California Riding Magazine • September, 2009

Horsey Humor:
Speak Softly and
Carry a Big Rope
Some observations concerning the movie The Horse Whisperer.

by Bob Goddard

My wife Jenny and I recently rented Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer. Jenny really liked it. She said the story was deep and thought provoking. She thought the scenery was gorgeous. And she claims that Redford “still has it.” I think that’s because he reminds her of me. People tell me that I look a lot like Robert Redford when he was young.

I liked the movie too. The parts I woke up for were really good. I particularly enjoyed the action sequence where Redford’s character, Tom Booker the Horse Whisperer, went out in the field and stared at a horse for fourteen hours.

That was gripping.

There were a few truly grisly scenes. The most difficult part to watch was that horrific, gut wrenching scene at the beginning of the movie when that big, beautiful semi-truck was damaged. In addition, there was the scene toward the end when The Horse Whisperer Tom Booker employed a few yards of horse whisperering rope and tied up one of the horse’s legs and let it run around in circles like that for a while. Kind of let the rope do the talking in that one.

I didn’t read the book, but I understand Redford cut out the in-depth love making parts. After seeing how this guy operates with rope, I was kind of glad he did.

In the movie, Tom Booker is a simple, but extraordinarily wise individual who has an almost mystical understanding of people and living creatures and has a craggy face. This, of course, is also a perfect description of Yoda. Yoda of Montana. I half-expected the aging Redford to stare directly into the camera and in that high pitched Frank Oz/Muppet voice declare “When sixty years old you reach, look as good you will not!”

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Annie, The Mother. Annie is a powerful, bossy editor of a high fashion magazine. My favorite scene with her is when she decides she’ll be dammed if she’s gonna let her daughter and the horse be beaten by the tragedy. She orders her assistants to gather up all manner of research materials. If you listen very carefully, the list of books includes a personal favorite of mine, The Great Book of Horse Knowledge. At least I think I heard her say that. “And get Bob Goddard on the phone!” She says that too.

Sam Neill, the paleontologist in Jurassic Park, plays Annie’s husband Robert MacLean. MacLean is a mild mannered, thoughtful big city lawyer. This is fiction after all. Neill disappears in the middle of the movie. They leave him back in New York, presumably to work. When he’s not busy dodging hungry dinosaurs.

The horse, Pilgrim, is actually played by three Quarter Horses (that’s three Quarter Horses—not three one-quarter parts of horses—although at some points in the movie that would have been appropriate) and one Thoroughbred. These horses deserve an academy award. After all, they played the part of a Morgan and that’s not easy to do. And I don’t mean anything by that.

The Horse Whisperer is a very good movie. Everyone should see it. But drive careful, will ya?