Is That…?

animal wisdom horse wisdom mindfulness rescue animals Aug 08, 2023
Zorro and his horse Tornado

Ever been in an airport (or a street in New York or even Denver now and then), and seen a familiar face? I’ve met a few celebrities that way - Barbara Rush, Sandy Dennis (who are they?), John Corbett (who was delightful, and very tall), and even Leonard Nimoy (be still my beating heart!). 

John Corbett

What about celebrity animals? I’ve never actually met any celebrity animals, not even Lassie. But what fun would that be? Morris the cat! (WHO?) Okay, Grumpy cat might be more on your radar.

We all know who this is

My cat Ry thinks he’s a celebrity. I wonder if he would count. But I’ll tell you what, in real life, he’s just the cat that sleeps on the bed, meows constantly because he’s a talker, and begs for food. Close proximity takes away a bit of the glamour, especially when he’s barfing up a hairball.

There are lots of animals out there who are instrumental in movies, and it warms my heart to see them listed in the credits after a movie. I think about the cat in “A Man Called Otto”, who Tom Hanks made a point of getting to know before filming. Cats, as we know, are a tough crowd, but even that cat was won over by Mr. Hanks’ friendly and caring nature, and their true relationship shows on screen.

From A Man Called Otto

Then there’s the beautiful Friesian horse who was in the second Zorro movie with Antonio Banderas. That Friesian was called Ari, and he’s the one who galloped alongside the train, putting his heart and soul into getting his rider onto the train so said rider could swash his buckles. You may have noticed that Ari didn’t have any feathers. That’s because he was acting as an Andalusian, so he had his ankles shaved. Andalusians don’t have the glorious feathering of the Friesian (we love them anyway). (Click the link below to see a video clip of the train sequence.) The director of the movie years later shared that Ari kept outrunning the train and they had to speed it up.

His role in Zorro made Ari famous. He was “The Zorro Horse.” What a horse! What an actor! People clamored for his talent. He was only five when he completed the Zorro movie, and was well cared for. However, once he became famous, things started to go downhill. People didn’t see him as a being who should be respected and treated fairly, or a horse who needed care like other horses. He was a commodity, the Zorro horse. He was sold to someone who wanted that commodity - wanted to own a famous horse - and who didn’t take care of him. The person even loaned him out to other folks who wanted him only for his fame, not for him. Nobody took care of him. It was his name and his fame that these people saw, not the beautiful, trusting being who looked out of his liquid brown eyes.

At 14, broken down and much misused, Ari was rescued and went to live with a friend of mine. He was emaciated, with severe arthritis in all of his joints, and had learned to be distrustful of anyone on two legs. It had been a long time since anyone saw him first as a horse - a horse in need - rather than as a movie star. He was polite, but kept himself separate. He had been lied to many times. Martha is not a liar, and she told him she would do what she could to help him. He didn’t believe it at first.

Ari and Martha

Ari was in pain in his body and soul, but my friend Martha (an equine nutritionist) brought him back from the brink and he lived at her farm back east for many years, enjoying light work until his retirement and setting a good example for the other horses who lived there. Dignified, caring, and a natural leader, Ari led his best life in Martha’s care. His fame didn’t matter. He was a horse, first and foremost, and was loved for who he was, not what he could do.

Ari lived to the ripe old age of 23, which is practically ancient in the Friesian world, and when he left his body it was with dignity and kindness. In his last year of life he was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer and given only a few weeks to live. With Martha’s help, he lived for another year - a good year during which he felt well and did everything he wanted to do. When it was time to go, he and Martha both knew it and he left his body gently.

This is what we must do for our animal friends. 

Ari in his later years

Even if your pet isn’t the star of a TV show or movie, they deserve respect and kindness. They are sentient. They feel. They learn. They are here to teach us. We should treat them as we would any beloved being, whether they walk on two, four, six, or eight legs, slither or fly. They are beautiful expressions of what we all are, a part of the greater cosmos, part of us, and deserving of as much love as we can give them.

Give them that love, and you will receive it back twenty-fold.

If you want more information about Martha and her amazing work healing animals, go to

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