Sunday, March 9, 2014


BACK ON TRACK                         
Originally published in Horse Directory                                                      April, 2014
By Tom Gumbrecht

Lola allowed the author to hitch his
cart to her star..
The tedium of the blue funk that befell us and called itself the winter of 2014 was interrupted for a day last month when a crew of young filmmakers from Savannah took over our barn for a few hours, turning the frozen tundra of paddocks into a backdrop for a small segment of an independent film about ex-racehorses. They had come to see my Lola, and learn about her story.

After several hours of shooting in sub-freezing temperatures, we adjourned to a local restaurant with the crew to thaw out and share a meal and some insight into the background of director Kara Colvin, her hopes for the film, and the challenges she has faced in creating the feature length documentary called Back On Track that has become her mission.

Tom Gumbrecht: Where do you live now, and have you always lived there?

Kara Colvin: I currently live in Savannah, GA but I grew up in Tallahassee, FL.

TG: How long have you been interested in horses? When did you get your first horse?

KC: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved horses. They are the most incredible animals to me. I always watched Black Beauty and The Black Stallion, I drew horses at every chance I could get and, of course, my room was filled to the capacity with Breyer horses and stuffed animal horses. I was just one of those little girls who was struck with the horse-addict bug and it has been a part of me ever since.

On my 13th birthday my parents bought me my first and only horse: Jake, an off the track thoroughbred.

TG: How did you get interested in OTTBs? Can you tell me something special about your OTTB?

KC: My first real trainer always had OTTBs at her barn. That’s how I met Jake. I began riding on all sorts...of horses when I first started off. You know, those ancient fat quarter horses that will maybe take two steps if you use every inch of your being to make them move. I really didn’t mind, it made my education as a rider very diverse. I rode all sorts of horses: Tennessee walkers, Arabians, warmbloods, a dinky fat pony named Ashes, but I truly loved the thoroughbreds. I loved the power and grace they had, also their never-ending courage and will to please.

Jake is the smartest horse I have ever met. In all my years and experience with a variety of breeds, I have never met a horse as intelligent as him. Because of this, he has always been a challenge and the perfect horse to learn and grow with. He also loves salty snacks!

Director Kara Colvin, Dir. of Photography Colt Morton,
the author and Lola.
Photo by assistant Jasmine Hughes.
TG: Where do you go to school, and how did you choose film making as a potential career?

KC: I go to Savannah College of Art and Design. I graduated in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA and a BFA in Film & Television with a minor in Cinema Studies. I am now completing my Cinema Studies masters in a fast-paced yearlong program at SCAD and plan to graduate in summer 2014…

…Film was not my immediate interest at SCAD. I started off in painting, then illustration, interior design, and then production design for a moment and then to film. I’m very happy with my end decision and I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing now for anything in the world. Cinema had always been a portion of my life; I just had not accepted that it was the perfect outlet for my creative and ambitious aspirations.

TG: How did you decide to do a documentary about OTTBs? One you decided, what was your first step?

KC: Well, SCAD is not focused on documentaries. They are definitely a narrative-based school. There is one required documentary class. I was always interested in directing but I think that since the school was filled with “prodigies” in directing, I was certainly intimidated to make an effort towards my aspirations. I was very shy when I arrived at SCAD and stuck with production design.

I wanted to do something about retired racehorses but I wasn’t sure what I could accomplish…. Back on Track was born and the class fully supported my idea. I created the short over the span of a year and a half….  then started thinking about making Back on Track into a feature after the short was accepted and won the Silver Award at National Geographic’s Grey’s Reef Film Festival.

When creating the short the first step was contacting everyone I knew from my past that I rode with/knew about OTTBs, research and creating a story/script….. ..I also took on a new level of confidence, courage and determination that I needed to accomplish growing as a director. The first steps were not easy, but necessary for the position I am at now.

TG: What has been your biggest challenge in shooting Back On Track? What was your biggest disappointment? What about the process has been most rewarding?

KC: ….. There is not a part of Back on Track that is not challenging or a learning experience.
DannyBoy, not to be upstaged, tries to charm director
Kara Colvin
This is a large feature-length film that incorporates countless organizations/professionals from FL, VA, PA, MD, DC, CA, NY, SC, NC, KY and OH. It is difficult, and not many people realize how much time, money, effort and determination it takes to create this project. I have to thank my crew endlessly for their dedication and energy they put forth towards the project. They are not being paid; it is exhausting to be on a set for 12 plus hour days with minimal breaks and intense labor. They do it because they love the film and the message we are sending out. I could not do this without them.

Biggest disappointment: Well, there have been a lot. Like with any set, things don’t always go to plan –documentaries in particular. You can’t always plan for what will happen. One of my biggest disappointments was when we were not able to make a trip to see a 2-day show that we were looking forward to. Issues came up and I could not plan a trip around some of the complications. We were disappointed but the biggest setback was the negativity and insults we received from that group for not making the journey.

The most rewarding part: Is having the opportunity to create this film! I have never seen so much passion and love before. Everyone that I have met has such devotion towards thoroughbreds. The people who dedicate their lives to OTTBs deserve a chance to be recognized. It has been truly amazing and a humbling experience.

I also was fortunate enough to have the chance to create Albie. Albie is one of the stories from our trips. It revolves around a woman, Lori, who has had multiple brain surgeries and an off the track thoroughbred, Albie. Together they have helped heal each other’s emotional, mental and physical ailments and create an unbreakable bond.

TG: What is something that would surprise the average person about what goes into making a documentary? What is the most important quality for the director of a documentary to possess?

KC: It is a lot of work, stressful, very expensive and life-consuming but completely worth it. Documentary filmmaking is art, entertainment and information all in the form of a picture. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a documentary filmmaker. It is your choice to create an accurate story and/or depiction of your subject matter.

As a young director, I still have an endless education and learning experiences ahead of me that will probably sculpt this answer better than what I am about to say now. I believe the most important quality for a director of a documentary to possess is passion. You cannot create a work of love without a true passion for the subject matter as well as filmmaking as a whole.

Lori White on Albie, with Suzanne Liscouski
on location at Briar Creek Farm in Virginia.
TG: What is the ultimate result that you would like to see accomplished as result of making this film?

KC: Our goal is to promote aftercare for off the track thoroughbreds once their racing careers are over, promote responsible horse ownership and breeding, secure a unified racing government that has universal regulations for all racing states, support regulations on drugs in racing, showcase off the track thoroughbreds as versatile horses for any and all disciplines after their track days are over and support the organizations who care for off the track thoroughbreds and give them second careers and/or homes.

Thoroughbreds are wonderful, athletic, intelligent, caring, brave, powerful and beautiful creatures. I am dedicating my life to this film in the hopes of creating a difference for them. I owe Jake everything, for his love and support as my best friend and riding partner for half my life. This film was started because of him and every time I get discouraged, I think about him and how much he means to me. All off the track thoroughbreds deserve a second chance and a second life beyond the track. There are so many organizations and professionals who deserve to be recognized for their dedication to the sport and to thoroughbred aftercare.

I support thoroughbreds on and off the track and I hope this film makes a difference in the future of the sport of kings. It is time to get thoroughbred racing and off the track thoroughbreds back on track.

Our day on and off the set of Back On Track left us totally impressed with the
Lola. Original drawing by Casey Brister.

competence, integrity, focus and passion of the young filmmakers who had graced our backyard farm gates. As we parted company, we were left with a feeling of warmth and confidence that the future of Off-Track Thoroughbreds has been gifted with some very talented and concerned advocates.

It is said that people are opinions and horses are the truth. Back On Track, ultimately, is about the horses.

Learn more about Back On Track:

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