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Martin Clunes: Horse Power Previous Broadcasts

The Servant and the Symbol (Episode #102H)

KQED Plus: Sun, May 19, 2013 -- 11:00 PM

Not so very long ago, everyone knew how to ride a horse. Today, the biggest link most of us still have with horses is the races. Martin's company's horse, Buffalo Stampede, is running at Fontwell racecourse in Sussex for the first time in a year since a leg injury. The horse tires and comes in last, but Martin is just glad to see it cross the finishing line without injury.
The everyday traffic of horses may have vanished from London's streets. But the British monarchy still uses horses - and plenty of them - to keep tradition alive. Clunes has special access to a rehearsal of the State Opening of Parliament and rides in one of the carriages from the Royal Mews, via the Palace, into the heart of Parliament.
To find out how the horse came to be associated with wealth and power, Martin heads for Asti in northern Italy. The Palio horse race dates right back to the 1200s when the local aristocracy raced their horses against each other as a way to measure up their status and superiority. Martin soaks up the thrills and dangers of the event, where the crowd treats the jockeys like football stars - or the modern equivalent of valiant knights.
To understand why medieval knights commanded such honor and respect, Martin travels to Warwick Castle to see what it was like to ride into battle, dressed in a suit of armour. He also meets the modern equivalent of the armored knight, the Greater Manchester Police mounted unit and learns how horses are trained to quell potential violence in rowdy crowds.
Clunes then heads for the USA to learn that the old Wild West is still alive and kicking, and the horse is still very much a part of American life. In Las Vegas, rodeo horses are treated like kings; the more they buck the better the crowds love them. Then it's on to Arizona to learn the traditional ways of the cowboy, still in use today. Surprisingly, the horse was extinct in America until it was reintroduced by Christopher Columbus. Yet it wasn't long after that before Native American Indians became master horsemen. Martin joins the Sioux tribe in South Dakota, for their annual "horse nation" commemorative ride across the frozen prairie.
Martin's final journey is to one of the remotest parts of Central Asia to meet some of the world's greatest horse people. He experiences life amongst the nomadic Kazakh tribes people, virtually unchanged since they first harnessed the power of the horse 6000 years ago. Nowhere on earth is there a culture still so utterly reliant on the horse.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, May 20, 2013 -- 5:00 AM

The Animal (Episode #101H)

KQED Plus: Sun, May 12, 2013 -- 11:00 PM

At home on his farm in Dorset, Martin rides his own horse Chester and explains how he was drawn into the equine world by his wife and daughter. To find out what makes horses tick Martin flies to Dubai, to the grand opening of the ?1.7 billion Meydan racecourse. There he meets champion jockey Frankie Dettori and top trainer Luca Cumani, for a fascinating insight into horse psychology. He then heads further east to the heart of Mongolia, where he tracks down the one remaining horse breed that has never been tamed by man: the Przewalski horse, known in Mongolia as the Takhi.
On the walls of the Niaux Cave, hidden high in the Pyrenees Mountains, Martin finds an extraordinary 14,000-year-old record of how our relationship with horses began. He also meets the famous horse whisperer Monty Roberts to learn how to improve his relationship with Chester, and understand how that mysterious bond allowed us to communicate with horses in the first place. On a windswept beach in the south of France, Martin meets the extraordinary trainer, Jean Francois Pignon, who has taken that communication to the ultimate extreme.
At the Weipers Centre for Equine Welfare in Glasgow, Martin attends a delicate operation on a 7-month-old foal with a leg fracture and learns why this powerful, athletic animal is designed the way it is. In the desert sands of the Gulf, Martin meets the Bedouin, who developed one of the world's most ancient horse breeds, the Arabian. Horses can help humans because of their unique communication skills. Martin flies to Arizona to visit a rehab clinic where they are using equine assisted therapy on patients being treated for a range of problems from alcoholism to anorexia. Finally Clunes joins Laura Lee, Nevada resident and lover of the wild American mustang. In a helicopter they fly over the high desert in midwinter, to catch a glimpse of the mustang herds running free in their natural habitat, the way all horses once lived.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Plus: Mon, May 13, 2013 -- 5:00 AM
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