In 2008 Alexandra was commissioned by BBC2 to present the series ‘Horse People with Alexandra Tolstoy’, where she travelled to Siberia, Spain and America to visit societies that revolve around horses and experience their lives.
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A passionate horse rider and adventurer, Alexandra explores very different cultures around the world that all depend on and share a deep love of the horse.
In Episode 1, ‘Siberia’, Alexandra spends three weeks living with a group of herders, whose long-haired Yakut horses are specially bred to survive the extreme cold. The horse herders live in basic huts in sub-zero temperatures. Their lives revolve around looking after their horses. While they care for them, ultimately they breed them for food. Alexandra has to face up to the brutal reality of how they butcher their horses, which later up on the dinner plate.
The programme is a remarkable window into a world seldom seen on camera. Alexandra helps prepare horse intestines for tea, but also enjoys riding through snow-covered forests checking the traps for hares and wolves. She discovers the community’s belief in horse spirits as she shares in their ceremonies and daily routines.
In Episode Two, ‘Andalucia’, Alexandra Tolstoy journeys to the area around Jerez in Andalucia, where she discovers a world behind the tourist image of Spain. She has a lesson in dressage technique, which she says is the best hour she has ever had horseriding, and meets a family who excel in fighting bulls from horseback. Alexandra also learns how artificial insemination and even surrogate motherhood are now used in horse breeding.
At the Jerez horsefair, she finds herself transformed into a true Spanish lady and finally she undertakes a remarkable horseback religious pilgrimage. The culture Alexandra finds is proud, colourful and traditional – yet full of surprises.
Episode 3 is set in Montana, a classic ‘cowboys and Indians’ country. Alexandra sets off to explore the vibrant horse culture of this area and finds that both communities still share a passion for the horse. She lives on a ranch with a cowboy family and joins in the daily tasks including rounding up and branding cattle, and breaking in horses.
Native American Kenny introduces her to bareback riding and the fast and furious world of Indian relay racing. She arrives in time for the Crow Fair – the largest gathering of Native American peoples – and finally faces up to the challenge of taking part in a professional rodeo.
The series was filmed and produced by Wayne Derrick who has won a BAFTA award for his camerawork on the series Tribe.