Octavia Pollock visits Camilla Naprous of The Devil’s Horsemen to find out more about the horses they train for film.
Budding Hollywood stars dream of the kind of career Dante has had. ‘He’s done 26 different shows, from Wonder Woman to Lloyd’s Bank campaigns,’ reveals Camilla Naprous of The Devil’s Horsemen, stunt riders and suppliers of horses to the film world.
The 20-year-old Lusitano stallion is one of the oldest of the 100-odd horses at the Buckinghamshire stud founded by Camilla’s father, Gerard. At 16.3hh, he’s the favourite horse of her 6ft 5in brother, Daniel, and recently appeared in Game of Thrones with 6ft 6in warrior The Hound. Foaled in Portugal, he was broken in aged three and the Naprouses began work with him at five. ‘We like a horse to be a horse, so we don’t start too early. We wait until they perform correctly in their body and build things up at a steady pace.’
The stallion has had a typically varied career. ‘We train them to ride, drive [Daniel has represented Britain in carriage-driving] and do liberty work so they’re not bored. We let them choose their own path. Some change jobs, too.’ Dante even does classical dressage: ‘My brother trained him and he’s like a Ferrari to ride.’
He is now an actor’s horse, which takes years of work. ‘You need them quiet, but not too quiet, not dead to the leg. They need to perform on screen, to make each other look good. The most important thing is a sensible mind that can cope with anything happening around it and not react’. Safety is paramount, however: ‘We’re the voice of the horse.’
Each job begins with a script, then a discussion with the director about what’s possible. ‘I like to reinvent the wheel,’ explains choreographer Camilla. ‘In Game of Thrones, we did a Dothraki charge with 30 riders standing up in the saddle.’ In the BBC’s Gentleman Jack, international carriage driver Karen Bassett, as Suranne Jones’s stunt double, drove a team at speed through narrow streets.
‘Dante has no quirks – he’s not allowed to spook – but he is hormonal for an old man!’ He’s still a star, nonetheless: look out for him next in The Crown.
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