By Amber Heintzberger
On a recent trip to Munich, Germany, I was excited to see the new IMAX film called Majestic White Horses, playing at the Deutsches Museum. The story of the Lipizzan horses and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna has opened in theaters around Europe, and will be coming to the United States on November 15, opening at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, GA.
Opening with Baroque music in the background and overhead views of Vienna, the camera pans over the palaces and stately homes of the old Austrian city. The original narrator is Stacey Keach; the German version was dubbed over. My German skills are limited, but the language of the horse is somewhat universal, and I understood quite a lot of the dialogue.
The story starts with prehistoric horses and the evolution of the modern-day horse and the breeding of Arabians and Lipizzans by the Hapsburgs, creating the Lipizzan horse in Slovenia. The state stud was developed in Piber, Austria, where it still stands today.
The video dramatically shows a live birth, up so close and personal that you feel as if you're in the stall with the sweating mare, watching the wobbly foal take its first steps. Then later you witness the weaning of the young horses, their cries piercing your heart when the mares are led away.
Shot from a helicopter, the panning views are enough to make the viewer seasick, but the overhead shots of horses galloping through the Austrian countryside are beautiful. The young horses, still changing color, moving in a herd across rocky fields with gorgeous mountain vistas, are stunning.
These wild horses' second life, totally regimented, begins at the Spanish Riding School. While the "first semester" of school is mostly fun and games, serious work is soon to begin. We also see what it is like for young riders beginning there, with endless work on the longe line. Young riders are put on older horses, young horses are ridden by more experienced riders.
We also are treated to the story of "Operation Cowboy," the World War II mission of General Patton to rescue the horses from destruction in 1945. Old film clips added interest, but quite a lot of flag-waving made it was obvious that the film was made in Hollywood.
Long lining, work in the pillars, and beginning work under saddle precede performances by the stallions in all their precision, riders in the traditional garb, going through the movements, never a hoof out of place. We also see the interior of the riding hall, with its enormous chandeliers, gallery for a string quartet, and intricate baroque architecture, flooded with sunlight and absolutely timeless.
It is not just a movie for horse people, but a movie for horse lovers and every kid big or small who ever wanted a pony. There is enough technical information to satisfy an experienced horse person, and enough basic information to instruct those viewers whose horsemanship includes galloping around with a hobbyhorse as a child.
I was excited to see the film, and savored every moment. I am more excited that it is finally coming to the United States to open the doors to the venerable old riding school and its Majestic White Horses to audiences across the country.
Official Website Majestic White Horses