What happens to equine stars after they retire from showbiz? In this week’s column, movie critic Amanda Ronan tracks down Tillie, the horse who played Argo on Xena: Warrior Princess.
One of the first TV shows I remember watching on a regular basis was Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001). Yes, I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd and when sci-fi and horses collide… watch out! After all, Xena was fun but the real star of the show was her faithful steed, Argo. Argo carried the warrior princess throughout ancient Greece taking part in wild, outlandish adventures. Once she was miniaturized (Argo not Xena) and then she died and came back to life (Argo and Xena… on multiple occasions).
Argo was played by several lovely palominos between the ages of 10 and 14. The primary Argo was played by a horse named Tilly. Titan Official Xena Magazine reported in 2000 that “like any character with a distinct personality, Argo was created to be a major part of the overall concept and look of Xena. A character had to be created, then an animal found to match the look.”
Tilly, like any television femme fatale, was provided with several doubles. Barbie was her primary stunt double used for scenes requiring falls, rearing, and kicking. Mac, an unfortunate gelding cast in a female role, was her body double used for distant shots.
All of the horses were purchased by Pacific Renaissance of New Zealand and cared for by horse wrangler, Sandy Raynor, on a 10-acre ranch.
Tilly’s popularity from the show peaked in 1999 when she was selected to be a Breyer model!
The last update I could find about Tilly was posted on Lucy Lawless’s Fan Page in December 2010. Lucy posted, “She has Cushings disease which gives her a fluffy coat but otherwise is very well. She is now in her 20s but still flies like a rocket. She is very safe and loved by all the kids in her community.” Tilly now teaches beginner students at a New Zealand riding stable. I don’t know if any of these kids are old enough to remember the show, but… WOW!… wouldn’t it be cool to ride Xena’s horse!?!