The Insider’s Look at Making an Award Winning DVD
by CH Staff Writer

The Insider’s Look at Making an Award Winning DVD 
by CH Staff Writer

Advanced Equine Studies award winning DVD, The Horse’s Respiratory System, wowed the judges at the 2015 EQUUS Film Festival and won Best Educational Program. This DVD provides a detailed college level learning experience for the viewer and the award was well earned.

The production house Mouse Hole Farm Productions developed this program following their idea of a fun to watch and learn show along the lines of The Discovery Channel programming. Mouse Hole Farm Productions is the brain child of lifelong amateur rider and devoted horse owner, Andrea Steele, and her husband Willis, an IT specialist and creative talent. Andrea is the organizational guru that brings the project from birth to finish and spoke about her inspiration for the production company and their mission.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to help trainer Mark Russell write his book Lessons in Lightness: The Art of Educating the Horse. It was the process of writing and working with Mark that got me interested in video production. We wanted to follow the book with a series of DVDs, but I knew nothing about it. When I looked into it what it would take to hire people to produce a video, it was immediately clear that in order to get the final product I wanted, the only way was to do it myself.

My husband and I went to school to learn. Willis concentrated on videography and technology, [and] while my background outside of horses was finance and management, I used those skills for creating programming and learned the video editing process. Along the way we have built a good team of consultants to cover all the bases.

Our first DVD Riding with Chi: Your Pathway to Energy Mastery came out in 2009. It was the perfect small project to get us started and gave us time to really learn the business of bringing an idea to market.

During that process I came up with the concept of Advanced Equine Studies as a way to better educate riders and equine caregivers. We could empower people of any age to have a college-level learning experience on any given equine topic in the convenience of their home. In 2014, we launched the first DVD in the Advanced Equine Studies series, The Horse’s Respiratory System. The second program, Saddle Fit for Horse and Rider will be released June 2016 and we have several more topics in various stages of production.

When asked who had been the most inspirational in her journey, Andrea named Mark Russell, author of the highly regarded book, Lessons in Lightness.

The Horse’s Respiratory SystemTrainer Mark Russell has always been my inspiration to ride and care for horses at a higher, more compassionate level. In 2015 we were able to work with Mark on a DVD that is an extension of his Lessons in Lightness book. We will be doing another DVD with him later this year,” Andrea explained.

The Lessons in Lightness DVD has received good reviews, as has Riding with Chi, and the award winning 3 DVD set The Horse’s Respiratory System. Mouse Hole Productions markets the DVDs directly though their own website at in addition to tack stores such as; The Horse Studio is also a part of the review team for Mouse Hole Productions, and looks at draft copies of the DVD and makes edit suggestions.

Andrea explained what is involved in the process of making a DVD:

You have to have a lot of organization skills to bring everything together. It starts with a concept that you think you can turn into an interesting program for people to watch and learn from. The concept leads to developing a storyboard for the program. You then go on to finding the right on-camera professionals to present the program. Scheduling video shoots is always difficult because you have bring a lot of busy people together at the same time – the most difficult part of my job! Once the video is ‘in the can,’ to use an old term, I start the editing process. I try not to stray from the original storyboard but there is always new information that comes up and getting everything to fit into a cohesive order in the educational process is not always easy. I have a few people to look at drafts as I go along so the final DVD can be the best we can make it. (Thank you!).

As with undertaking any project, there are obstacles to be overcome and special moments that happen during the process. Andrea shared a few experiences that came her way during the making of The Horse’s Respiratory System.

I would say the most special moment was the first meeting I had with Dr. Melissa Mazan and Dr. Mary Rose Paradis at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. They agreed to listen to my proposal on the respiratory program. We pull a few chairs together in the lung function lab and I just started talking about my vision for the Advanced Equine Studies programming. When the presentation ended I remember sitting back and thinking, I can’t believe I’m here talking with veterinarians that are amongst the best in the country! Tufts came onboard right away. They were thrilled with the way the respiratory project went and agreed to more programs in the future. I might add that they have never been involved in projects like this before so I feel fortunate to have the doctors see the value in what we are doing. The biggest obstacle was and still is getting people to talk to me. I have all these programming ideas in my head, I research professionals that are authorities on each topic, and then comes the hard part—getting someone to take my call or return my calls or emails. Hopefully as we get more programs out that will change.

The quality of the information provided in The Horse’s Respiratory System is indeed a college level class and goes further than any other DVD we have seen in detailing the subject. Being nominated for the prestigious Equus Film Festival is not easy. Lisa Dierson is the woman behind the festival and she has her own process to finding candidates in about 25 different genres, from music videos to shorts and feature films; she looks for those who artistically pay homage to the horse and where the horse plays center stage. Andrea explained that Lisa found their DVD through the internet and hopes that Mouse Hole Productions will now stay on her radar for this year’s nominations.

For Andrea, her husband Willis, and the production team, their plans to attend the Equus Film Festival did not go quite as smoothly as anticipated.

Andrea and YodaThe festival is held in NYC each fall and we planned for Advanced Equine Studies associates to join my husband (and our videographer) and myself each day. But, as luck would have it, there was a flu virus making the rounds and everyone was quite sick, including me. Willis and I were at the festival on our own all three days. I had a bottle of cold medicine in my bag just to keep functioning. There was a part of the festival with tables for filmmakers with the films playing around the clock in a five-theater complex next door. In my compromised state I misread the play time of our DVD so I missed seeing it on the big screen! It is really a good set up for the public to plan on what they want to see then walk around the exhibitor area to talk with people behind the productions. There were filmmakers, authors, and artists from all over the world.

Mouse Hole Farm Productions is not resting on its laurels and they have several projects in various stages of development.

Saddle Fit for Horse and Rider will be out by June 2016. Rehabbing from Sports Injuries may be coming under contract soon. Pre-purchase Exams has been in the works for a while and should take center stage in 2016. We are researching an internal parasite program that will teach viewers how to do fecal testing on their horses to make deworming very individual to each horse’s needs. Then we want to get back to the horse’s bodily systems, we are just not sure which one yet.