A documentary aiming to raise worldwide awareness of the issues and difficulties facing the Marwari horse of India has just entered its post-production phase.
Melbourne-based Frazzica Productions’ documentary features Kr Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, known as Bonnie, and Francesca Kelly, of Martha’s Vineyard in the United States, and explores their lifetime work to address the plight of the Marwari horses.
The pair have been pushing to change antiquated government laws that forbid the export of Marwari horses abroad.
Bonnie and Francesca, considered experts on the breed and highly respected for their work, have protected bloodlines and founded The Indigenous Horse Society of India.
At their own expense, they have traveled the world raising awareness of the difficulties facing these beautiful animals and attempting to raise funds to help them.
The Marwari horses have faced many challenges and were once near extinction.
However, the challenges they currently face could tip the precarious balance irretrievably. There is an export ban in place and breeders have excess stock. Good feed is expensive and hard to find.
There are also cruel and inhumane horse-training practices, much like the dancing bears, and many other issues ranging from drought to little or no professional veterinary care.
There are equine “practitioners” but no vets in the entire state of Rajasthan, which is where the Marwari’s come from. And now, the only equine research center in the state of Rajasthan that provided at least some small help is at risk of closing down.
The film pays a visit to the Hanumangarh Horse Fair in Rajasthan where the finest Marwari horse breeders gather to discuss current issues and compete for various honors. Well-trained Marwari horses can fetch more than $US25,000 at these fairs.
The horses are taught to dance and they become highly valuable to their owners by performing at wedding ceremonies and prestigious events – often their only income.
In war times these moves where taught to avoid elephant strikes and to protect their riders. Unfortunately, horses are sometimes trained cruelly instead of the correct way, just to make a quick dollar.
Marwari horses recently performed at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Windsor castle in front of the Queen. A contingent of over 30 dancers, horsemen and performers were lead by Bonnie and Francesca. Sadly, none of the Marwari horses featured in England were from India.
Bonnie is known worldwide as a leading authority on Marwari Horses. He is the second son of Cavalry Officer Thakur Ragihuvir Singh, of the house of Dundlod. With assistance from Francesca, Bonnie founded the Marwari Bloodlines register and the Indigenous Horse Society of India promoting solid breed standards and practices.
He pioneered the first horse safaris in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan to provide a secondary living option for the horses and runs horse-riding safaris for travelers from his heritage hotel-home, Dundlod Fort.
He is an accomplished horseman, polo player and breeder. He has taken thousands of tourists on his horse-riding safaris through the state of Rajasthan, which provides employment for many locals. Bonnie has a deep connection with his home and also maintains a free school to help educate the children of the region.
Throughout northern India, Kelly is known as Ghoravalli – she who rides horses. She founded the group called Marwari Bloodlines with the goal of promoting and preserving the Marwari horse around the world.
Francesca has worked tirelessly with Bonnie to develop the breed standards. Before the government ban, she exported a few Marwari horses out of India to a safe and happy home in the US and the first Marwari was exported to Europe in 2006.
Francesca donated one of her precious stallions to the French Living Museum of the Horse to promote the cause and has also published a stunning pictorial book entitled, Marwari.
Film-makers Joe and Tatiana Frazzica live in Melbourne and pioneered the first horse lifestyle TV show in Australia in 2003.
They visited Dundlod on invitation from Bonnie in October 2004. The pair were the first Australians to visit Dundlod Fort and to ride the Marwari horses. They returned to Australia and aired the film they had shot during their visit, on their television show, Horse Rush TV, which aired in Australia and the USA. The footage of Bonnie’s dancing Marwari, shot at Dundlod Fort, is still a hit on You Tube to this day.
They became so enamoured of the Marwari horse and concerned about its plight, that in February last year they assembled an Australian-American crew to head to Rajasthan and film the story of Bonnie and Francesca’s lifetime work.
They took acclaimed New York City director of photography Ben Wolf along to ensure that the scenes and colour were captured faithfully.
The film-makers have now launched an online campaign to raise $67,000 needed for post-production work. The amount is broken down into editing fees of $38,000, music composition $5000, sound mix $5000, graphics $2000, travel costs and final interview $4000, restoration of old footage $3000, and Indegogo share and incentives $10,000.
Those interested in supporting the project can do so at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/marwari.
More information: www.marwarimovie.com