrowes is given the green light to create another version – one that was to become one of this country’s most popular films making money overseas and for its investors. Burrowes was in the advertising business and had also been a press secretary to Moss Cass, a former federal environment minister. He later married Vicki Lovick and they ran a cattle property near Mansfield in Victoria. His wife’s family were a vital element in the making of this film.

Snowy’s director was George Miller or, to be more precise, George T. (for Trumball) Miller, so as not to be confused with the man behind Mad Max, etc. George T began his career at Crawfords in the 1960s working on TV series such as Homicide, Matlock and Division Four.  (His more recent work was Prey, a supernatural horror film he wrote that starred Natalie Bassingthwaighte. In 2009 he directed it under the name Oscar D’Roccster. It grossed all of $744 at the box office!).

Snowy, though, would go on to gross over $17 million in Australia alone.

Tom Burlinson, who played the lead, had no idea it was going to be such a success. He was just happy to be cast in a movie as his work, up to then, had been in television appearing in various dramas and soapies like The Restless Years.

Unlike most actors, Burlinson was honest during the audition, confessing to having no riding experience. “They told me not to worry about it,” Burlinson told me when I interviewed him and other cast and crew in the late ’80s. “I was given six weeks’ preparation in the high country of Victoria. I was very lucky as so many actors aren’t given that time.”

“He trained the stallion

so well it still did the tricks
three years later.”

He stayed with the Lovicks, sixth-generation pioneering cattle graziers, at Merrijig. “It was a difficult situation on the first day of training,” Burlinson recalled. “All the local men were there and they were all very interested. Everybody wanted to pass on their knowledge but when you know nothing about a subject, I think it’s better just to have one person give you theirs, then as your experience grows you can take from other people; so I asked Charlie Lovick to be my tutor.”

Already cast as The Man’s horse was a buckskin named Denny, owned and educated by Charlie, son of mountain bushman Jack Lovick, whose entire family rode and wrangled throughout the picture. But before the buckskin, Burlinson began on Cheeky, a quiet 28-year-old. “Then when I graduated to Denny I’d ride for a long time through the bush on the Lovicks’ trail safaris. We were once eight days away and there’s nothing like getting used to a horse in that time.”

Because the major riding scenes were to be done at the end of filming, Burlinson was able to keep practising throughout the shoot. He did so well that his double, Gerald Egan, didn’t have as much to do as was first thought. Although, contrary to many media reports, it was he, not Burlinson, who executed the famous jump into “the terrible descent” riding one of the five Denny doubles. (There were frames where the camera was tilted for certain specialist closeups. On the overall wide shots, the inclines really were very steep, and the profile shots of the downhill ride were done by Burlinson). Egan, who today is a successful Mansfield racehorse trainer, also stunt rode in many other action sequences.

Just before shooting began, Heath Harris, who has now retired from the movie business, was hired by Miller to create and construct the downhill ride “into seven breathtaking minutes of screen time”. He’d seen Harris’s work on the spectacular Marlboro commercials and wanted him to project this expertise. “I devised an exciting storyboard of horse footage, but only 40 seconds of it are in the picture,” Heath recalled.

“When you see the shot
in Snowy it could have been
done in Centennial Park!”

Harris and the Lovicks didn’t always get on but “the bloke from Sydney” did establish a good rapport with trainer Denzel Cameron, who was hired from the US to train Dollar, the “colt from old Regret”. (Cameron’s son, Bill, an accomplished horseman based in California, is currently competing and training students and horses for Extreme Cowboy Racing, which is gaining international popularity. Downunder Extreme Cowboys is an Australian affiliate based in Rokewood, Victoria).

Director Miller was impressed with Denzel’s methods. “He trained the stallion so well it still did the tricks three years later. I don’t particularly like horses but I’ve a tremendous respect for them. They’re finicky beasts but more reasonable than most stars I know.”

Apart from Burlinson, many of the cast had previous riding experience. Jack Thompson, playing Clancy, had spent his younger years working with horses but still experienced problems on the film. “I’d been a station hand, a drover and worked with them as an actor but I came to grief when making this picture,” he said at the time. Thompson severely damaged his left leg when the horse he was galloping fell into a rabbit hole. “The scene should have been filmed on a safer location.”

After finishing up in the high country he left immediately for America to appear in The Letter, a telemovie starring Lee Remick. He arrived at rehearsals in a wheelchair. “I got a secondary infection and nearly ended up with osteomyelitis. When you see the shot in Snowy it could have been done in Centennial Park!”

Kirk Douglas, who played two roles of Harrison and Spur, also had extensive riding experience. Especially memorable was his performance in Lonely Are The Brave with a palomino named Whiskey, made in the early ’60s.

