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Working around horses-- Narrative urban western....


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Taking on a scripted project with lots of horses-  talent riding horses with dialogue, lots of horses in BG etc.....     Being in the Northeast of the US, this sort of project does not cross my path very often.  So i am asking the knowledge base here to share their experiences working on a narrative project such as this.   I am still in prep...   thx.  

 

j

 

 

 

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Most of the horses I've encountered in documentary projects get very skittish when the boom is in close proximity to them. I always try to get them accustomed to the boom (and boom op) ahead of time. I once hid a mic and Tx in a horse's mane when it could not be on the rider. (a Lady Godiva type scene).

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My main problem in doing scenes with people on horseback was getting the boom op high enough in the air to cover the scene.  It's a great situation for a Fisher boom if that's possible, far safer, less tiring and with longer reach than a handheld pole held by a boom op on a ladder.   I tried micing saddles etc with mixed success (they are noisy), I read that Charles Wilborn used a pommel-plant with great success on many Westerns, maybe he had some way of quieting the saddle squeaks?    Hat mics worked well too, (when they had hats and kept them on!)

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In my experience horses were quite scary when the boom made fast movements. Especially when the boom came from a lower height - someone then told me that they are quite aware of dangerous animals that are of lower level like dogs, wolves, snakes ... and so they react histeric to a furry boom at a dog's height.

 

But "professional" movie experienced horses never cared which was impressing. As well as police horses.

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saddle_soap.jpg

 

EQUUS Magazine

"The horse sees a broad band of the world to the sides and back of his body, but it is narrow. His vision is poor above and below the level of his eyes. Sights directly to the horse’s side but on the ground or in the air are difficult to see unless he cocks his head. Equine vision also creates blind spots. A horse cannot see a person standing directly in back of him. Surprised from behind, even the sweetest horse can kick in almost any direction. That’s where that tenet of good horsemanship---approaching the hindquarters from the shoulder---comes from. You want to make sure he knows you’re there. 

A second blind spot exists in front of the horse’s face, from his eye level to the ground below his nose and out to about six feet. A hand suddenly raised will appear to him to come from nowhere. He cannot see the grass he grazes on, the bit he accepts, the fingers that stroke his muzzle. He uses the whiskers around his mouth to sense these objects. A horse whose whiskers are shaved is at a sensory disadvantage."

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Is it a contemporary or period piece?  I have a feeling due to the height of the horses etc, you're going to be using a lot of lavs.  I'd start befriending wardrobe now and see what everyone is going to be wearing.  You're going to be dealing with a lot of wind, especially when the horses are moving so make sure you have a good solution to cover your lavs up for that!

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When I've worked with horses they got freaked out by the boom. It's actually kind of dangerous because they can freak out while the cast is riding them. I had to go full lavs on that one.

 

The other problem was I couldn't get up there to fix a lav that was being ruined because cast adjusted their scarves constantly (winter scene). I dreaded those horse scenes...

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Having owned two horses myself the aforementioned advice of always letting the horse know you are behind it is mandatory, even a short kick is very painful. 

 Get to the grocery store and buy  up on Dominos' sugar cubes, some apples, and  carrots. With the owner's permission,   hold your hand palm up with a treat and you will have a friend for life. The few times I worked with talent on a horse I always lav'd them because of the horse's reaction to the boom. 

 

 

 

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Squeaky saddles are difficult to deal with. I think pieces of lambs wool that can go between the flaps of leather could be useful. It's really hard to track down where the squeak is coming from, especially when the saddle is on the horse with rider, which is the time they squeak.

Probably best done in pre if possible.

Often it seems like the noise is coming from somewhere you just can't get to.

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So far in initial conversations Wranglers they are OK with Booms..   They said they are trained movie horses and booms are not the kind of thing to spook them..  Further discussions to be had.  

 

Not using "Action"...  Thanks Mike for that tip.  

 

Thank you all for your sage advice.   Much appreciated..   

 

j

 

 

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It's been a while but I've boom around horses a number of times. They have always been film trained horses for the hero horses. They were fine with the boom with a fluffy on, just no erratic movements. The wranglers will let you know how to work with their animals.

 

My experience has been the AD's are more skittish about the boom being around the horse then the horse is.

 

With non film trained horses, only ever really used in BG, so usually no cast on them, the wrangler had me and my boom spend a bit of time with the horses before hand to get them familiar with me and the furry mic. I think other members of the crew were jealous of this horsey time.

 

Cheers Nate

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