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CBC The Nature Of Things (2018.09.30) Equus: The Story Of The Horse (2of3) The First Riders

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We built the world around us with horsepower. But what is it that makes humans and horses so perfect for each other? And how have we transformed the wild horse we tamed 6,000 years ago into over 400 specialized breeds today?

To answer these questions, anthropologist-turned-filmmaker Niobe Thompson takes viewers on an epic journey across eleven countries on three continents and back in time to the mysterious beginnings of the horse-human relationship. Over three spectacular hours of cutting-edge science and gripping adventure, Thompson explores the evolution of horsepower, discovers how our ancestors tamed the horse and learns fascinating new insights into the body and mind of this unique animal.

Thompson goes a global adventure of discovery, living and riding with horse nomads in Arabia, Siberia and Mongolia, travelling into the field with archeologists, geneticists, and horse psychologists, and above all, getting friendly with horses everywhere he goes.

The domestication of the horse has been a mystery of science for generations. In Episode 2, First Riders, Thompson travels to Kazakhstan to witness the groundbreaking discovery of a skeleton from the earliest culture ever to tame horses. In this episode, viewers get a set of genuine science scoops: we are the first to learn that our ancestors domesticated the horse twice and that early riders carried the world’s first pandemic of plague to Europe.

To bring the world of the first riders to life, Thompson and his filmmaking team travel back to Kazakhstan to film a series of exceptional dramatic re-enactments. In a year-long collaboration with Kazakh specialists, they rebuilt an entire Stone Age village, cast over 70 actors, filmed huge herds of horses high in the Tien Shan Mountains, and enlisted one of the world’s leading horse stunt ensembles, known for their work on Game of Thrones and Marco Polo.

Returning to the present, Thompson took a dramatic and never-before-filmed journey across Mongolia’s Altai Mountains. Joining horse nomads on their gruelling winter migration over snow-covered alpine passes, Thompson discovers first-hand how horsepower makes an ancient way of life possible.
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