by Kristin Berkery
At the turn of the 20th century, horses were often viewed as unfeeling, disposable animals. They were the means to an end — useful for transporting people and goods, producing crops, and in Hollywood, for adding dramatic flair to movies. Especially on early movie sets, there was little regard for horses’ fates.
Made in 1936, The Charge of the Light Brigade was one of the first movies to raise awareness of horses’ treatment in the film industry. Actor Errol Flynn was appalled and spoke out when he saw several horses (one report says 25 or more) die or be destroyed as a result of the epic battle scene. To make it appear that the horses and riders were shot by enemy fire, the filmmakers rigged wires to trip the horses while they were running at full speed. Some horses broke their necks and died instantly while others broke legs and were euthanized.