Tarpan: Repainting an Ancient Picture, created by Horsefly Films, is this year’s winner of Best Short Documentary at the Equus Film Festival in New York. The film forms part of the Rare Equine Trust, a cinematic library of rare equine breeds and ancient cultures with an appreciation for the horse at its heart. Tarpan is the tale of mankind’s attempt to resurrect an ancient breed of horse and restore it to its rightful place in the wild.
Directors Jen Miller and Sophie Dia Pegrum follow the efforts of two organisations with a common goal: the reintroduction of a Tarpan type into a natural environment. The Tarpan is believed to have been one of the most ancient breeds of horse; sadly, it was driven to extinction by the end of the nineteenth century. The ‘new Tarpan’ is bred through the Polish Konik, believed to be the Tarpan’s closest living relative.
ARK Nature is a founding partner of Rewilding Europe and has spent 25 years developing wild landscapes, particularly in the Netherlands. New Thracian Gold, based in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria, similarly aims to create and preserve wilderness in the area. A key aspect for each organisation is the reintroduction of large herbivores similar to those which originally grazed there: so, they turned to the Tarpan.
Rewilding is not without its challenges, for the animals as much as its human advocates.
In Bulgaria, where wolves still live wild in the mountains, it was necessary for the horses to re-learn some of their prey instincts; only when one of their number was lost to the predators did the horses remember their primal fear of wolves.
Tarpan is necessary viewing for anyone interested in the challenge and possibility of rewilding our landscape, and the part that horses have to play. Jen and Sophie trace the Tarpan back to its origins and then forward into its future, combining gorgeous footage of the horses in the wild with interviews and historical research. Following great acclaim at the Equus Film Festival, the film is now available for pre-order on the Rare Equine Trust website for an early December release.