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Why ‘Game of Thrones’ horse master Camilla Naprous loves seeing Kit Harington ride

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Camilla Naprous on the set of “Game of Thrones.”
(Helen Sloan / HBO)

Camilla Naprous takes care of some of the biggest stars on “Game of Thrones” — its horses.

She joined the series during its first season for what was intended as a two-week job coordinating a jousting scene. That was almost nine years ago. As the show’s horse master, she is responsible for coordinating and choreographing the many equine performers.

She and her brother Daniel run The Devil’s Horsemen, a company based in Buckinghamshire, England, which provides horses to an array of film and TV projects including “Wonder Woman” and “The Crown.”

“Every horse you see currently is pretty much one of ours,” she says.

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Their father, originally from France, fell in love with horses as a young man and once worked at the Lido, a Paris nightclub famed for its jousting horses. He eventually moved to England and, in the 1960s, started his own company.

FULL COVERAGE: The final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ »

Since they took over the reins (if you will) a decade ago, Naprous and her brother have taken the company to another level — and “Game of Thrones” has been a large part of that expansion, providing unique opportunities to be bolder and more creative with their horses.

A high point was “The Battle of the Bastards” — or as she calls it, “BOB” — the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones’” Season 6, which featured an epic showdown between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

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“That was the first real time we could bring a hundred horses out and really just go to town,” she says. “It was incredible working with Kit because he’s so great on a horse. Being able to have a real actor on the horse galloping toward the army was exciting. I hate watching scenes with doubles.”

She estimates the horse department employed about 160 people for the episode — grooms, lorry drivers, trainers, assistants and stunt riders.

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A scene from “The Battle of the Bastards” episode.
(HBO)

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Another favorite is the loot train attack (or “LTA”) sequence in last season’s harrowing “The Spoils of War,” a.k.a. the episode that featured Daenerys riding her dragon in battle and a horde of Dothraki slinging arrows on horseback.

Naprous recalls how showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff gave her the space to do what she wanted in the episode. “There was a brilliant bit on the outline when I first read the script that just went, ‘And Camilla whatever you can bring. Go free.’”

And so she did, designing a special rig that allowed the stunt riders to stand up and brandish their weapons while riding, all to showcase the legendary skills of the Dothraki .

“We kind of wanted a ‘Mad Max’ feel on horseback,” she explains by phone from the set of her latest project, a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

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In “Game of Thrones,” the Dothraki are renowned for their skills with horses.
(Macall B. Polay / HBO)

The sequence also involved the “logistical nightmare” of transporting 60 horses from England to Spain, a three-day journey over land and sea.

But even relatively simple scenes require tremendous preparation. Just like actors, horses need to wear the right gear and often require makeup — if they need to look bloody or dirty, or as sometimes happens with stunts, one horse doubles for another.

And they also have different skill sets and personalities. There are horses trained to lie down, horses for pulling carriages, and so on. “You need to be able to understand them,” she says, “what they like, what they dislike, which situations you can put them in, who goes with what actors.”

Her star horses include Tornado, a Hungarian warmblood gelding frequently ridden by Harington, and Dali, an Andalusian gray gelding ridden by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, as well as Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and Sean Bean (Ned Stark). Over the years, the actors have formed bonds with their four-legged colleagues. “Kit and Nikolaj, they always ask about their horses and by their name,” says Naprous.

GAME OF THRONES 47 (season 5, episode 7): Kristofer Hivju, Kit Harington. photo: Helen Sloan/courtes
Riders in the storm: Kit Harington, right, and Kristofer Hivju on their horses in a scene from Season 5 of “Game of Thrones.”
(Helen Sloan / HBO)

With pride, she notes that a horse has never been injured during the show’s eight-season run.

“If the day gets too long or the ground is not right or they need a lunch break, that’s my job to stand up for them. They don’t have a voice and I am the horses’ voice.”

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meredith.blake@latimes.com

Follow me @MeredithBlake


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