Monday, January 19, 2015

Horses in The Hobbit and HBO Game of Thrones--Update 1-19-15

The black and white horses that appear in The Hobbit--The Desolation of Smaug are Gypsy Vanners
Gypsy Vanner Mare---from Wikipedia
provided by Gypsy Royal Stud. When the owner was first contacted, she thought the message on her answer machine was a joke.
“I thought it was a joke so I did nothing about it,” Lynda says. “The next day they rang again and it was for real.  They said they had been searching for a particular looking horse and found [the Gypsy breed] on the internet.  They apparently thought they would be perfect for what they wanted and googled gypsy horses in NZ which brought up my stud.” Here is a link to the breeding farm site that explains about why this type of horse was selected for the movie.

Like Icelandic horses, Gypsy Vanners tend to be round and low withered.  Jed Brophy who plays Nori the Dwarf makes the following observation about riding Gypsy Vanners in the movie:
"Getting on the pregnant horses was interesting. We had these black and white horses and we couldn't do the girths up properly, so that was getting on … and falling off. There was quite a bit of that in the day which was quite a lot of fun, working out how to get on a horse when the saddle was slipping."

Read more:

To the best of my knowledge, Icelandic horses do not make an appearance in The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies.  However, here is a video about the horse Draysill that Beorn gave to Gandalf (appears in Parts 2 and 3).  Draysill is an 18-hand Clydesdale whose real name is Big Nick.  Oh, the elk that Thranduil rides is a digitally enhanced horse by the name of Moose (breed unknown).

Here is a report about how animals were handled during the filming of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Firve Armies.  Interestingly even though there was quite a scandal during the treatment of livestock during the first movie, "Due to limited resources and scheduling conflicts, The American Humane Association did not monitor any of the dog, goat, pig and some of the horse action."


Game of Thrones filmed much of the Arya and Hound arc in Iceland in summer.  The producers certainly show off Iceland in all of its summer glory.  In the finale of Season 4, Arya rides away from the dying Hound.  In these scenes, the actress Maise Williams who plays Arya is riding a beautiful Icelandic horse.  Hopefully her riding in Iceland in Season 4 went a bit better than her riding experiences in Season 3:
" I was riding on the horse for a bit that day, and it was lovely weather, and I just remember having such a relaxing day. I met Rory in the pilot episode, and he's just a really, really nice guy. In that scene, we'd done a few rehearsals before with [director] David Nutter, just to see how everything was gonna go. So by the time we started shooting, we were quite confident. There weren't many hiccups, apart from I kind of fell off the horse and my foot got caught in the reins.
Oh, really?
Yeah, it was really funny, actually. My leg was, like, caught up by my ear, and I was like, "Oh, brilliant." [Laughs.] "

Since the only horses in Iceland are the pony-sized Icelandic horse breed (no horses can be imported into Iceland because of concerns of spreading disease to the native horses), one can understand the scene in Season 4, Episode 10 in which Brienne of Tarth wakes up, finds the horses missing,  and accuses Pod of failing to hobble them correctly.  And why the Hound and Arya walk the last leg of the trip to the Vales. 

I just received notice that 6 Icelandic horses were used in The Hobbit from 5 different owners from all over New Zealand.  I am waiting to see if I get permission to post the entire email.  No chestnut Icelandic horse was used in the film so it looks like Bilbo is not riding an Icelandic horse.  ;-)

You may also want to check my posting
for details and pictures on how the steeds the dwaves ride are horses made up to look like Icelandic horse while Bilbo rides a real Icelandic horse.

Below is a series of posts linking all the stories that I could find abouut Icelandic horses in The Hobbit movie and the HBO Game of Thrones.


The American Human Society, whivh was invited to oversee the health and safety of the animals used in the filming of "The Hobbit" has put out a release on how it protected the animals.  The AHS also discusses how animals died on an off-site boarding facility.
"Our stringent Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media were rigorously applied and followed during production. However, in 2011 while filming was being conducted in New Zealand, the production company made us aware that some of the animal actors being used for the production had died while on a farm that was being used only as housing. None of the animals in question died during filming action or were being used as animal actors when they died. As our jurisdiction does not encompass off set activities, our on-set representative had not previously conducted a review of the farm. Nevertheless, after the deaths, upon the request by the production company, we traveled to the farm and conducted a thorough examination. We made safety recommendations to the animals’ living areas. The production company followed our recommendations and upgraded fence and farm housing, among other things. Working together with the production company, we were able to increase safety for animals on the farm."

12-3-2012 Update
In the Winter USIHC Quarterly, Lisa Keller in her article "Land of the Hobbits," provides a clue about  a possible source of the Icelandic horses used in the soon-to-be-released Hobbit movie which was mostly filmed in New Zealand.  Lisa Keller vacationed in New Zealand and decided she had to visit the largest Icelandic horse farm in New Zealand, Neđri Bakki (meaning Down Under at the Edge of a Stream), whose web address is listed below:

The owners Kenneth and Snejina hail from Denmark and Bulgaria.  In the interview, the owners Kenneth and Snejina discuss their experience with horses and Icelandics, farm services, and  their goals for the Icelandic horse in New Zealand.  When asked about Icelandic horses being used in the filming of The Hobbit, Kenneth replies: "Unfortunately, we are not allowed to comment on that.  We will all need to wait till "The Hobbit" is released."

One must admit that their farm photos of Icelandic horses look just like Hobbit horses living in the Shire.
And for those of you in the US, you may want to join the United States Icelandic Horse Congress so that you can get copies of this quarterly full of informative fun articles about the Icelandic horse--and possibly a future, more detailed article about Icelandic horses in The Hobbit movie.

