Bobby Lovgren: Famous SA-born horse whisperer

2013-07-14 14:00

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Bobby Lovgren has never appeared on the big screen, but he’s the man behind some of the most famous equine faces in Hollywood.

Lovgren, who was born in Bloemfontein and grew up in Benoni, is the man responsible for training the four-legged stars of Seabiscuit, War Horse and now The Lone Ranger, which releases this weekend locally.

His job’s not as simple as feeding apples to would-be stars, though.

“There’s a lot more to it than just training the horse,” Lovgren said during an interview at a lodge in Santa Fe.

“20% of the job is that, but 80% is knowing the movie business and being able to communicate with the director and fulfil his vision.”

At 49, Lovgren has worked with some of Hollywood’s top directors to bring their visions to life – from Steven Spielberg in War Horse to Gore Verbinski in The Lone Ranger.

“Bobby is amazing,” Verbinski says. “He got that horse (Silver) to do the most incredible things.

“Everything I asked for, I got.”

Lovgren’s love of horses was fostered as a child, when his parents ran a stable in Brentwood Park, Benoni, called Equestrian International.

They continue to run the stable to this day.

After working on commercials and a few small films in South Africa, he moved to the US in 1989.

He settled on a ranch just outside LA and started to build his hugely successful career.

Armie Hammer, who plays the title character in The Lone Ranger, has worked with Lovgren before on Mirror Mirror.

Hammer had to perfect the art of riding a horse on a moving train, while dodging bullets.

“You have to have a lot of trust,” says Hammer.

“I can’t trust just anyone when it comes to horseriding. And Bobby’s so good. The horses follow him like dogs.

“He has such control over them. He is one of the best wranglers I’ve worked with, and I always push to work with him when I can.”

Lovgren’s love of horses is evident.

Once filming had wrapped on Seabiscuit, he bought the main trick horse and it went on to play Joey, the lead horse in War Horse.

Lovgren says he’s happiest when the work they do makes it on to the screen and doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor.

“Normally, we do so much andonly about 30% is in there, but in The Lone Ranger, there is a lot of Silver.”

Equally rewarding is sharing his work with his family – his wife, who used to be a horse rider herself; and three sons, one of whom was his assistant on The Lone Ranger.

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