“Hilton had to teach Ed to pick up
phones and hats, hold a large pencil,
wave flags, untie knots and open
and close his stable door.”

Burlinson recalled that the legendary Hollywood actor (who died this year aged 103!) didn’t have to do too much riding. “Although I greatly admired his expertise one particular day. He had to turn his horse and lead a pack of crazy men out of the station into the bush. He was 66 years old and did it several times. The first assistant walked over and was about to say “one more, Kirk”. He got off his horse and said, “if you haven’t got it by now, tough!’ and walked off. He’d done it three times and I thought for a man of his age that was great!”

Burlinson said he found great joy working with the horses and developed a tremendous bond with the buckskin. “I loved him. We saw the film through together and we were under a lot of pressure. Denny had never worked on one before so he had a bit of learning to do. I really enjoyed the experience and it was a career break for me. I was playing an Australian bush legend and I had to be convincing as a young man who’d been around horses all his life.”

(A few months later Tom Burlinson was with them again in a movie celebrating another Australian legend – a racehorse named Phar Lap!)

MISTER ED (1961-66)

The very first horse to play Mister Ed was a chestnut gelding. He was used in the unaired pilot but proved unruly and difficult to work with. He was replaced in the second pilot with a palomino gelding named Bamboo Harvester. He got the job and became television’s talking horse in a unique black and white series, which at its peak was seen by 40 million viewers every week.

Foaled in 1949 in California, Bamboo Harvester had American Saddlebred and Arabian blood. He was by a famous palomino The Harvester out of Zetna, whose sire was Antez, an Arabian imported from Poland.

In all the 143 episodes of the series, Mr Ed was voiced by former cowboy movie idol, Allan “Rocky” Lane. His trainer was Les Hilton who, prior to working with the palomino, had included on his list of movie horse credits Fury, Flicka and Francis the Talking Mule.

Among other tricks, Hilton had to teach Ed to pick up phones and hats, hold a large pencil, wave flags, untie knots and open and close his stable door.

Most of this work was done with his mouth and training starts simply and is made even easier if a horse has a natural tendency to use his mouth in an inquisitive way. The trainer might begin with a hat. He slips the brim into the horse’s mouth and lightly taps under his jaw to make him clamp tightly on the brim. If the horse drops the hat the trainer taps the jaw harder and the horse quickly learns that he is supposed to hold the object in his mouth.

“When he was tired or
having an off day, he would
stand like a statue.”

The next step requires that the horse pick up an object by himself. Using the hat again the trainer will throw it on the ground and talk the horse into picking it up. Since he already knows he is to take the hat in his mouth the trainer merely indicates this by leading the horse’s head close to the hat and saying “pick it up” while tapping the horse on the jaw. Soon the trainer need only indicate the object to get a response.

Mister Ed became completely conditioned to do what was expected of him but he wasn’t always co-operative. When he was tired or having an off day, he would stand like a statue, wheeze and refuse to work. Or he’d open his barn door and walk off the set. Rather than force him, the crew would call it a day and let Ed go to his private stable behind Les Hilton’s home where he would probably tuck into some of his daily meal, which included “20 pounds of hay and a gallon of sweet tea”.

The inevitable question has always been “how was he made to talk?” which he only did when alone with his owner, Wilbur Post, played by Alan Young. “Lip movements were drawn on to the film”, “he wiggled his lips on cue” or “he was fed peanut butter” were some of the theories. In fact, the technique was much simpler, involving some nylon fishing line and a halter, which the horse was always wearing when “talking”.

The line was tied to one side of the halter then passed through Ed’s mouth. Depending upon where Hilton was standing, the other end of the line either went over the horse’s back or down through his front legs. Hilton held the end of the line and each time Ed was required to move his mouth the trainer merely pulled the line very slightly. The palomino responded by moving his lips – a natural reaction when something moves in a horse’s mouth.

The horse was 17 when the series finished and he retired on Hilton’s property. A couple of years later his health began to fail. He was afflicted with arthritis and kidney problems and after suffering a leg fracture he was euthanised. Like all Hollywood stars he had always had a stand-in on set. His lookalike was a quarter horse named Pumpkin. After Ed’s death, Pumpkin went on to make commercials and live appearances as Ed and the public never knew the difference.

The producers never formally announced that the world’s most famous palomino had died, believing the news would have an adverse effect on those watching the syndicated reruns of the series. They didn’t want to upset the viewers, especially those kids who knew the theme tune by heart and who would sing along at the start of every episode…

Hello, I’m Mr. Ed

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse
He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse.
He’s always on a steady course.
Talk to Mr Ed.

Next time in our series on Horse and Movies: Saddle Club and Trigger. EQ

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