Note:  As a volunteer writer, I do provide the occassional article for the USIHC quarterly.

11-26-12 Update
Not all is well in Hobbitland.  Nick Perry in an Associated Press article reports "Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other 'death traps.'"

No animals were harmed on the set of the film but it appears that there is no oversight at the stables or sites where animals are housed when not on the film set.  Horses Rainbow, Doofus, Claire, Zepplin, and Molly were seriously injured or died off-site.  Based on the names, none of the horses appear to be Icelandics.

Peter Jackson and company claim that exceptional measures were taken to protect all animals used on the set.  However, having some sort of oversight of animals off the set seems like a hole in their plans to protect animals.

Although it is too late to help the animals used in The Hobbit film, it is a wake up call to help animals in future films.  Here is the email site of the New Zealand Humane Society.

For those of you interested in the origins of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, there are multiple connections to Iceland.  Nancy Marie Brown has written Song of the Vikings about the life of the Snorri Sturluson.  In the 1200s AD, Snorri collected the myths and folklore of medieval Scandinavia into the Prose Edda, one of the sources of inspiration to JRR Tolken when he wrote his novels.  As Nancy discusses, Tolkein even got many of his characters' names directly from the Prose Edda.  See how many names from The Hobbit you can recognize below.

"And these, says the Sibyl, are their names:

Nýi and Nidi, | Nordri and Sudri,
Austri, Vestri, | Althjófr, Dvalinn;
Nár, Náinn, | Nípingr, Dáinn,
Bifurr, Báfurr, | Bömburr, Nóri,
Óri, Ónarr, | Óinn, Mjödvitnir,
Viggr and Gandálfr, | Vindálfr,

Fíli, Kíli, | Fundinn, Váli;
Thrór, Thróinn, | Thekkr, Litr and Vitr,
Nýr, Nýrádr, | Rekkr, Rádsvidr.

Snorri himself had a fascinating life.  He was a poet, historian, warrior, lawspeaker, diplomat, and politician.  In Iceland, Snorri acted as both an agent of the King of Norway and he attempted to consolidate power over all of Iceland, which ended with his assassination.

Here is more footage about the filming of Game of Thrones in Iceland.  You will see Icelandic horses in the background.  The horses were probably the only cast members not freezing during filming.

There is a wonderful site dedicated to discussing news about HBO filming of Game of Thones while providing a place for fans to discuss and debate topic from the series of novels collectively called A Song of Fire and Ice. 

Elio, the webmaster at Westeros, has given me permission to share two screen shots from Season 2 of HBO's Game of Thrones.  Both shots are from Iceland.  The first shot shows Jon Snow (played by Kit Harington)  looking out over the icebound vastness Beyond the Wall.  This part of the script was filmed in Iceland in winter so the scenery is so dramatic that little CGI was required.

And here is a glimpse of the Icelandic horses in their role as pack animals or garons for the Wildlings.

HBO has released the new trailer for Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  The beyond the wall chapters of the book were filmed in Iceland in winter.  And as you can see in this trailer, the scenery in Iceland lends the footage a fantastical aura.  You can see the wildlings leading Icelandic horses around the 52 second marker.

12/21/11  I have decided to keep a running posting on this topic since it is so cool.   You can see more Icelandic horses in Peter Jackson's Production Video, Part 5 (see link below).  It is well worth watching the video to see Elijah Wood take a tour of the Hobbiton, with its 44 permanently installed hobbit holes that will remain after shooting ends.  The New Zealand Department of Tourism will be promoting the site.  Anyone for a tour of New Zealand?


Here is a link to the Hobbit Movie Trailer.  You will see Icelandics!!!  How awesome.

The film industry has finally figured out the appeal of Icelandic horses, who  definitely have an elfish or Hobbit-like look.  Some Iceys are scheduled to make appearances in two major films--The Hobbit and HBO's Game of Thrones.

The Hobbit

I couldn't find my English version
 of the Hobbit.
Peter Jackson is using thirteen Icelandics in the filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand.  Per Cali Madincea of New Line Cinema, "'The look of the Icelandic horse, which grows a thick coat in the winter, was one of the things that attracted the attention of the producers. Another important aspect of the Icelandic horse is its endurance and strength.' She added that the tölt, the gait particular to the breed, played a part in the decision as well 'This soft gait moves them right along, which helps an actor in full armour stay close to Gandalf, who's riding a large horse.'"

The Hobbit is scheduled to be released in two parts, December 2012 and December 2013.  My friends and I have already set up a date to go to see that movie.

Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin's multi-book series A Song of Ice and Fire has often been compared to Lord of the Rings--except that there are not purely good versus pure evil characters--characters are more gray, grittier, and definitely bloodier in Martin's books.  I have read the first 5 books in the series and highly recommend them.

HBO made the first book Game of Thrones into a very successful 10-part TV series.  Filming has started on part 2 of the series A Clash of Kings.  Events "beyond the wall" are being filmed in Iceland.  Fifteen Icelandic horses are included in the shoot, including a 28-year old horse Randver.  "Randver has the right qualities and considerable experience for the part; it has both been on stage in Reykjavík City Theater and at Hotel Ísland."

You can read in Icelandic about the Icelandic horses being used in the film at this source:

Although no Icelandic horses appear in the following clip, you do get some views of the spectacular scenery from Icelandic that will appear in Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  After a lot of commercials, the program picks up again around minute 15:00.

I am so looking forward to seeing the Icelands in Season 2 of HBO's The Game of Thrones.

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