War Horse Farrier: Brendan Murray Speaks to Samantha Clark About How He Helped Joey Keep His Shoes On

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Napoleon once said that an army moves on its stomach. But the cavalry moves on its hooves, and it took an army of farriers–called “shoeing smiths” by the British military–to keep the horses moving in World War I.

But what about a film crew? And what about the production of Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse in England in 2010?

War Horse News gold logo (small)DreamWorks Pictures learned the importance of a farrier too, especially when Roger, a plow-horse lookalike for Joey, kept stepping on (and thereby pulling off) his shoes in the furrow.

“Cut!” “Get the farrier up here!” “Where’s the farrier?”

And not only did the farrier have to keep putting shoes back on in the midst of many shoots that were mired in mud: director Spielberg put location farrier Brendan Murray to work in the forge in the shoeing scene. They turned the camera on him and his apprentice for the crucial background action in the scene where Joey meets Topthorn while the two are waiting to be shod.

You’ll hear all about it in this interview with Great Britain’s international eventing team farrier Brendan Murray, a seasoned veteran of both shoeing and riding for film productions!

Brendan was interviewed by Lexington, Kentucky’s freelance equestrian media pro Samantha L. Clark of eventingnation.com and many other audio, video and web projects for the horse world. This is Samantha’s first “guest blog” under the banner War Horse News and it’s appropriate that it arrived as a media file, instead of a text document or an image file

Brendan Murray

British eventing team farrier Brendan Murray "kitted out" for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. (Photo links to Brendan's Zimbio page)

About Brendan Murray
Brendan has been associated as eventing team farrier with the British Equestrian Federation and Team GBR for many years. He has served at five Olympic Games, three World Equestrian Games, and many European championships. He was flag bearer for Great Britain and led his country into the arena in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 WEG in Kentucky, as chosen by the athletes.

Brendan is retired as a farrier in the British military’s esteemed King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery; among his duties was serving as brakeman for the gun carriage loaded with the casket of Princess Diana at her funeral in 1997. Among Brendan’s film on-screen credits are Gladiator, Robin Hood and 2012′s Snow White and the Huntsman.

You might enjoy a video interview by Samantha Clark with Brendan at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Samantha Clark, 2010 Radio Show host

Samantha Clark

About Samantha Clark: Who is she? Then: eventer, NPR news anchor, and (most recently) co-host of the 2010 Radio Show about the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Now: armed with social media, camera, video and a smart phone, she knows no bounds.

Samantha says of herself: “I’m thrilled to have my blog on EventingNation.com as an excuse to pursue an incurable curiosity about anything to do with horses (especially eventing), satisfy my wanderlust and aid in my determination to cling to my English roots. I’m often accompanied by two small children–sometimes helpful, sometimes a hindrance–and almost always by a beautiful, black Labrador who is perfect company!”

Samantha’s blog is a must-read on the web and she is equally a must-follow on Twitter: @samanthalclark for great horse tweets from Kentucky and the eventing world.

More about Samantha Clark


Be brave! Entrench yourself in WAR HORSE NEWS on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you! WAR HORSE NEWS is written for moviegoers, horse lovers and history buffs by horse-specialist journalist Fran Jurga and hosted by Equisearch.com.

War Horse: Ever Wondered What It Would Be Like to Go to a Royal Premiere in London?

Let’s go along with War Horse News’ mysterious foreign correspondent, our friend Sam Lane. She’s on the ground in London and her lens and her eyes are wide open. Sam was able to arrive early in Leicester Square on Sunday, and photographed the preparations for the Royal Premiere of War Horse at the Odeon Theatre, as well as the arrival of some of the stars and the most special guests of honor. Let’s go!

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There was no question which moving was showing at the Odeon on Sunday night! (photo © Sam Lane)

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War Horse posters in London used the horizontal four-fold movie poster format instead of the vertical format usually seen in ads and in the USA. It looked like 100 or so of them were attached to movable barricades for a block or so in front of the theater. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Roll out the red carpet! A city block's length (at least) arrived in vans. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Not just any old red carpet for the stars of War Horse! (photo © Sam Lane)

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Who was the first star to arrive? It was Joey, the War Horse himself! (photo © Sam Lane)

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"Joey", a.k.a. Sultan, an Andalusian who was one of many horses who played the star in War Horse, was escorted by Tom Cox of Devils Horsemen stunt riders. Dan Nedrous of Devils Horsemen was one of the assistant horsemasters of the film. He was in the background, on safety duty. (Photo © Sam Lane)

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Right, I can't explain the bit either. War Horses can adapt to anything! (photo © Sam Lane)


War Horse Equine Artistic Advisor Ali Bannister had her share of fans behind the barricades: her mother was there to watch her daughter and her artwork on the red carpet--Ali had to do the makeup on Sultan (he played Joey in the trenches scene in the film) before he walked the carpet. It was a fun night for everyone! (photo © Sam Lane)

