Monday, January 30, 2012

Icelandic Horses in The Hobbit--and Their Stand-ins Update 1/30/12

Photo used with permission of Eric Vespe
12/20/14 (correction)  It is confirmed by the Icelandic horse association in NZ that Martin Freeman who plays Bilbo Baggins in the movie was not riding  a chestnut Icelandic.  The actors playing dwarves will ride horses made up to look like Icelandics and the size standins for the dwarves will be riding Icelandics.

I was so excited to hear that Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves stand-in are going to ride Icelandic horses in Peter Jackson’s movie version of The Hobbit.  Icelandics are being featured because of their shaggy, hobbitty look and their smooth gait the tolt.   You can refer to my post “Icelandic Horses in Movies--The Hobbit and HBO Game of Thrones—Update” for more detailed information.

Working for Ain’t It Cool News, Eric Vespe, otherwise known as Quint, was given the chance of lifetime when he was invited to spend two months with The Hobbit cast and crew as they were shooting in New Zealand.  I highly recommend reading his entire 5-part “Unexpected Journey” (link listed below) as he describes observing the set up of Hobbiton, speaking with Frodo (both actor and character), being assigned his hobbit name Fredegar Chubb and getting to de-gut fish for a scene in the movie, attending a Powhiri or greeting ceremony by the local Maori tribes, and much, much more.

One of the sites used for the New Zealand shoot was Ohakune Beech Paddock.  Per Eric, “This wooded area was to represent the outskirts of The Shire and featured Bilbo catching up to Gandalf and the dwarves. They’re riding on horseback so you can imagine the circus that day. Thirteen dwarves and a Wizard and horses for them all! The dwarves’ horses were wearing sort of shaggy jackets since they were supposed to be ponies, but the guys playing the dwarves would look silly in all their gear on tiny ponies. In order to sell the stature they had to make the regular horses look more pony-like.”

Eric Vespe has given me permission to show his photo of a dwarf riding one of the horses disguised as an Icelandic.  How ironic that the actors are riding horses made up to look like Icelandics and their size-stand-ins are riding the real Icelandic horses!

As Eric goes on to say, “The day was spent mostly getting wider shots of troop on horseback riding through the woods as Bilbo catches up to the party, but there was one shot in particular that you can actually glimpse in the trailer that had Fili and Kili picking up Mr. Baggins (from horseback) and putting him up onto his pony.”

Working with children and animals always has its challenges as Eric explains.  “It takes a lot of coordination to make the timing work when you have humans and animals in a scene together and I noticed some interesting things the trainers did to make the horses comfortable. For instance, I saw one of the trainers gently sniff the boom mic in front of a horse so the horse would follow suit and realize this fluffy thing hanging over his head wasn’t going to attack him.”
If you are interested in more details about the Icelandic horses in The Hobbit movie, you may want to check out the future editions of the United States Icelandic Horse Congress Quarterly.  There will be interviews with the owners and handlers of the “real” Icelandic horses on the set of The Hobbit as soon as the non-disclosure contracts permit..

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