Back when Saratoga Springs’ Arts Center was still the public library, I remember piling into a room one evening with a bunch of families and watching The Black Stallion on one of those rickety, old-school projectors. The late great film critic, Roger Ebert, may have cooed about it in his four-star review—but it scared the living crap out of me! (I think it was the storm scene.) That’s just one of many Hollywood films that have made horses into stars. Here are the five (well, technically eight) most iconic horses in cinematic history, according to saratoga living.
The Horse Of A Different Color – The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
How can you not include The Horse of a Different Color from the Emerald City scene in the Oscar-winning Wizard Of Oz? According to film lore, the scene required multiple horses, each of which was given its own coat of a color powder made largely of Jell-O. Director Victor Fleming eventually got his shot, but not before the horses tried licking themselves clean!
Antares, Rigel, Altair and Aldebarán – Ben-Hur (1959)
OK, so Charlton Heston got four horses for the price of one—but he needed them all to pull off the climactic chariot sequence in 1959’s epic Ben-Hur, which won an astonishing 11 Academy Awards. And if you’re wondering, in the majority of the scenes, that’s actually Heston steering the chariot. It took him weeks to master the feat.
Zip Cochise – El Dorado (1967)
Any movie that stars John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and James Caan is bound to be gold, but major props (no pun intended) have to be given to the horse Wayne rides in on, an Appaloosa (or spotted breed) that went by the name of Zip Cochise.
The Black Stallion – The Black Stallion (1979)
That movie about a boy stranded on a desert island with a big, black horse that frightened the younger version of me? The star of the show was a horse named Cass Ole, a Texas-bred Arabian stallion that won more than 50 championships in his horse show career. He was so good, he starred in the inevitable sequel.
Seabiscuit – Seabiscuit (2003)
Unlike The Black Stallion, it required ten horses to “play” Seabiscuit in the eponymous 2003 film (portions were shot in Saratoga Springs, by the way). And work-wise, it wasn’t all that strenuous a role, as none of the horses ever had to race past three furlongs (0.38 miles). Talk about an easy gig.