Martin Clunes, Horsepower and Leaders we deserve

August 23, 2010
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ITV 1 Review by Tudor Rickards

Martin Clunes and a lot of horses share top-billing in ITV’s Horsepower mini-series. The first hour left me wondering what Richard Dawkins or David Attenborough might have made of it all.

They would undoubtedly have admired the beauty of the creatures on display, including the greater Clunes, an apparently gentle beast with a capacity to love  horses great and small, and a natural and endearing manner when confronted by humans.  Dawkins Attenborough and Clunes are high priests of an ancient cult, members of which worship the majesty of nature.  Dawkins and Attenborough are on the scientific wing, Clunes more towards the scientology end.

Mysteries of the horse-human bond

In the programme, Martin gets to visit a lot of locations scattered around the world to witness to marvels and neo-religious mysteries of the horse-human bond. He meets other high-priests, including the incomparable Monty Roberts, the original horse-whisperer, and another charismatic whose work with horses has also charmed millions of humans including, according to legend, the Queen and The Queen Mother, some years ago.

The mysterious capacity of large potentially dangerous animals to charm shone through the programme.   Ismene Brown of the artsdesk perceptively noted this by combining her review of Horsepower with one of a programme of mountain gorillas.

I’ve been charmed by horses, and by the possibility that the horse-human relationship can teach us about human-human relationships.  Monty Roberts, and his English associate Kelly Marks have both made contributions to the idea of trust-based leadership.  The horse, they argue, is a flight animal, and needs a leader to reduce the anxiety genetically inbred to escape predators.  The language of leadership is beyond rational communication and speaks to that deep need.  Which is maybe how charismatics have such a hold over their human followers, who get the leaders they need (if not deserve).

Love yourself first

So charmed I was, to have been witness to the programme. I particularly liked the scene in which Martin plus psychologically damaged horse was penned up and scrutinised by a group of apparently friendly psychoanalysts outside the railings.  The message: the horse won’t love you more until you love yourself more.  Translate to human/human relationships as you wish. I may have mistranslated a bit, as I missed the start of the scene for a comfort break.

Which reminds me. None of the horses in the programme peed or dumped steaming loads of uknownwhat.  Now that’s interesting.


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