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Look Out 'Babe,' Little Horse Has Big Movie Plans

March 02, 1997|COLL METCALFE

When movie crews head to Ventura County in April to shoot a new feature film, they'd be well advised not to forget to bring plenty of alfalfa pellets.

That's because the star, a hoofed "actor" named Ragtime, is an American miniature horse who has a penchant for not only the fragrant fodder but also carrots, apples and even Pepsi.

The 29-inch-tall Ragtime, who made headlines across the globe 10 years ago when the city of Thousand Oaks took his owner to court to have him booted out because city officials considered him livestock, will play the lead role in the tentatively titled "Abduction of Ragtime."

The movie, which will be shot entirely in the bucolic hinterlands of Ventura County, was written by veteran film director William Hillman and will follow the adventures of Ragtime and sidekick Taylor, a 1-year-old sheltie, after their kidnapping.

Everyone involved in the project is hoping that Ragtime will be the next fur-covered superstar.

"Watch out, Lassie," advised the starring steed's owner, Patty Fairchild. "Ragtime's going to be a hit."

Fairchild, an animal trainer who now lives in Simi Valley, said Ragtime has all the qualities that will endear him to moviegoers.

Although this will be Ragtime's first feature film, he is no stranger to show business. He has appeared on numerous television shows including "Hollywood Squares," "A Current Affair" and "Lassie."

In addition to his diminutive, toylike stature, the 11-year-old horse knows more kitschy tricks, or as Fairchild says, behaviors, than many other species-bending actors. In addition to the standard repertoire of sit and stay, Ragtime can also open refrigerators, untie shoelaces, head-butt and even slam-dunk a basketball.

"I just fell in love with him," said Hillman, who works out of his Oxnard-based production company, Twin Trees. "He knows so many tricks that he'll definitely be popular."

The film, which will open later this year, is independently financed by a group of investors and will be sold, Hillman hopes, to a large studio for distribution.

Hillman expects that the family-oriented film will achieve the same crossover success that made "Babe" a smash.

"It's a wonderful story," he said. "It has the same kind of quality of 'E.T.' or 'Babe.'

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