Horse stunts... How do they do it?
May 6, 2004 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I just rented The Last Samurai last night and really loved it. But it reminded me of a question I have every time I see a movie with battle scenes with horses (a la Braveheart). How do they get those horses to do all those horse "stunts"? They must inevitably break dozens if not hundreds of legs. Can horses be trained to fall as if shot? And doesn't the cacophony of all the explosions on the set freak them out?
posted by vito90 to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There was, within the past couple months, an article on how Hildago was filmed. I believe the link may have appeared on MetaFilter or AskMe. Try to google for "horse" on either site (use Google's "" filter).
posted by five fresh fish at 1:18 PM on May 6, 2004

American Humane's Film & Television Unit oversees the use of animals
in stuntwork; while many animals were maimed and destroyed during Hollywood's "Golden Age", a firmer set of regulations have been laid
in place.

With the exception of Apocalypse Now, there have been few subsequent incidents of animal cruelty onscreen.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:28 PM on May 6, 2004

Uh, I should've emphasise "deaths and motral wounding" as cruelty, as Tommy Lee Jones' dog-shaking incident in Men in Black managed to squeak by with little reprocussion.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2004

There was an article on this in The New Yorker recently, but it's not online.
posted by hyperizer at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2004

I can't speak to the stunt end of things, but it would seem to me that in a modern-made movie, sound effects like explosions would be added to a film by a foley artist in post-production. If that's the case then noises would not bother the horses as much because they either wouldn't be there at the time the scene was shot, or they would be considerably less loud.
posted by contessa at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2004

i wondered what the mib dog shaking ref above was about and googled up this (scroll down to "getting ready").

so you can all sleep easy now.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:59 PM on May 6, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks all. Smart Dalek's link has a good FAQ section which covers several different techniques filmmakers use to get the desired effect. Oh, and the movie really is worth a rental...
posted by vito90 at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2004

With the exception of Apocalypse Now, there have been few subsequent incidents of animal cruelty onscreen.

I was under the impression that the scene in question during AN was not set up / funded by / intentional on the part of Francis Ford Copolla.
posted by falconred at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2004

The scene in Braveheart you're probably thinking of is the one where they charge the horses on to the wooden posts. Its pretty convincing but all faked up with fake horse heads. There was a bit of a fuss at the time.
posted by biffa at 3:08 PM on May 6, 2004

In Pat Garret & Billy The Kid they shoot an actual chicken's head off at the beginning.
posted by shotsy at 3:21 PM on May 6, 2004

There was, within the past couple months, an article on how Hildago was filmed

God damn you, that video was supposed to be for private viewing only.

posted by Hildago at 3:25 PM on May 6, 2004

Those explosions are (usually) flash cans and compressed air. Insurance costs limit using actual explosives.
posted by mischief at 3:31 PM on May 6, 2004

If I remember Cannibal Holocaust is a pretty fucking sick movie. Normally I wouldn't drop the f-bomb so callously but that would do it. And I think the animal abuses were very real. But there was a turtle being torn apart in that, among other horrible, horrible things.

Anyone mind jogging my memory on the Apocolypse Now stuff? The interweb tells me something about a bull, but I would like some context to help me remember it so I don't have to go out and rent it.
posted by geoff. at 3:33 PM on May 6, 2004

Horses are trained to fall on command. In Braveheart, all the penetrations and staffs are computer generated.

In "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", the cow in the scene where a cow gets smacked by a car was wholly computer generated. That's the way of animal effects anymore...computers.
posted by taumeson at 3:36 PM on May 6, 2004

Response by poster: biffa, yes, that is precisely the scene I was thinking of. I remember a few graphic closeups of spears entering flesh which seem easy enough to fake, but the horses tripping amongst the fighters seemed to me to be a difficult thing to stage. Guess they can do just about anything now!
posted by vito90 at 4:39 PM on May 6, 2004

Horses are trained to fall on command.

Precisely. You'll notice that almost always, when a horse "falls down" in a movie, its head is turned all the way to one side, this is part of how they train them to fall (and also how they keep the horse down when it completes the fall). Horses trained for stunt work are extremely valuable, and as Smart Dalek says, all work with animals has to be overseen by animal welfare representatives.
posted by biscotti at 5:21 PM on May 6, 2004


the Apocalypse Now scene is near the end, a cow/bull has it's head chopped off with a machete type implement. It relates to what's happening between Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando in his hut - being vague to avoid spoilers there if anyone hasn't seen it.

It's a real slaughter, the head certainly left the body. no computer generated wizzardry according to the documentary of the film anyway.
posted by selton at 5:57 PM on May 6, 2004

"I almost beheaded Tom Cruise!".
posted by Voivod at 12:35 AM on May 7, 2004

Keep in mind, also, that editing and sound can make those falls seem much more violent and traumatic than they really are.
posted by jjg at 12:01 PM on May 7, 2004

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