Camilla Naprous talks about what it’s like to be Game of Thrones’ horse mistress

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It’s hard to imagine a cooler professional title than horse mistress, but that’s exactly what Camilla Naprous’ role is on Game of Thrones. A member of the stunt horse company, The Devil’s Horseman, she is the woman behind the spectacular equine stuntwork in Game of Thrones‘ jousts, chase scenes and battle sequences. She recently spoke with Time about her career, the shifting status of television and what it was like handling 100 horses on set to film the Battle of the Bastards.

The way Camilla Naprous tells it in her interview, when she first stepped onto the set of Game of Thrones back during production for season 1, she expected it to be a one-time gig. She was hired to handle the joust scene in King’s Landing. Then one thing led to another and she “never returned home.”

Six seasons later, her role on Game of Thrones has become an integral part of production that has helped the show push the boundaries of what’s considered feasible for television. For example, 100 horses were used in seasons 6 and 7 each, which is extraordinary, not only by television standards but film standards as well.

“Because VFX is coming more and more into our world, on average if you do a battle, you get 50, 60 horses and they can add on for the rest,” Naprous said. “It was nice they actually said, ‘let’s get 100. Let’s match what Ridley Scott’s doing now, bring in 60-some men. Let’s challenge the feature films.’ And I think it’s great, and that’s what TV is doing so well. TV’s taking over where the movies aren’t.”

Knights of the Vale Battle of the Bastards Season 6

One of the major set pieces that placed Game of Thrones apart from other television shows – and, indeed, from many films – was last season’s Battle of the Bastards. As you can imagine, choreographing a field battle between two armies on horseback was an exceptional undertaking for Naprous.

[W]e choreographed the whole battle beforehand, Miguel [Sapochnik], the director, came and would show up at rehearsal, and he learned you do need to learn how the horses move and how you shoot them. Because if you haven’t shot them before – they’re not the easiest things in the world. Especially [in] a battle … I enjoyed it so much because we did go so full-tilt at it. Sometimes, you go on set and there’s a lot of waiting around. Miguel shot it every minute of the day he could. It’s a relief to go, OK, we have so many toys and so much money, we can actually get on camera and do as much as we possibly can. I want to achieve as much as I can before VFX comes into it.

One of her favorite parts of the job is getting to teach the actors how to ride, since she can’t be always be close enough to control the horses herself.

“That’s my main passion, actually, teaching people to ride. It’s such a short time, so it’s really nice to see the guys who really get on with it. Kit’s fantastic on a horse, Nikolaj is wonderful on a horse, and it’s lovely because they have the passion for it and they get it like I get it.”

25 responses

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    1. Ridley Scott uses Steve Dent , the only other UK -based film horse supplier of a similar stature to The Devil’s Horseman, so I imagine Camilla was quite happy to match and maybe beat him in the PR stakes !! LOL

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    2. You can tell that NCW is amazing on a horse, leaping up the steps of the Sept, and Kit just seems wonderful at everything.

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    3. Ginevra:
      You can tell that NCW is amazing on a horse, leaping up the steps of the Sept, and Kit just seems wonderful at everything.

      He was so hot in that Sept scene. Like damn *fans self*

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    4. Ginevra, going UP stairs is easy on a horse. But they don’t like coming DOWN. You usually have to have a ramp arrangement, unless they are specially trained, as of course Naprous’ lead horses would be.

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    5. What a wonderful job !

      Working with horses is very rewarding, I can’t imagine
      what it is to work with them
      and on an event such as GoT.

      It must be a delight.

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    6. Trivia:

      There still is an official honorary title over here in the UK of “Master of the Horse”. One of those daftly anachronistic royalty things…

      So Camilla Naprous’ title should be “Mistress of the Horse”, sounds cooler 🙂

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    7. Ser Not Appearing in this Series,

      Huh. Interesting. Does the British title stem from the Magister Equitum during the Roman Republic? It was a crucial role, a sort of right-hand lieutenant, appointed by the dictator (back then an elected, emergency position, without today’s connotations.) It’s what came to mind for me with “Horse Mistress.”

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    8. Wolfish:
      Ginevra,

      Saner Half grew up riding horses, and he gasped during that scene. Turned to me and said, “That was beautiful.”

      Yes, it wasn’t that he was just going up the stairs. He was confidently leaping up them!

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    9. Luka Nieto,

      Yes, it does. A friend worked at the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace training the carriage horses to ride and drive. It’s run by the Crown Equerry, who is answerable to the Master of the Horse, who is in charge of all the Crown’s travel arrangements by train or vehicle.

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    10. A bit late to the discussion, but another bit of cavalry trivia for you all, especially concerning filming the scenes in “Battle of the Bastards”. Horses don’t like running at a wall of moving men, as to them it’s “unsafe ground”. Mounted police train the horses to aim for the gaps in between people for riot control, etc, but when you’re dealing with an army that is in lock-step with shields, it’s a whole ‘nother story. It’s simply something they have to get accustomed to through training and environmental stimuli.

      Hands down the easiest horse I ever trained for cavalry maneuvers was a retired thoroughbred racehorse. Because of all the people, noise, confines of the starting gates, bumping and jostling amongst the horses during the race itself he was exposed to for several years, etc, cavalry training was a breeze with him. I can tell you with years of first-hand experience, there is absolutely nothing cooler than galloping towards your opponents with sword and shield, spear or rifle in hand. 😀

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    11. Roheryn,

      Thanks for answering that, I wasn’t too sure! BTW another position which relates to the importance of horses in earlier times is ‘Constable’ which derives from Count of the Stable – comes stabuli

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    12. Like the broken man review I didn’t receive an email notification of this article posting either but I have one for the press round up which is the next article.

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