Cairngorm Western

In the first of a new series of blogs on HorseMen, Amy's latest project, intern Lizzie MacKenzie shares some insights on her introduction to the world of documentary film-making through horsemanship, healing and the Cairngorm mountains. 

The eye of a Spanish horse

I've been working with Amy on the HorseMen film for over 7 months now. As someone with a keen interest, but little to no previous experience in documentary film-making, I considering myself a very lucky woman on an almost daily basis.

I only moved to Edinburgh in August, with an ever-increasing desire to explore film-making at the forefront of my mind. I'd been living rurally in Wales, working with horses in fact, and during my time there had become friendly with a neighbour who had experience in the TV industry, Camilla. We'd go running together around the high-hedged Welsh country lanes and speak about only two things: horses and film. I dreamed about how brilliant it would be to combine the two. But where would one even begin?

Leading up to my departure from Wales, Camilla announced some exciting plans. She'd come across Horseback UK, a Scottish charity who use horsemanship to facilitate healing in ex-military men and women who are suffering from the traumatising after-effects of war. She was very moved by their story and by the difference they're making, and had decided that she'd like to organise an ambitious long-distance expedition in order to raise funds for Horseback UK to expand and help to change the lives of even more of those in need. Her idea got me wildly excited too, and we promised we'd stay in touch after the move back to my native Scotland and see how her plans would unfold.


Camilla's mention of Horseback UK wasn't the first time I'd heard of this charity. I'd actually come across them and been periodically following their work for a couple of years. Horses are something I have an almost unspeakably strong passion for. A big part of my life thus far has been devoted to studying their silent language, and witnessing the transformative effect they have on the people who seek out their company. A charity harnessing this horse power, and making such a profound difference to the hearts, minds and bodies of ex-soldiers therefore already had my deep respect.

So, fast forward to my first night back in Edinburgh. Horse-obsessed aspiring filmmaker, who has been living away in varying degrees of remoteness for five years, returns to civilisation and who does she encounter on her first evening? A documentary filmmaker. This filmmaker tells her about another Edinburgh-based filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about a charity in the Cairngorms that uses horses to treat the traumatised ex-military. A goose-bump moment! Email addresses are exchanged and a few days later I am out riding horses in the backdrop of the Pentlands with Amy Hardie, talking about her need for an intern to help work on the film. Synchronicity; it is a funny, wonderful thing!

Andy, learning how to ride with his mind

When I sat down to write this today I calculated that almost seven months has passed since then, I couldn't believe it. With Amy's help, I have thrown myself head first into the world of documentary film-making.  I'm so captivated by it all and am lapping up all the new knowledge! 
After the initial excitement of intense interest in the content of interviews I had to transcribe, I was hit with the realisation of how painstakingly slow the process of transcribing interviews actually is; but also how absolutely essential those transcripts are. Being involved in the process of editing has subtly changed the way I experience everyday life, plus made me so grateful for every discovery of shortcut keys on Avid Media Composer. I've began to really pay attention to the power of narrative in story-telling, and began to truly appreciate the importance of backing up data on those fragile hard-drives!

The magic of horses can be a tricky thing to capture in language, their power goes beyond the verbal. But film too, has the power to go beyond the verbal. To be able to begin my aspiring career in filmmaking on a project that celebrates a species of animal so close to my heart is such a godsend. To be able to explore this subject alongside the talent and graciousness of Amy is just the cherry on top of the cake. What started off as a simple intern position has grown into something much more. I'm excited to see what experience the next 6 months brings.

I intend to write a series of posts reflecting on our Horsemen documentary journey. Next time, we'll be looking at the connection that is formed between horses and humans at Horseback, and how the people behind the charity help to facilitate this. Stay tuned!