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The man behind War Horse: American producer/director Steven Spielberg arrived at the theater and walked own the red carpet right to Joey and greeted him first! (photo © Sam Lane)

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War Horse star Patrick Kennedy gave autographs to fans on the barricades. He played Lieutenant Waverly in the film, although he pronounces it "Left-tenant". He's as charming offscreen as his role was onscreen! (photo © Sam Lane)

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War Horse star Benedict Cumberblatch has the best name in show business. He's quite a star in Britain, and War Horse earned him a lot of American fans, too. He played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC production that is currently showing in the USA on PBS Masterpiece. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Who doesn't have a soft spot in his or her heart for the artistic officer Captain Nicholls from War Horse? He was played by Tom Hiddleston, whom you might recognize as Loki from Thor or from PBS Masterpiece's Return to Cranford series and many other films and shows. (photo © Sam Lane)

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The guests of honor at the War Horse Royal Premiere were members of British military units associated with Prince William or Prince Harry. The evening was a fundraiser for their foundation that aids servicemen. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Servicewomen guests at the War Horse premiere were the modern-day counterparts of the World War I troops portrayed so well in the film. (photo © Sam Lane)

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The guests of honor were essentially the hosts, as well. War Horse made the Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Milddleton) shed a tear, according to Steven Spielberg. Here she is arriving with her husband, the Duke of Cambridge--Prince William to Americans. (photo © Sam Lane)

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Photographer Sam Lane at home after the premiere shows off her treasures: one of the posters from the barricades--removed with permission of a policeman, and a scrap of the War Horse red carpet that was a gift from the carpet-layers. Well done, Sam! (photo © Sam Lane)

Be sure to visit Sam Lane’s Flickr stream to see more photos from the premiere night. And to read her account of what happened that night, her Posterous blog, Living in London 2012, has all the details in the first person! Sam is a rising star photographer in the big city who has a very horsey background as daughter of a well-known horse veterinarian. She has her horse eye out in London and we expect she’ll be a great connection during the Olympics.

There’s nothing like a foreign correspondent, especially a fearless one who knows and loves horses! Thanks, Sam!

War Horse Is in the Theaters: Roll the Reviews

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Enjoy these dueling reviews a la classic Siskel + Ebert style from some University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts student film reviewers. They offer some food for thought! Each student film critic covers valid points, whether pro or con, in the film. Will the public identify with this horse and attach to him emotionally–or is the average person just too far removed from the horse as a sentient being?
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But the big question is hard to frame. In a movie that is an epic, and has so many moods and tempos, it is often a matter of what “sticks” with people. For me, it was the cavalry section early in the war, and the French farm scenes. The opening section set in the English countryside seemed like another movie in itself–it had a beginning, a conflict (the plowing scene) and a resolution, and then a second conflict opened another chapter, or (if you like) another movie. War Horse could easily have started right there.

Oscar for "An American in Paris" on display at the TCM Classic Film Festival at the Mann's Chinese 6

Many people complained that the movie was too long, and I think they have a point but for me it could have gone on and on. I was captivated by the lyric storytelling. The actors flitted by; I wanted to reach out to some of them and beg them to stay in the movie. But along came another one who intrigued me.

When the lights come on in the theater and we file out into the fresh air, bits of War Horse cling to us like burrs. There are scenes stuck to me here and here and here–and different scenes stuck to you, in different places, I’m sure. Do you want to capture them like fragile butterflies or brush them off like cobwebs?

It’s the same after every movie, but we often leave theaters and never think of that movie consciously again. I doubt that will be the case with War Horse.

Do you have a War Horse hangover? is there War Horse residue stuck to you? What will you do with your thoughts about War Horse? Was it just a movie? Or did it awaken something or some place in you that you hope to explore?

Be brave! Entrench yourself in War Horse News on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you!

Sad Movie Survival Tips: How to Feel Good About Feeling Bad When “War Horse” Makes You Cry

Today’s a special day for War Horse News. I’m turning over the reins for this post to my friend and fellow blogger Rhonda Lane, of The Horsey Set, who addressed a subject that is a concern to many people. Her advice is sage. In fact, we might wonder about you if you didn’t tear up at some point during War Horse. But please don’t let your fear of crying keep you home.


As I write this, two short but longawaited words–War Horsehave shown up on cinema marquees. Glowing reviews from advance screenings of the film have already peppered social media and the press.

Joey (he’s the main character–the actual war horse) won’t win the Kentucky Derby, but he might win an Oscar or two. People who’ve seen the movie seem to love it. Oscar buzz about War Horse has been humming for a couple of months.

After all, the Broadway production of War Horse won a Tony Award for Best Play. This live-action film with Steven Spielberg at the helm has a good shot at more accolades.

