If your horse was confronted by a lifesize puppet of himself, would he know the difference? Or would he even stick around long enough to find out?
By now, you’ve probably seen the amazing footage of the equine puppet “Joey” that was created for the stage version of the WWI story War Horse. The designers and actors who portray him have gone to extraordinary lengths to make Joey lifelike in his movement and expressions, yet symbolically translucent and industrial in his aesthetics. But it begs the question — what would a real horse think of a horse like Joey?
It turns out there is a treasure trove of YouTube clips of Joey meeting horses during War Horse’s national tour, and the reactions are simply spectacular to watch. Most are with various mounted police force horses around the country, and I think it’s fair to say that those fellers probably handle the whole experience a little more calmly than your average show horse would.
In almost all the videos, you can see the horses moving forward to exchange breath, and then seeming sort of perplexed when Joey doesn’t “breathe” back.
In the next clip, a mounted horse at Golden Gate park not only meets Joey, but they also have a mounted rider on the puppet who goes for a walk with the most agreeable and unphased police horse on the planet.
The Detroit Police Force Horses, Denver and Vader, actually show a little more snorting and pizzazz:
And if you thought it couldn’t get any cuter, watch the mascot Shetland pony of the Royal Regiment of Scotland named Cruachan IV meet Joey, who is at least twice his size!
A slight digression from the theme: In this clip, a horse trainer on her own mount “trains” Joey to move a ball, walks, trots, and sort of canters in a demo arena at a British horse festival. It’s actually really fascinating to watch the actors manifest Joey’s hesitation, fear, tail swishing, and acceptance of the experience.
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