Falling off horses – and Johnny Depp

Anyone else find that falling off horses seems to be getting more dangerous? I was a fearless teenage rider – once. When I was 13, I nonchalantly  wrote in my diary that I fell off some pony called Fudge (not even a pony I remember anything about) seven times in two months. It didn’t bother me. Much more recently, though, when I fell off (horse bucked) everything seems to go into slow motion, I was plain scared. My neck was twisted and painful for three weeks after. I realised I just don’t “bounce” any longer when I hit the ground. And there have been five horse and rider accidents in this small village alone that have involved a hospital. Frightening.

And now Johnny Depp has told US TV host David Letterman about his own fall while filming The Lone Ranger. Film sets usually have stuntmen and safety measures galore. But filming The Lone Ranger has been dogged with mishaps – and as we know, horses can be unpredictable. And they are large. Johnny Depp’s account is quite graphic:

“We were shooting at a different place in the desert where there’s these little bumps and things, And so the horse that I was on decided to jump a couple of these little obstacles. The horse was unaware that the saddle I was wearing to sit on top of it was jury-rigged, kind of faked … to give the effect that I’m riding bareback. So basically it’s not very tight on the horse. So when we came down, the saddle slipped and I went to the left and had the reins here and somehow had the wherewithal to grab the mane of the horse. All very calm for some reason, I figured that fear would kick in but it didn’t. I was waiting,” he said with a laugh.

Depp is said to have been dragged a whole 25 yards with the horse.

“All I saw in front of my eyes were these very muscular horse legs and striations of muscles moving, this kind of death machine. One word popped into my head: Hooves. Mind the hooves.”
“So, what do you do when you’re in that position?” Letterman asked.
“Well you make a decision: Will I go with the beast until someone wrangles it or will I drop?”

“I dropped”.

So this mishap ended ok – we’ll still have The Lone Ranger to look forward to. And very importantly, we still have Johnny Depp. There’s no mention of any injury to the horse so I’m hoping it was fine. We’ll have to look out for any American Humane statement in the film credits – you know the one “No animals were harmed during the making of this film….”.

For more on film stunts and how Errol Flynn fought for key changes to stop cruelty to horses in filming, see Chapter 9 “Tricks and Stunts: How did he do that?” of Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film .

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