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Shadowfax and Other Famous Horses Tehanu

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The moment I saw the poster that’s all over Auckland advertising Carmen and featuring the famous dancing horses from Andalusia, I knew what kind of horse Shadowfax must be. No other breed would be so perfect for Shadowfax.

Photography used with permission from the Iberian Horse Source

What are Andalusians? They’re like a kind of Arab horse, often silver-grey in colour, with delicate faces, huge dark-rimmed eyes and long flowing manes and tails, but above anything else they’re famous for being trained to dance, or so it appears. They can seem to move in slow motion, or mark time in place or prance or curvette or rear at a word of command. They are fearless, intelligent and beautiful both still and in motion.

They are the ideal horse for film work, I thought, and when I rang around it appeared that this was so. A number of horses that had been used in The Lord of the Rings were offered for sale recently under conditions of extreme (but not extreme enough) secrecy, and two of them were Andalusians.

The two Andalusians sold were a silver grey and a bay, and they were both ‘main character’ horses. The was certainly Shadowfax. Or a Shadowfax:: three of the other horses sold played one ‘character’ at different times, and it seems to me that Sir Ian is hardly done with riding yet, so there may be more than one Shadowfax as well. (Sir Ian’s riding like, well, like a White Rider, according to those who’ve seen him.)

[ShadowFax?] [ShadowFax?]
Photography used with permission from the Iberian Horse Source

Who was the bay Andalusian? I’m guessing it was Legolas’ horse Arod — unless somebody can contradict me. Though most of the horses of Rohan were grey, it nowhere says they all were. In any case, this horse can bow and lie down on command, among other things. Given that Legolas rides without bit or bridle, the horse that plays Arod would have to be that highly trained. We know that the horses bow their heads to Gandalf when he addresses them, too. I imagine that if one of the other ‘character’ horses needs three different animals to play his role, then it’s a complex part.

I think these films will be a treat for horse-lovers.

There were a number of black horses for sale too. Evidently the Nine are done with their steeds, or most of them. I couldn’t discover what kind they were – Arabs at a guess, but I was told that it could be difficult to find so many black horses with the right qualities in that breed, so that remains unproven.

[ Other Horses ] [ Other Horses ]
Photography used with permission from the Iberian Horse Source

I asked whether horses were ever asked to do cruel or impossible things in filmwork. Apparently sometimes that’s in the script, but the horsetrainers get to see those things ahead of time in the script meetings and suggest better ways of doing things.

Since filming was completed, some of the riders and horse wranglers from the LOTR films have started running shows where people can see the LOTR movie horses, learn about them, and see them in action. You can learn more at Movie Horses NZ: [More]

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