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Saturday, January 14, 2012

War Horse Farrier: Lights, Camera, Hoofcare! Who Shod Joey?

Enjoy this Hoof Blog audio interview with War Horse location off-screen and on-screen 
farrier Brendan Murray, thanks to Samantha Clark and War Horse News. You might want to read 
the text before you watch the "video".

Napoleon once said that an army moves on its stomach. But the cavalry moves on its hooves, and it took an army of farriers--called "shoeing smiths" by the British military--to keep the horses moving in World War I.

But what about a film crew? And what about the production of Steven Spielberg's film War Horse in England in 2011?

Does Hollywood understand the role of the farrier in the big picture of horse moviemaking? Just try making a movie without one.

DreamWorks Pictures learned the importance of a farrier, especially when Roger, a plow-horse double for star horse Joey, kept stepping on (and thereby pulling off) his shoes in the furrow.

"Cut!" "Get the farrier up here!" "Where's the farrier?"

Stills from the farrier's forge scene are hard to find. Here you can see some horseshoes hanging on racks. It's interesting to note that there is very little mention of farriers in the original book except for Private Warren, a farrier apprentice who replaces Captain Nicholls in Joey's saddle. He's a bad rider which isn't good for a horse on a long march, but he takes very good care of him and knows more about horses than the others. The entire ending of the book features a veterinarian in a fantastic description of a horse hospital but the vet and all that went on in the hospital was deleted from the film. (DreamWorks photo)

In the case of this well-seasoned location farrier, he might have been in the makeup trailer, or having his apron smeared with mud to match the horse he'd be shoeing.

Or maybe he'd be explaining to the wardrobe mistress that split aprons designated an employee or apprentice farrier and that he'd prefer an unsplit master's apron with the customary fringed bottom to wipe the face of the anvil. He'd notice that she's taking notes for her next horse film.

You get the picture: not only did the farrier have to keep putting shoes back on in the midst of many shoots that were mired in mud, he had to step in front of the camera, too. Director Spielberg put location farrier Brendan Murray to work in the forge in the smoky shoeing scene; he and his apprentice are hard at work in the crucial background shots where Joey meets Topthorn while waiting to be shod.

You'll hear all about it in this interview with Great Britain's international eventing team farrier Brendan Murray, a seasoned veteran of both shoeing and riding for film productions!

Brendan was interviewed by Lexington, Kentucky's freelance equestrian media pro Samantha L. Clark of and many other audio, video and web projects for the horse world.   

Brendan Murray
British eventing team farrier Brendan Murray "kitted out" for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. (Photo links to Brendan's Zimbio page)
About Brendan Murray 
Brendan has been associated as eventing team farrier with the British Equestrian Federation and Team GBR for many years. He has served at five Olympic Games, three World Equestrian Games, and many European championships. He was flag bearer for Great Britain and led his country into the arena in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 WEG in Kentucky, as chosen by the athletes.

Brendan is retired as a farrier in the British military's esteemed King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery; among his duties was serving as brakeman for the gun carriage loaded with the casket of Princess Diana at her funeral in 1997. Brendan's film on-screen credits include Gladiator, Robin Hood and 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman.

You might enjoy a video interview by Samantha Clark with Brendan at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

About Samantha Clark

Who is she? Then: eventer, NPR news anchor, and (most recently) co-host of the 2010 Radio Show about the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Now: armed with social media, camera, video and a smart phone, she knows no bounds. 

Samantha says of herself: "I'm thrilled to have my blog on as an excuse to pursue an incurable curiosity about anything to do with horses (especially eventing), satisfy my wanderlust and aid in my determination to cling to my English roots. I'm often accompanied by two small children--sometimes helpful, sometimes a hindrance--and almost always by a beautiful, black Labrador who is perfect company!" 

Samantha's blog is a must-read on the web and she is equally a must-follow on Twitter: @samanthalclark for great horse tweets from Kentucky and the eventing world.

More about Samantha Clark

Story, video and audio © Hoofcare Publishing, all rights reserved. 
Still images in video © DreamWorks Pictures and Disney Studios.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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