Martin Clunes: Heavy Horsepower – Review


Martin Clunes: Heavy Horsepower

ITV, 9pm, Thursday 7 February 2013

Some years ago, around 2005, an advert for a magazine called “I Love Horsesâ€? began airing incessantly on television. “I love horses,â€? chimed its merry little jingle. “Best of all the animals. I love horses. They’re my friends!â€?

I mention this not merely because that tune has relentlessly been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it, but also because I suspect that Martin Clunes might be a subscriber to that particular magazine. You see, apparently he loves horses: they’re his friends. He loves them so much in fact that back in 2010, after fulfilling his yearly quota of Doc Martin episodes, ITV gave Clunes his very own two-part series called Martin Clunes: Horsepower.

It was a snappy title that was always guaranteed to attract viewers who had mistakenly tuned in expecting to watch Martin Clunes test-driving powerful cars. Seemingly the idea was to lure them in with the prospect of noisy engines and then astonish them so abundantly with exciting horse action that they couldn’t help but stick around for episode two.

Well, it must have worked, because Martin’s back with a special follow up instalment, Heavy Horsepower, in which he looks at the important role of the world’s working horses as he begins training his own beloved Clydesdales to work on his farm in Dorset.

Their names are Ronnie and Bruce, and at two-years-old Martin tells us, they’re like having lovely but slightly naughty teenagers who are now ready to be put to work. As he puts them through their paces, Clunes travels across Europe and to America to discover how working horses are being used in the modern world.

One highlight of the programme features horses trawling for prawns off the coast of Belgium, and there are many suggestions from Martin that specimens like his Clydesdales are a more effective and environmentally friendly alternative to using machines.

Essentially the programme is a love letter to man’s best slave, which perhaps also means that it appeals to quite a niche demographic, as it requires viewers to like both Martin Clunes and horses—unless I’m missing something and the two, inexplicably, go hand in hand.

It’s nevertheless difficult to fault Clunes’ presenting style, regardless of what you might make of the subject matter. He’s terrifically endearing and nobody can really deny that he has a tremendous passion for horses, even if the idea of the star of Men Behaving Badly presenting such a programme seems a little surreal at first, which it does.

Whether horses are indeed the best of all the animals, it’s hard to say. Personally, I can’t claim to really love horses the same way Martin does, although I can certainly tolerate them, as I do all the animals (apart from the chaffinch). But if Martin wants us to consider the possibility of using horses instead of energy consuming
machinery, then I’m willing to listen.