“I’m worried that I’ll cry”

Kleenex in the seats at OprahAmong all the glowing comments from the lucky ones who’ve seen the movie already are quiet little voices wondering, “Is it safe to see? Will I cry?”

First, you won’t be the only one crying in the theater. Count on it.

Second, did you ever think that maybe you need a good cry? I’m pretty sure I do. I’m pretty sure we all do. Some experts see sad movies as cathartic and therapeutic.

Please don’t run away and swear you won’t see the movie. I think it’s important to see it, especially for those of us who love horses. But I believe tears aren’t bad, so I want to offer you some “Sad Movie Survival Tips.”

Heck, I can’t watch the trailer without crying, and I’ve seen the stage play. I know who lives to go home and who doesn’t – unless Mr. Spielberg and team changed the ending.


Sad Movie Survival Tips

1. Accept that you’re going to cry, but know that you won’t be alone. There’ll be sniffing and blubbering all over the theater. Even among the guys.

2. Take tissues. Or, less pleasant, grab napkins from the popcorn stand before you sit down. They’re scratchy and dissolve too fast, but they’ll do in a pinch.

3. Also, decide ahead of time what you’ll do with your tear-drenched discards. Littering the floor would be uncool.

4. Consider taking some dry paper towels from home to sponge off your face with cool water after the movie. Paper towels from the theater bathroom are scarce these days and, if available, can be dry and abrasive.

5. Go with someone you don’t mind knowing–or seeing–that you are crying.

Still uncertain?

If you absolutely must know who lives and who dies and especially if you need to know if Joey the horse and Albert his friend make it home, please email me at remlane at gmail dot com.

But listen carefully to the trailers. I believe the clues are there.

Rhonda Lane, The Horsey Set

Rhonda Lane writes one of my favorite blogs, The Horsey Set. She is a native of Kentucky who now lives and writes in Connecticut. She’s currently working on a mystery novel. Follow Rhonda on Twitter (I do!): @RhondaLane

Rhonda also believe it’s important for horse lovers to see the movie as soon as they can after Christmas Day. Be sure to read why.


Credits: Photo of popcorn box by Jermil Sadler, theater audience by Tom DeCort, tissue box on theater seat by Courtney Bower. Thanks!


Be brave! Entrench yourself in WAR HORSE NEWS on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you! WAR HORSE NEWS is written for moviegoers, horse lovers and history buffs by horse-specialist journalist Fran Jurga and hosted by Equisearch.com.

“Be Brave, Fear God and Honor the King”: Spielberg’s Cavalry Charge Focuses on the Horses, Not the Carnage

It begins with a directive to be brave, to fear God, and to honor the King:

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It continues with a rustle of tall grain, and a surging forward of a hundred horses as one:

And it ends with…well, let’s just say this is just the beginning of the war for Joey.

It’s one of several war scenes from Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse that you’ll probably remember forever: the cavalry charge. Both the training for and the execution of it in the film fail to explain much about the actual precise military tactic known as a “cavalry charge”.

But what the scene lacks in explanation, it more than makes up for in excitement and fantastic horses-at-a-gallop photography.

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A cavalry charge is the centerpiece of the National Army Museum's fantastic "War Horse: Fact or Fiction" exhibit in London. (Image: dexigner.com)

If you saw Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan, you may be dreading the way that he will portray the slaughter of horses and men in this scene. But this is not Saving Private Ryan. This is a different Spielberg, a different film, a different story.

A recruiting poster for the US Cavalry promised a friendship.

“I did not want to show, in the cavalry charge [depicted in the film's second act], this slaughter of all that cavalry,” Spielberg said in his livestreamed online interview before the film’s premiere. “It gave me a chance to show what was likely the last cavalry charge, because of the advance of technology. This story allowed me to be a bit more mythological, to be able to show cavalry charging and then in the next cut show a riderless horse jumping over machine guns.”

Be sure to go see War Horse at a theater with as wide a screen as possible. While the action may focus on what Joey is doing in the foreground, it seems like every square foot of the big screen has details to absorb, action going on, horses doing something, people doing something for or with horses: It’s a tapestry, and no scene is more elegantly woven–or more unforgettable–than the British cavalry charge.

The film-making style that Hollywood has embraced for the past 25 years has been all about the tight close-up. Don’t except to count Tom Hiddleston’s eyelashes, or to see the clinches in Joey’s hooves. Spielberg stands back–way back–and his camera captured this film in the extravaganza wide-screen style of John Ford’s westerns, of Ben-Hur, of Gone with the Wind and more recently, of Out of Africa.

When the horses gallop forward as one, you feel the theater shake. You’re there. Hang on tight. Grab some mane. Just don’t spill the popcorn.

Be brave, moviegoers!


Be brave! Entrench yourself in War Horse News on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you!