Animal Planet recently visited Red Horse Ranch to film footage
for Trail Mix, a new show to air in January. Trail Mix will highlight the
connection between horses and their very artistic owners.
Shady Lady is three year-old Tennessee walking horse that belongs to a popular female pop star. Lady and her companion Copy’s Starlight Express, aka Rebel, a fourteen year old TW gelding are living at Red Horse Ranch while their owner prepares her home ranch with fencing and housing for her horses.
Lady’s stay here began with a tune up of her under saddle skills and Rebel was put on a fitness program to help him recover from his bout with EPM earlier in the spring.
As Sue began to develop a working relationship with Lady, she noticed that the filly loved interaction and usually added an unexpected flair to her groundwork. At RHR, pedestal work is always incorporated with groundwork to help give a horse a place or mark from which to work. This seems to give the horses an added measure of security and boldness.
Sue gave Lady some latitude for self-expression and soon she was performing pedestal work and simple tricks during her under saddle sessions. Lady showed such an aptitude that Sue began to send her human mom pictures of Lady offering a Salute or perched on the front steps of one of our ranch buildings. Lady’s owner was thrilled at the filly’s willingness and gave her whole-hearted approval to continue her Trick Training education. Sue was thrilled also because a horse with a heart like Lady doesn’t show up every day! In 60 days, Lady mastered the revolving pedestal and other pedestal basics including hopping up with all four feet. She also learned the Jambette or Salute, a Rear to the pedestal, the Lay Down and the Sit Up. Her Rear to the pedestal is typically a HUGE ‘reach for the stars’ action as she is a large girl and when she extends her forelegs upward while rearing, her reach makes her 10 ft tall! She has learned to carefully balance and then to lower herself to land with both front feet on a pedestal, as softly and graceful as a dancer. The very obvious expression of accomplishment and satisfaction that Lady showed upon completion of any series of tricks was recognizable immediately by her proud and thrilled owner.
Tricks, especially those that incorporate physical stage props help the horse make sense out of our world. The props add structure to the requests and also facilitate the horse’s natural sense of play. Trick Training capitalizes on the horse’s willingness to share actions that he sees as playfulness. The horse becomes accustomed to unusual situations, new ways of balancing and stretching, and gains a sense of mutual trust.
Ginger Kathrens was one of the technical advisors for Animal Planet on this project. You may know Ginger for her work with the Cloud Foundation, the organization that has gained national recognition with “Cloud, Wild Stallion of the Rockies”. Ginger arrived a couple of days ahead of the film crew and spent time with some of our horses including Shady Lady. In addition to Lady’s beauty, Ginger was taken with her willing and eager presence and desire to please. Lady, although very young, was rock solid while walking through the piles of cameras and equipment and between the huge light filters. The cameras on the large booms didn’t phase her either, a testimony to her personality and to her Trick Training as she is unshaken by any number of unusual props.
When Animal Planet comes to town, they do it in a big way with a full compliment of cameramen and state of the art high-definition recording equipment. A corral-side interview was filmed from four different angles simultaneously using a boom camera; shoulder cameras and tripod mounted ones. All of this equipment is connected with a maze of wires linked to a central data processing center inside the aisle way of the barn. The driveway was home to an 18-wheeler gaffer’s rig packed to the top with a seemingly endless supply of equipment to support the crew of 50+ technical persons. A trailer-mounted generator that was whisper-quiet supplied electrical power for lighting and power for all the electronic equipment. The beautiful and soft cloud cover light was augmented with various large lights and filters placed strategically around the action area. The filters look like sails of a square-rigged ship and soften the bright lights to create a warm glow with no shadows. How anyone could make sense of the mountains of gear is mind-boggling but crew set up everything in just a couple of hours.
An interesting aspect of modern filmmaking is the technical capabilities that allow the director to watch the scenes to unfold in real time on hand held monitors. The director monitors multiple live scenes that will be edited into a cohesive program. Editing is probably the single most time consuming element of filmmaking.
Set dressing is an entire an art form. The crew arrived a day in advance to transform our brightly painted office into an old-time rustic front porch scene. The crew worked under very harsh conditions of cold, wind, and then freezing rain. Without the use of propane heaters, the process would have been in vain. The entire front porch was covered with masking tape and the tape was painted to look like old wood. We supplied the saddles and blanket rugs, and other tack as backdrops.
Red Horse Ranch was also selected as the location to film a promotional commercial for Trail Mix. This project made for some very interesting horse wrangling. The filming required a small herd of horses to be filmed from different angles at a run. To capture the required angles and action the horses had to run toward and then past the cameras in very close proximity. We have provided this same running horse scene to several different photographers and artists for still capture but never for video use. We have never had one still photographer that was quick enough to capture the running herd on film. As a result, we have a herd of horses that will at cue, run the length of a pasture on the ranch and come peacefully to a stand still and wait for the next scene! The requested running scene was easily executed and captured on video.
The sequential scene was shot at Reimers’ Ranch near Hamilton Pool
with a smaller herd of horses that were to run a ridgeline on a predictable
track. This scene, enhanced with special effects will be used to as the
final scene of the promotional commercial for Trail Mix that will air soon
on Animal Planet. The manpower, time and effort required to film a short
promo is phenomenal.
The trail riding sequences were with filmed using a very curious piece of equipment called a steady-cam which is a camera suspended from a series of spring loaded articulated joints allowing for a full range of motion, yet the camera stays rock steady. The cameraman wears a form fitting aluminum backpack framework that is securely strapped to his body that has a pivot point that attaches to the steady-cam suspension system. The whole set up has a space age robotic look could scare an unsuspecting human, let alone a young horse!
The cameraman, wearing this alien looking equipment was staged on the back of our golf cart as it tracked the horses and riders on several trail rides through the woods. The entire high tech set up allowed the hostess and guest (Lady’s “mom”) for the Trail Mix segment to proceed with their trail ride and friendly conversation. The theme certainly rang true with us: how our lives are enriched through horses!
Shady Lady’s life and her owner’s have obviously been enriched since they have been together, as you’ll see when they appear in Trail MIX, only on Animal Planet, animalplanet.com