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Famous Horses of Film & Television
I remember well the days of my childhood, feverishly completing my chores so I could be in front of the television 5 minutes before the start of my favourite programs…all of which starred of course, a horse. Each week a new adventure that would continue to thrill me until the next adventure. Heroes each and every one of them. What fate would have befallen their human partners if it were not for the incredible devotion and courage of these equine superheroes?

For many of these nameless horses we shall never know, but for some, their names still ignite an excitement that brings us back to our childhoods where every ending is a happy one so long as our trusty steed is there to lead the way!
In January of 1933, radio station WXYZ began broadcasting one of the most popular radio shows in history, “The Lone Ranger”. In July of that same year, The Lone Ranger was to make his first public appearance with his mighty steed, Silver. For this event, a horse by the name of “Hero” was the first horse to fill the shoes of the Silver.

Few people realize that there were actually two horses that have portrayed Silver on film and on television. Silver #1 was a 12 year old, Morab Tennessee Walking Horse cross stallion over 17 hands tall who was chosen personally by Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger) himself in 1949 for use on the television series just prior to its launch. His real name was “White Cloud” or from some sources, “Traveler”. He did not know many tricks, but was very gentle and had an impressively high rear which became the hallmark of this dynamic duo. Silver #1 came from
the Hugh Hooker Ranch in the San Fernando Valley of California.

In 1949, the owner of the Lone Ranger Television show, George W. Trendle purchased a four year old Morab Saddlebred cross by the name of “Tarzen’s White Banner” from a farm in Peoria, Illinois. He immediately renamed and registered the horse, “Hi-Yo Silver”. In 1952 “Hi-Yo Silver” was shipped from Illinois to California and became Silver #2 taking the place of Silver #1 in the television series while John Hart briefly stepped into the role of The Lone Ranger. Silver #2 was trained by the famous trainer and handler, Glenn Randall who also trained Roy Roger’s Trigger. Silver #2 had an opposite temperament from the first Silver being a high strung stallion who was quite skittish of camera sounds.

The following year, Clayton Moore returned to take his place as the Lone Ranger and continued to use Silver #2 but Silver #1 would often return to fill the role when scenes required a calm and obedient horse. One such scene in which Silver #1 received the Animal Award of Excellence required Silver to drag The Lone Ranger to water. Silver #1 was used for fear that Silver #2 might shy from the camera sounds and step on Clayton. But for all his skittishness, Silver #2 was the horse that Clayton always toured with and used for publicity events.

Silver #1 was sold to the Ace Hudkin’s Stables where he lived out his retirement. Silver #2 was retired in 1962 where he lived with wrangler Wayne Burson and his wife until his death in 1974 at the age of 29.

There have been several horses ridden by Roy Rogers throughout his film and television career and all of them were called “Trigger”.

The original Trigger was foaled in 1934 on a ranch in San Diego that was partly owned by Bing Crosby and was bred and owned by Roy F. Cloud. His sire was a thoroughbred that was raced at the Caliente Racetrack in Mexico. Trigger’s original name was “Golden Cloud” and at the age of three was sold to Hudkin’s Stables in Southern California.

Golden Cloud had a leading role being ridden by Olivia DeHaviland who played Maid Marion in the 1938 Errol Flynn classic, Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bothers, 1938). In 1937, Roy
Rogers first met Golden Cloud while he was auditioning horses for his first starring feature, Under Western Stars (Republic, 1938), but it wasn’t until 1943 that Rogers bought Golden Cloud. Rogers once stated that "I got on him and rode him 100 yards and never looked at another horse”. He described Trigger as "the best thing that ever happened" to him. Sidekick, Smiley Burnette suggested the name “Trigger” because the horse was “quick on the trigger”.

Trigger #1 was trained by Glenn Randall and was said to be the smartest horse in Hollywood. Trigger could untie ropes, sit in a chair, fire a gun and add and subtract. Trigger would also walk up hospital stairs to visit with the sick children and loved to perform in front of people. Roy always made sure that Trigger received star billing in all of his films…after all, what’s a cowboy without his horse? Roy even proposed to Dale Evans while sitting atop Trigger during a show in Chicago.
Roy was proud of the fact that throughout his more than 80 films, the 101 episodes of his television series, and countless personal appearances, Trigger never fell. However, there was one occasion when Trigger really put a scare into him. It happened while they were driving up to a film location. As they came around a bend, a car coming from the opposite direction forced Roy's car off the road, causing the horse trailer to overturn. Roy jumped from his car and ran back to the trailer, where he found Trigger lying motionless. Roy spoke calmly to Trigger, and by using a rope he was able to pull him from the trailer. At that point Trigger opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. A relieved Roy smiled when he realized that Trigger must have thought
this was just another movie stunt and that he was supposed to play dead.

