Martin Clunes’ Horsepower
Must admit I was a tad disappointed with the second and final part of Martin Clunes’ Horsepower. It needed an interim service.
Now – I realise this mini-series was aimed largely at the uninitiated; those whose experience of horses may be limited to Saturday afternoon racing on TV or meeting an urban police horse. But even for them the distinct lack of any real drama, in what should be a pretty dramatic tale, diminished the programmes’ impact.
Mr. Clunes is obviously a decent chap with a huge soft spot where horses are concerned – like many of us – but he was badly served by writers who seemed largely oblivious of the significance and excitement of horse/man history. Or perhaps because there is so much of it they erred on the side of mediocrity.
For example, as an aside it was mentioned that of a million horses used in the First World War, only 60,000 returned. But what about the other great journeys and conflicts of history which could never have happened without the horse? Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps (yes – I know he took elephants as well!). Napoleon’s advance into, and horrific retreat from, Russia in 1812. The Boer War.
Marco Polo would not have got far down the Silk Road without horses. The Spaniards sailed with them to the Americas (worthy of a complete episode of its own). Captain Robert Falcon Scott took ponies to the South Pole.
All of man’s greatest achievements down the centuries have been on the back of the horse, yet the sufferings of these animals and countless million others warranted barely a mention.
I reckon they need to do a follow up series – a proper job this time. Call it, maybe, Horsepower in Peace and War, or somesuch. I wouldn’t mind presenting it – except I’m not a celebrity. Mr. Clunes has both sufficient gravitas and emotional involvement to make a good job of it but they need a decent historian. Ann Hyland – a vastly underrated author in my opinion – has written brilliantly on horses in history, amongst many other equine subjects, and would be ideal. And they should take as a starting point for any script the anonymous verse below:
Look back at our struggle for freedom,
Trace our present day’s strength to it’s source;
And you’ll find that man’s pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of the horse.
‘Bones of the Horse’. That’d be a good title.