Running Free (2001)
Running Free is a family adventure film, told from the point of view of a young horse, Lucky, narrated by Lucas Haas. It tells a fictionalized story of how herds of wild horses may have come to roam the red sand dunes of Namibia’s vast desert in Africa. The film opens with horses being shipped off to Namibia to work in a copper mine. Lucky is born to a mare aboard the ship and becomes separated from her. An orphaned stable boy befriends the colt and tries to keep it safe, caring for it during a time of war and uncertainty.
No Horsing Around
All of the horses in this film were purchased or rented from local owners. Whenever possible the trainers doubled as actors in the scenes being filmed. All of the horses used in this film were given extra special care on and off the set. The horses were housed in comfortable stables close to the production offices. The animal action was monitored by the local Animal Anti-cruelty League of Johannesburg, South Africa, according to American Humane Association Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in filmed Media. The trainers, wranglers, blacksmiths, veterinarians and stable managers all cooperated and collaborated in assuring the humane care of the animal performers.
In the beginning of the film we see a colt being born on the ship. Given the unpredictable nature and timing of child birth, a number of pregnant grey mares had to be recruited for this scene. The unit was on stand-by at all hours to film this special occasion, which finally occurred one night during the third week of filming. Theis documentary format was edited into the theatrical film. All of the colts in the film stayed with their mothers during and after the filming was completed. Lucky is played by a total of 10 horses. “”Young”” Lucky is played by 5 different foals, which spread out the workload for the young animals. While trainers relied on the instincts of the foals, they eatched closely and swapped understudies when they became tired. Other horses used for Lucky as a colt include: Socks, (a Chestnut Boer Perd Horse) Aladdin, (a Welsh Cross Arabian Horse) Rex, (a part-bred Arabian) and Jibber Jabber (a part-bred American Saddler). A single adult horse, Macho, (a part-bred American Saddler) delivers a majestic performance of Lucky as a 10 year old stallion.
Horse Fight Sequences
There were two fight scenes involving horses in the film. To get the horses to “”charge””, the trainer assumed the role of the horses’ predator. The horses were given verbal cues and ran towards the trainer who stood off camera. To teach the horses to simulate biting each other, the trainer first had the animals bite on rags (their idea of a play toy) in slow, carefully planned training. The trainers used hand signals to get the horses to rear up and kick. It took upwards of four weeks to train the horses for these two scenes. Although the two fighting sequences looked realistic, the horses’ moves were all choreographed by trainers standing off camera.
Theories On The Horses In Namibia
Many theories exist concerning the origins of these desert dwelling horses. Some suggest that they were once owned by local farmers, others argue that they descended from a stud established by German aristocrat Baron von Wolf. According to one story, one horse was found with German regimental insignia branded on its thigh, which supports the legend that they are offspring of mounts abandoned by the German cavalry who fled from the South Africans in 1915. Recent studies suggest that they are descendants of workhorses brought from Germany to the vast desert at the turn of the century. The story of these free spirits of the desert captured the imagination of the filmmaker, Jean Jacques Annaud.