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Because of Horses

Aug 30, 2019

"Desert Flight" is an award-winning film documentary that explores the horse-human bond through the world of show jumping. Filmmaker Samia Staehle’s goal was to capture the visceral way horses enrich our lives and our senses. The film provides an honest look at how much the sport of show jumping means to its participants through the perspectives of equestrians from different walks of life.

Shot over three weeks during the climactic end of the HITS Thermal horse show circuit in California, "Desert Flight" is both visually stunning and artistically compelling. Samia, a former Associated Press news producer and amateur show jumper from Washington state, chose the Thermal show grounds for her work partially because the stunning beauty of the desert reminded her of her former home in India.

"Desert Flight" includes interviews from such luminaries of the sport as Richard Spooner, Will Simpson, Mandy Porter and Richard Fellers, but also includes vignettes from lesser-known equestrians with big dreams. "Desert Flight" was filmed by Tell Studios, whose Detroit, Michigan, based crew had no experience with horses. Instead, they were told to “go out and find what drives these horse people to do what they do every day.”

"Desert Flight" made its world premiere at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, September 2018. The 39-minute film was named Best of Festival and Best Documentary at the 2018 EQUUS Film Festival in New York City and is available to US Equestrian Federation members on the USEF Network.


Topics of Discussion:

[:24] About today’s episode with Samia Staehle.

[1:39] What does Samia remember most from Desert Flight’s production?

[4:21] What Desert Flight ultimately accomplished as a film.

[7:45] How the Because of Horses Podcast got its name!

[12:06] Samia’s thoughts on the notion of “because of horses” and how it relates to her film.

[15:00] The possible “dark side” in the horse world: becoming divided or siloed.

[20:37] The importance of being empathetic with newcomers to the horse world.

[22:33] Why does Samia think the horse/human relationship is so deeply essential to those of us who love horses?

[26:00] Elise and Samia discuss what makes up the horse/human connection.

[31:18] An important message from Desert Flight: prioritizing horsemanship and maintaining a relationship with your horse.

[35:10] Elise and Samia reflect on Richard Spooner’s astonishing display of horsemanship.

[39:18] Samia speaks about what she would really like people to take away from Desert Flightand shares her favorite film memories.

[45:44] Elise and Samia discuss embracing humility in horsemanship and the sport.

[48:48] Elise and Samia celebrate the non-gendered language used within the sport and the equality that exists within competitions.

[51:52] Elise and Samia discuss another component of the film: how the riders highlight the fact that it takes a passionate team behind them to help them get where they are.

[59:14] About next week’s episode of Because of Horses!

[1:00:38] Where to learn more about Desert Flight and watch it online!


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Mentioned in this Episode:

The Hampton Classic

Samia Staehle

Associated Press

Desert Flight(Film, 2019)

Kyle King

Rich Fellers

Mandy Porter

Will Simpson

Richard Spooner

Ashlee Bond

AIG $1 Million Show Jumping Grand Prix

The Black Stallion (Film, 1979)

Beezie Madden

McLain Ward

EquestFile(Use coupon code: BOH10 to receive a 10% discount for two months off your subscription)


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