Since Yellowstone premiered in 2018, Taylor Sheridan’s TV Western empire has had us in a chokehold. The sweeping Dutton saga is a frequent topic of conversation around the Equine Network (Beth said what? Elsa’s going where? Was that Tom Hanks?! It was.) and we may or may not have season premiere dates noted in company calendars.
This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through one of the links, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Sheridan’s 1883—the prequel to Yellowstone, telling of the Dutton family’s perilous journey to Montana—is an office favorite, and for good reason. The cinematography is stunning, the storytelling is deeply compelling, and the acting is superb. But perhaps more importantly for viewers who know history and horsemanship, 1883 delivers an accurate portrayal on both accounts. (You won’t be rolling your eyes at horses whinnying non-stop or cringing at the word “lasso.” Sheridan’s Western bona-fides make sure of that.)
Here are five things the series got right—and one thing they didn’t:
1) The cast can actually ride, and the horses act like horses.
The silver screen has a long track record of not quite understanding horses or horsemanship. How often have we seen movie equines rear—excessively—at the slightest provocation or heard a cowboy yell “HI-YA” before galloping off into the distance? And while some of the more nuanced faux pas might have escaped the scrutiny of editors, by and large, the portrayal of horses and riding in 1883 is pretty spot-on. In large part, this is due to Sheridan’s Cowboy Camp, a multi-week crash course in horseback riding, roping, herding cattle, and driving wagons.
A stickler for accuracy, Sheridan, who’s notably said he’s a documentary filmmaker who just happened to write a script—has a keen eye for tack and gear. You won’t find any specialized performance saddles on set, but you will find plenty of period-appropriate Mother Hubbards, McLellans, double-cinch rigs, and cavalry headstalls.
“I’ve got saddle makers, one out of Utah and another out of Wyoming, making us tack that is a perfect replica of the tack that was from the 1860s and ’70s,” Sheridan said in an interview with AQHA. “I’ve learned a lot about that, about the headgear and, obviously, the bits were different and a lot more simple. There was a lot of debate about grazing bits, and you’ll see us ride a lot in bosals and hackamores.”
3) Cowboys were hired to play cowboys.
James Landry Hébert, who played cowboy Wade, doesn’t just play a cowboy on TV; he embodies the lifestyle in his everyday life, too. When he isn’t on set acting, the Louisiana native works as a ranch hand outside of Los Angeles, California. Horse&Rider caught up with Hébert for episode 69 of The Ride to talk horses, all about Cowboy Camp, roping on…a warmblood?, and much more.
Alex Fine, who played Grady, a drover who helps Shea (Sam Elliott) round up some Longhorns, might not be a born cowboy, but his cattle-handling skills had us convinced he was raised in the saddle. The personal trainer and actor does, however, dabble in bull riding—a sport he got into after a bet with one of his clients. He cut his teeth at Gary Leffew’s Bull Riding School and has said he’ll continue to do it until he gets a buckle.
5. The show is now conveniently on Sling TV.
Starting June 18, fans can stream 1883 on Sling TV! As horse owners, we’re constantly looking for ways to save some money, and Sling TV allows access to all our favorite shows and live TV for much less than other platforms that offer similar packages. Plus, we love the flexible channel options and no long-term contracts. And there’s currently an extra-special new offer: new subscribers can get a FREE month of the Entertainment Extra (which includes the Paramount Network, CMT and more) which can be combined with Sling’s half-off your first month offer. The more you save on entertainment, the more you can spend on horses!Watch “1883” Today on Sling TV
6. And the one thing they didn’t…
The critically acclaimed series has amassed plenty of accolades (including the industry-favorite Western Heritage Award), but there’s one small detail that causes even the most passionate fans to raise an eyebrow: the anachronistically straight, white teeth of the actors. Dental hygiene in the 19th century—particularly along the frontier—was perhaps not conducive to brilliant smiles. But considering the show gets so many things right, and is one of the most enjoyable neo-Westerns streaming today, we’re more than willing to forgive the small oversight.