Trigger won a P.A.T.S.Y. award (animal award equivalent for the Oscar) and was also the 1958 Craven Award winner.

The original Trigger passed away of old age in 1965 at the age of 33. Roy could not bear the thought of burying him so he had him mounted where he now stands on display at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.

Trigger #2 was called “Little Trigger” and was an accomplished trick horse who appeared in many shows with Roy. It was Little Trigger that was featured with Roy on the cover of Life magazine in 1943 and who starred in the film Son of Paleface with Bob Hope in 1952. Little Trigger also stood in for Trigger #1 in many of Roy’s films.

Trigger #3 was Trigger Jr. His registered name was “Allen’s Gold Zephyr” and he was foaled in 1941 in Soudertown, Pennsylvania. Trigger Jr. died in 1969 and was also mounted where he now stands at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.

Buttermilk was a buckskin Quarter Horse gelding who had been saved as a colt from being sold to the slaughterhouse. He had been badly abused and was quite mean spirited. The cattle farmer who had rescued him began training the horse they had named Taffy and in no time at all became a friendly and affectionate cutting horse. Glenn Randall, the famous Hollywood horse trainer saw Taffy at a competition, purchased him and he soon became “Buttermilk”, Dale Evans beloved mount. Buttermilk appeared in all but 6 of the Roy Rogers Show television episodes that aired from 1951 to 1957. Buttermilk died at the age of 31 and like his stablemates was mounted and can be seen at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.

I cannot remember a Saturday morning that I did not wait in front of the television to see what great adventure Fury would take me on! The series was made from 1955 to 1960, but was shown well into the 70’s. Fury was shown all over the world and sometimes under the name”Brave Stallion”. Fury was probably the most famous and prominent of all horses as a star earning over $500,000.00, second only to Lassie as the greatest money earning animal in Hollywood. In over 150 episodes the story of Joey, an orphaned boy who is befriended by Jim Newton, a man who recently lost his wife and son in an auto accident unfolds. Jim captures a wild stallion after three years of trying and names the stallion Fury. Joey befriends Fury and saves Fury’s life which is why

Fury will only allow Joey to ride him. Each episode takes Joey and Fury on a new adventure where a lesson is to be learned each and every time. What better premise for a show can there be?

Fury was born “Highland Dale” on March 4, 1943 in Missouri. He was a registered American Saddlebred. Fury was just 18 months old when he was discovered and purchased by Ralph McCutcheon, a famous Hollywood trainer.

At 26 months of age Fury starred in the 1946 version of “Black Beauty”. In 1955 he starred in “Outlaw Stallion” for which he received the Award of Excellence. In 1956 he starred in “Gypsy Colt” for which he earned The P.A. T. S. Y. Award. This film required an enormous amount of tricks. Some of the tricks that were written into the script for him to perform were, opening doors with his mouth, running to the schoolhouse to pick up his young owner, poking his head into windows, and allowing himself to be chased by a group of motorcyclists.

In 1957 Fury starred alongside Elizabeth Taylor in “Giant”. In the closing scene of the film, Fury’s performance left viewers in awe as he completely stole the acting honours from the human stars.

Fury earned a Second Place P.A. T. S. Y.  Award for his performance and became the biggest equine star in Hollywood. He also earned a Second Place P.A. T. S. Y. Award for his performance in the 1958 film, “Wild is the Wind” and a Third Place P.A. T. S. Y. Award for his television show, Fury.

Fury appeared in several episodes of “Bonanza”, “Lassie”, and “My Friend Flicka” as well as appearing in an episode of “Rin Tin Tin” and the “Monkees”.

Fury’s owner and trainer, Ralph McCutcheon claimed that Fury was not a trick horse…he was a trained horse. He said the difference was that a trick horse would perform stunts as if he had memorized them, but a trained horse understood what it was taught. Ralph said he would explain to Fury what was required, give him a rehearsal and then he would do it and get it right the first time. Fury was never distracted by noises or unusual movements around the sets. It is said that Ralph could be off camera and tell Fury, “Go pull the boy by his shirt and pull him backwards”. And Fury would do it. Fury was trained using the reward system…his favourite reward…carrots!

Fury lived a happy life with Ralph and eventually retired to Sand Canyon Ranch, Santa Clarita, California where they both lived out their lives together.

