Hi Ho, Stars of the Silver Screen!

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A horse named Cloud 10 takes center-screen in this scene from Disney's movie, The Lone Ranger.
A horse named Cloud Ten takes center-screen in this scene from Disney’s movie, The Lone Ranger.

Hi Ho Silver and Away! While the Lone Ranger and Tonto might be the big names in Disney’s latest epic, it is Silver and his side-kick, Scout, who will catch the attention of the average horse owner – thanks to Bobby Lovgren and his helpers.

Lovgren is one of the most experienced horse trainers in the movie industry, was the head trainer on The Lone Ranger.

The South African-born trainer didn’t just work with Silver and Scout. He also had to work with, and make beautiful, their four to six lookalikes – all of whom were geldings.

This was no easy task. Every owner of a horse with a lot of white markings will empathize, knowing what a painstaking and never-ending job staying clean can be.

Bobby Lovgren's training of horses for a string of high profile movies, including War Horse, have delivered some memorable on-screen equine moments. He's pictured here with his own horse, Finder, who starred in War Horse.
Bobby Lovgren’s training of horses for a string of high-profile movies, including War Horse, have delivered some memorable on-screen equine moments. He’s pictured here with his own horse, Finder, who starred in War Horse.

Lovgren said the hardest part of his job was maintaining the appearance of the horses and keeping them looking alike.

“That was the most difficult part. Keeping those white horses clean. It was a nightmare just keeping them clean from scene to scene.

“And there was a lot of pink skin. They sunburn so easily, so there’s a lot of high maintenance – sunscreen, flyspray etc.

“Teaching them to do things was the easy part.”

Lovgren, who was born and lived in South Africa for many years, has been training in the US for about 22 years.

He also trained horses during his time in South Africa, but rates his years in the US as of more significance.

He says he’s learnt plenty during that time and had plenty of opportunities to observe horses.

Smart horses

Over the years, Lovgren has found that some horses are smarter than others, but as he said: “Some horse trainers are smarter than others, too!”

With horses, though, you have to find the natural ability of each horse, he says.

“If a horse doesn’t have the athletic ability to do some big jumping we shouldn’t ask him to.

“Every horse has good and bad qualities and it’s a matter of finding the right horse for the job. Some horses are really good at standing still and others are no good at all.”

Breeds

Lovgren says one of his favourite breeds would be the Andalusion.

“The Andalusion have very good across-the-board ability. They are athletic and calm and very easy for anyone to ride. I do like Friesians as well.”

For movie work, it is often a matter of finding a particular type of horse, and breed can be of little importance.

Bobby Lovgren at work on the movie, Stripes.
Bobby Lovgren at work on the movie, Stripes.

“It’s very dependent on what the director needs for the film. For example, in an action film, thoroughbreds are great.

“Every director wants something new, so it’s always a challenge.”

His job entails training  horses of all ages and type.

Generally, he has found that older horses are easier to train.

“Five to six-year-olds are my favorite, and often 11 to 12-year-olds are the easiest.

“The younger horses, one to two-year-olds, and foals, are way more difficult, and working with these have been some of my more challenging films.

“It all depends on what the horse has to do.”

Logistics

An important part of his job is dealing with the logistics of training for a movie.

“It can be quite an issue. Where am I staying, where can I train? There’s such a huge complement of people involved in each movie.

“On an average film, you have three months to find the horses and train them.

“With The Lone Ranger, we came in late so we had only two months to get ready for the film, so there really was quite a bit of pressure on to get it done.”

Despite that pressure, The Lone Ranger came together and has ended up a memorable movie for Lovgren.

During his 22 years training horses in the US, Lovgren has trained horses for 22 feature films and numerous television productions.

“Each film had its upstanding points, but there are four films that stand out for me, that I’m particularly proud of.

A scene from The Lone Ranger.
A scene from The Lone Ranger.

“They are, Running Free [which had a lot of foals aged three to six months], Racing Stripes, War Horse and The Lone Ranger.”

While he was head trainer on these films, he says he is always part of a team and movies of this calibre always require a huge effort from everyone involved.

Lovgren also has a team at home that enables him to fulfil his passion of horse training.

“My wife, Wendy, has a real job, so that when I’m not working she can fill in the gaps for us.”

He also has a few special horses: “I only have three of my own and they are family members.”

As well as the three equine family members, Lovgren also has three sons, aged, 12, 20 and 24.

 

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