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Part of Claude Miller's herd of nearly 300 horses, almost all of them broke to ride.

Movie Stars
Miller horses on the big screen

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When “John Carter,” a new science fiction film based on the fantasy adventure novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, opens in theaters March 9 some locals will be paying special attention to the first 15 minutes, which feature horses belonging to the valley’s Claude Miller.

Filmed by Walt Disney Studios, John Carter is about a war-weary Civil War captain who accidentally is transported to Barsoom, a Mars-like planet where he takes on some really tough and weird looking hombres who ride fearsome looking creatures. The film stars Taylor Kitsch as John Carter as well as Willem Dafoe and Lynn Collins.

Claude Miller in Warden, WA, where his horses are gathered before being moved to one of 16 youth camps in the state . . . or to a movie shoot.

And exactly how was Claude Miller, lifelong Methow Valley resident, discovered by Hollywood? Miller says Bill Lawrence, who was a horse trainer for “War Horse,” the Oscar-nominated Steven Spielberg movie, “is kind of a family friend.” Some time back Lawrence rented a mule from Miller to use in a coffee advertisement, and then “he came down to Warden and saw the horses.”

Seeing close to 300 horses, almost all broke to ride, apparently impressed horse trainer Lawrence. Miller confirms when asked that his is the largest herd of saddle horses in the state and probably for quite a ways beyond. (He knows of a “dude outfit” in Wyoming with a larger herd, and says there are larger herds of wild horses and bucking horses.) But most of Miller’s animals spend their summer at 16 youth camps – Girl Scout and others – stretching from the San Juan Islands south into Oregon, so they have to be gentle.

Local wrangler Aaron Hammer, 22, a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and a darn good bull rider, got to travel with the horses to the “John Carter” filming location. Hammer also makes a cameo appearance on screen.

Claude and a trusty companion moving the herd.

Says Miller: “The good news is he got to be in the movie. The bad news is he was killed in the first three minutes.”

Alas, neither Hammer nor the horses made the trailer, which can be seen at disney.go.com/johncarter.

2/20/2012


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Wow! Are Beaver and Crazy Horse in the herd?

Lynette Westendorf

Winthrop