Friday, May 8, 2009

Movie Magic

Awhile back Pony Girl did a post about horses and the movies.
(incidentally her post was also titled "Movie Magic")
It raised some questions about the equine actors in movies and TV. I knew I had just the source to find the answers, Mr Tim!
Yes the same Mr Tim that we bought Applejack from, the same Mr Tim that I just saw earlier this week for a test ride. Mr Tim is a horse dealer but he also does work as a wrangler or an extra at times (being Saskatchewan there isn't a whole lot of film work here but it does happen) I can't remember what all MT has worked on but two that come to mind are "Texas Rangers" and "The Englishman's Boy".
I hadn't run into him since PG posted those questions but I made sure to ask him while I was there. And what a happy coincidence, he's working on a movie now! He'd just returned from a week of 'movie work' and after getting a few things done at home he was going out for another couple weeks. I even got to look at and page through an honest to goodness real movie script!
Here's some of what I learned:
When there is a scene with horses running hard (whether ridden or loose), is the ground checked beforehand for hazards and to see if it is 'good ground' for work at speed?
That is part of the wrangler's job. They check the ground and make sure it is safe both for the actors and the horses. They make sure it isn't too soft nor too hard. Also most movie horses only run for a very short distance and then the film is looped so it appears they run for a longer distance.
What about a scene where there is, for example, a herd of 'wild' horses running and you see one fall. Is that just an accident that was caught on film and looks good so was put into the movie or was that planned?
That is planned, although it may also happen by accident... just as your own horse may take a tumble running around in its pasture. However horses are still tripped for movies. It is much more humane than it was years ago but it is still done.

A few more things:
Blind driving - in the movie MT is working on right now there is a scene where they need to make it look the team is out of control and running away. As MT says "you just can't turn an actor loose with a team in a dead run!"
So MT is laying in the box of the wagon, just behind the seat, covered by a tarp. There are tiny holes in the front of the wagon box with cables that run up and attach to the crosschecks. MT drives the team with the cables while the actor holds the lines. (I always wondered why there often seems to be a tarp in the wagon! lol)
Hot, sweaty horses - using the above runaway wagon team as an example... how often do you see a movie horses covered in white, frothy sweat? Well that is equine movie makeup. To make the wagon team look like they'd ran hard, and for quite awhile, they had to get them sweaty. In reality there were two takes with the team actually running hard. Both of those were 100-150 feet. My horse is fat and out of shape and even he wouldn't have been that foamy! lol
To get that sweated up look they put Mane & Tail on the horses, mixed with a bit of water so its a but sudsy and voila! Hot, sweaty horse! This team also had the foamed up mouth look. To get that vitamins (C I believe) were mixed with water and the foam was applied around their mouths.
Those western brawls - Most movie horses are pretty used to the commotion on a set. But there are times when it may be just a bit TOO much. For example those fight scenes that take place right around the horses? You know, where the actors practically roll right under the horses... the horses have a little help staying that relaxed. They are doped so they don't hurt anyone or freak out.

So there you have it folks... a little glimpse inside the magic of movies!

ps - all that whinnying? Usually added after for effect or 'character'. Movie horses usually aren't any more vocal than our own horses.


  1. Great post! Yea! Thanks for doing this! Those were some interesting answers. Now I want to visit a movie set with horses and watch it all being done! Although the horse tripping still bothers me, but you can't exactly train a horse to go running then throw itself on the ground. I will probably link you to my site so people can come over and read your post about this! :) Have a great weekend!

  2. Wow, very interesting. I have always wondered about all that too.
    Thanks for finding out all this info for us!

  3. I have always wondered about the things you mentioned! Thanks for getting that info! Crazy to think that in this day and age they get away with tripping horses....
    I guess it is better than it used to be though.

  4. Wow, you do learn something new everyday!

  5. I always wondered about those scenes where a rider pulls up the horse so hard, it is pulled over on its side, as the cowboy jumps off just in time.

    I'm not happy they trip them. Makes me shudder to think of the times that goes wrong. And you know it does.

  6. Cool little insight there! How fun to work on/in a movie like that. LOL about the tarp, now that you mention it, there is always something back there. So how do they trip horses these days?

  7. Great Post !
    Thank you so much for talking to MT and than sahring the information.
    Always something new to learn.
    I have often wondered about the foaming and fretted a bit .
    My hubby the city feller always knows If we watch a mivie and the horse is mistreated than I am going to be emotional for a few days as I vent about it.
    Thank you again for sharing .
    have a blessed weekend.

  8. Intersting..........Awesome info!

  9. That post was so neat! I have often wondered about those types of things, and now I know!! It is good to know it is more humane now....

  10. Very cool! I learned a few new things. Thanks for the inside scoop!



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