You probably know him as the grumpy small-town doctor on the hit PBS/ITV series "Doc Martin". He has to be the most disagreeable character on television...and one of the funniest.
But people in Great Britain are getting to know him as their president--of the British Horse Society, that is. And his neighbors in Dorset have been known to ride their ponies in his flat field. In fact, he invites them over.
He's British actor Martin Clunes, but he's quickly becoming one of the world's favorite celebrity horsemen. And he's doing it by doing all the right things, the right way.
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Martin Clunes and wife Philippa discuss the ponies they brought home in this RSPCA adoption video
People's first hint that Martin Clunes had a soft spot for horses was his starring role in the documentary series "Horse Power", which aired on PBS in the United States. He traveled the world, exploring the relationship between humans and horses.
Mongolia? Arabia? Italy? Clunes managed to visit many of the horse world's hot spots, and even made it to the wild west of the United States.
But for once, the actor wasn't acting. He had a personal interest in the role. He was thinking about his horses back home.
When Clunes was named president of the British Horse Society last year, the world did a double take. A celebrity, yes. But not a celebrity known for great achievements in the show ring or out of cross country.
Martin Clunes doesn't own a champion warmblood or racehorse. He prefers the little guys--adopted ponies--and the big guys, like his two young Clydesdales.
His adopted ponies, in fact, are from the herd of neglected horses rescued by law enforcement in 2008 from a horse dealer in the town of "Amersham". It was the largest group of abused horses ever confiscated, and required a combined effort of several charities and the British government. Two of the Amersham ponies now live with Martin and Philippa in Dorset.
Would Clunes be able to hold his own in the heady company of British equestrians? He's hardly going to be in the ribbons at Hickstead or Olympia, but he just might be the one handing out the ribbons.
Martin Clunes simply refuses to be anyone but himself, and refuses to act anything but amazed at the horse world around him, regardless of how high brow or how working class the horses may be. He continually apologizes for his riding, and in an equally surprising move, refuses to hold the horse world at an arm's length.
In fact, he invites them all to his farm in Dorset each summer. If you're there at just the right time, you might even see him lead his young Clydesdale, Bruce into the ring, where he lines up with the others. This year, he took home first prize.
"This Buckham Down Fair and Show of his is so popular, it causes havoc on the Dorset roads for a day!" wrote The Jurga Report's friend Jen, who is always busy photographing the "dog" part of the show for her Doggone Images.
"He's wonderful with the public, spending his time between judging and being part of the events and displays, chatting with folks and having his pic taken with fans," she continued. "He makes it a very special day out and raises incredible amounts for charity at the same time."
What's next for Martin Clunes? He was last seen in Italy, in a horse-powered vineyard. He's begun filming a documentary on the work that heavy horses can--and do--do around the world.
The PBS show, Doc Martin, starring Martin Clunes, premiered its new season last week. Horses have never been seen on the show, which is shot in a picturesque fishing village in Cornwall, England. Pigs and sheep and chickens have been written into the story, but not horses.
But you never know what direction the quirky storylines of the show might take next, so keep watching!
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And just to show that he is a horse owner just like the rest of us, watch what happened when he dared to venture into a round pen with Monty Roberts: would he be able to "join up" with his (then) 11-month-old Clydesdale, or would he just manage to make the crowd laugh?
You're right, they laughed. But they laughed with him, not at him, because he was "acting" just like a real horseowner.