Joey the War Horse meets Violet the Cart Horse

I wrote this post at the end of last year, but didn’t finish it. Now, though, I have another good reason for posting it: Joey the War Horse will be coming to the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2015 at the Castle of Good Hope in a couple of weeks’ time!

And they blow softly into each other's nostrils

Joey meets Violet at the Cart Horse Protection Association in December last year

In early December last year, the headquarters of the Cart Horse Protection Association in Epping II received a very unusual – and famous – visitor: If you’ve seen the movie “War Horse”, which came out in 2011, you’ll know immediately who ‘Joey’ is.

The movie is an adaptation of British author Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel, which features a young boy – Albert – who befriends a horse – Joey, which, despite young Albert’s protestations, is sold to the cavalry and shipped off to the trenches of France during World War I. The horse embarks on an epic journey, serving on both sides of the War, before finding himself alone in no-man’s land. Albert cannot forget Joey, and, still not old enough to enlist in the army, he embarks on a dangerous mission to find him and bring him home. It is a powerful, beautifully told and sometimes harrowing story.

The story was also adapted for the stage – which led to the Handspring Puppet Company, a well-known and highly respected Cape Town puppet company, creating a life-size puppet horse, that could be manipulated and brought to life (very convincingly!) by a couple of highly skilled puppeteers. Various stage productions of the story have been touring around the world, to rave reviews and sold out performances. There is a South African production too.

Joey meeting Mona with owner Sedick Lee

Joey meets Mona – “hey there, good looking”, he seems to say!

So it was a wonderful experience to meet Joey face to face. The cart horses weren’t quite sure what to make of it all – this giant horse seemed realistic enough, particularly in its movements and mannerisms, but there was something odd about it all. Two geldings, Mr Manchester and Hector, were quite frankly not having any of it! They whinnied and pulled at their reins, and pricked their ears and snorted. The mares were far more laid-back – both Violet and Mona had a good nose-to-nose sniff and decided that they rather liked Joey.

Basil Jones of the Handspring Puppet Company told us all about the puppet horses and how they had been created. He emphasised that the puppeteers both inside the horse and next to it had to work in very close harmony with each other in order to make the movements as realistic as possible. And it worked. It was surprisingly easy to suspend disbelief, and to interact with Joey as though he was a real flesh-and-blood horse.

I hope you enjoy the slideshow!

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You can find out more about the wonderful work done by the Cart Horse Protection Association in Cape Town, by checking out their website.

And if you’re curious to find out more about the Handspring Puppet Company and the work they do, have a look at this inspiring TED talk: Handspring Puppet Company.

And if you want to see Joey trotting and whinnying onto the arena at the Castle of Good Hope – you will have the perfect opportunity at the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2015!  I, for one, can hardly wait!


10 thoughts on “Joey the War Horse meets Violet the Cart Horse

    • You are lucky to have seen the stage show – by all accounts, it is incredibly moving and powerful. It must have been especially poignant for you, I would think, given that you and your family explored so many of the sites where the battles of World War I took place. We are very much looking forward to seeing the rehearsals of the Choir and the Dancers with Joey, as we don’t yet know what their act will look like! Exciting!

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