Partly Cloudy Full Forecast

Renshaw Rescued Horses Story Basis for New TV Movie

By 250 News

Thursday, March 01, 2012 04:00 AM


Left, Actors  Aiden Quinn and Mackenzie Porter  with the movie horses -courtesy CTV, , while at right, the "real" Sundance is lead by a rescuer through the kilometer long trench to safety - photo opinion250 archive
Prince George, B.C.- The story of Belle and Sundance is the basis of a two hour made for TV movie   that is under production in Calgary.
"Horses of McBride",   was inspired by the story of Belle and Sundance, two horses found abandoned in the Renshaw recreation  area near McBride in December of 2008.
You may recall, the two animals were near starvation and death, but members of the community of McBride  got together and  shovelled a kilometer long path through 7 foot deep snow, to walk the animals to safety, and eventually to their new homes. The people who saved the horses braved minus 40 degree weather to rescue the animals.
The movie that is   being produced doesn’t hold tight to all the facts about the “real” horses of McBride.
According to a news release from CTV , the movie is about “cowboy-outfitter Matt Davidson (Aiden Quinn) has decided to sell his family ranch and find work in the city. His daughter Nicki (Mackenzie Porter), who dreams of being a guide with her dad, is shocked and angry. It’s late December when two starving horses are discovered high up on the Rockies trapped in a prison of snow more than 30 miles from any road. After seeing the spirit in their eye, Nicki commits to getting them off the mountain – somehow. With no other options, she picks up a shovel and starts to dig out the mile long path of deep snow, inspiring her father, family and an entire community to pitch in.”
"The movie being shot  now,  really doesn't have anything to  do with what really happened" says Birgit Stutz, one of the people who was  involved  in the  rescue of Belle and Sundance.  "The only similarities are that the new movie has two horses in it,  and  some  people dig a trench.  It's  sort  of like the  "Heartland Christmas" ( which aired on the CBC Dec.12 2010)  show which  had a similar theme, but  neither one  tells the real story."
Birgit has written a book about the real rescue "The  Rescue of Belle and Sundance -  Miracle on Mount Renshaw" which  is in paper back release in Canada,  about to be  released in the U.S. and soon to be released in Australia.  The movie rights to the real rescue story   have been optioned to Big Coat Productions.
In reality, the horses had been left behind by their owner, (Edmonton lawyer Frank McKay) who was later charged and plead guilty to a single count of Causing an animal to be in distress or continue to be in distress. Two Criminal Code charges,( cruelty to animals and  cause unnecessary  pain/suffering to an animal) were stayed.
McKay was ordered to pay a$1,000 fine, pay a$150 dollar victim surcharge, and restitution to the SPCA of $5,910.16. Since the guilty plea was for a charge in B.C., he was also ordered   not to be allowed to own any animals in B.C. for two years. That time limit has now passed. McKay was also given one year probation,  had to undergo counselling , and his statement which was read in court, had to be published twice in the   Robson Valley Sentinel.
As for Belle and Sundance, both made full recoveries and were adopted out to new homes.
Below, left, Belle as she was found in the Renshaw in December 2008, at right,  Belle in the spring of 2010 after a year of tender loving care, photos, Opinion250 archive
Principle photography is underway now in and around Calgary  (Moose Mountain in Alberta) and will continue through to March 16th.
The film makers  have cast two “rescued” horses for the movie. Working with the SPCA, the film makers have a  mare named  "Lady",  who was rescued near Cochrane, Alberta and a gelding named "Slim" who was rescued near Penticton, B.C. as their equine stars.

Writer and director of the film is Anne Wheeler.  “There was a great deal on the line, not only for the horses, but for the family and a town facing profound change”  says Wheeler “But shoveling a path over a mile long to save two starving horses says a lot about what these people are made of. I am grateful to have this opportunity to tell their story.”

In the real story, the folks who rescued Belle and Sundance, were officially recognized by then Premier Gordon Campbell for their heroics.

(at right,  the  real life heroes of the  story of Belle and Sundance, l-r  Joseph Rich, Deputy Premier Shirley Bond,  behind her are David Jeck, Ray Long, Rod Whelpton, Premier Campbell, Birgit Stutz and Marc Lavigne photo- opinion250 archive)

CTV has not indicated when the movie will be aired on TV.

Previous Story - Next Story

Return to Home


What did bond or campbell have to do with it? What a BS photo op. A politician will use any excuse to take credit where credit is NOT due.
Agreed. How dare they take part in that photo, showing their support and recognition of the people they represent! What do politician's have to do with communities anyways? Look at Bond and Campbell looking all smug beside the rescue workers. Like they want to feel supported by our Provincial leaders?! It's so selfish of Bond and Campbell to take time out of their busy day just to shake hands and meet the people who saved these horses. GRRRRR... politicians are soooo sneaky! If only politicians didn't support communities grouping together for a great cause!... think of how good the world would be.
beat me to it tazed - lol
I am saddened to hear that the movie will not tell the real story. I recently did quite a bit of research on the rescue, and have used it as a teaching module for one of my programs. All I can say about those of you who risked it all for those horses is RESPECT! It's good to know there are still people like you in the world. Sometimes I wonder .... I do love the updated picture of Belle in this article. She looks great! I may watch the movie when it comes out ... curiousity and all .... but I will know the true story behind it and think fondly of the rescuers and those who supported them.
tazed interceptor spoken like a true liberal zombie.
pcolbourne, please watch the CTV movie this fall before you get too worked up. This media outlet hasn't read the script and is forming an opinion based on the recollection of a woman who wasn't chosen as the centre of the story. There were many heros in McBride that Christmas including Belle and Sundance.