My Friend Flicka
My Friend Flicka was a 1941 children’s novel written by Mary O’Hara which tells the story of a boy, Ken McLaughlin, who adopts a beautiful wild filly against the wishes of his father. The novel inspired the making of a feature length film in 1943 starring Roddy McDowell and a television series which debuted in 1955.

In the series, Flicka (Swedish for “Little Girl”) was played by a chestnut Arabian mare named “Wahama”. Her stunt double was played by a quarter horse gelding named “Goldie” and both were trained by the famous Les Hilton. The role of Ken McLaughlin was played by Toronto born, Johnny Washbrook. During the 50’s

Johnny and Wahama made many public appearances and Wahama loved the attention. The series was very popular and has even been run recently on the Disney Channel.

Mister Ed
On October 1st, 1961 CBS aired the first of a series that would become one of the most popular series of the 60’s. Mister Ed, foaled in 1949 in El Monte, California was a parade and show Palomino named “Bamboo Harvester”. He was bought by the Mister Ed Company and trained by the Famous Les Hilton. He was an intelligent and easy horse to work with who only needed a bit of peanut butter to keep him “talking”. The series about an architect named Wilbur and the horse who only spoke to him lasted until 1966. Wilbur had to keep the secret that Mister Ed could talk although Mister Ed did on a few episodes speak to children. Mister Ed told Wilbur, “Who would believe a kid saying a horse can talk?”

Many famous stars appeared on the Mister Ed Show including George Burns (the shows producer), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Donna Douglas, Clint Eastwood and even baseball player, Leo Durocher. During the many episodes that aired Mister Ed talked on the telephone, rode a surf board, flew an airplane, drove a delivery truck, wore a “Beatle” wig, flew a kite, delivered newspapers, and played baseball.

Mister Ed won several awards for his work. He won first place P.A.T.S.Y. Awards in 1962 and 1963. A second place P.A.T.S.Y. Award in 1964 and third place P.A.T.S.Y. Award in 1965. The categories included all types of animals, not just horses!

In 1968, at the age of 19, Ed began to suffer from a variety of health problems, including a broken leg. He was quietly put down, but no one really knows where or when. Another horse who had filled in for Mister Ed from time to time by the name of “Pumpkin” died in Oklahoma in 1979. Many believed that it was Mister Ed who died in Oklahoma. Though his death is still a

mystery, one things for sure…Mister Ed will always be remembered as Wilbur’s amazing talking horse.

Black Beauty
When Anna Sewell wrote her classic Black Beauty, The Autobiography of a Horse in 1877 she could not have imagined the impact it would have had on so many of us. Nor could she have imagined that her story would be recreated over and over again. There have been 8 feature length films including an animated version and at least 4 television series all of which are the creation more of the people who made them than a rendition of Anna Sewell’s classic. However, each one is a horse story and each one features a black stallion who undoubtedly can make a poor script seem right.
Fury starred as Black Beauty in the 1946 version of the story and he makes this film well worth seeing.

In 1994 Black Beauty was once again a feature film. This time the star was an American Quarter Horse Stallion named “Docs Keepin Time”. Docs went from a rather unsuccessful racing career to being one of Hollywood’s most sought after equine performers. In the film, Black Beauty, Docs had to perform many tricks such as working without a rider, rearing and nodding and shaking his head. He even had to keep his cool while being trapped in a flaming barn. Docs Keepin Time has also played the part of the rearing horse in the Busch Beer commercials, performed in a rock video and was the star of the television series, “The Black Stallion”. He also played the part of “Gulliver” in the film, The Horse Whisperer. We are sure to see more of Docs Keepin Time in the future.

Hidalgo was a film which asked a lot of its leading horse. There were 5 horses used for Hidalgo, but the main horse, a Paint named “T.J.” stole Vigo’s heart. At the film’s wrap, Mortensen purchased T.J. and took him home!

There have been many more famous and not so famous horses that have thrilled us from our theatre seats and from in front of our TVs…more than I could ever begin to mention. If only they knew how many hearts they touched and how many lives they changed. May they all find Happy

Trails and many a green pasture!

GiftHorse Gallery has found a collection of collectables inspired by these Superhorses, Click Here to see what we have found.

For more information on B-Western Movies, the Heros, Heroines and their Horses follow this link:

For more information on these famous horses and others not mentioned follow this link:

Now would also be a good time to re-familiarize yourself and your family with these classics available on DVD.



More titles on DVD: Seabiscuit| Spirit| Racing Stripes | Young Black Stallion | The Saddle Club
The Horsemen | National Velvet | The Silver Stallion | The Man from Snowy River

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