9 months ago



ALL IN A DAY’S WORK The trick rider Camilla Naprous on performing for Madonna and the county show display that nearly ended in disaster My family company, The Devil’s Horsemen, has been involved in Cossack or trick riding on the county show circuit since the 1970s. The moves, including the shoulder stand and “death hang” — when the rider is suspended by their ankle from the top of the saddle with their head about five inches from the floor — haven’t really changed, although the routines are regularly reinvented using new music and costumes. I started off by riding conventionally, although usually bareback. Playing cowboys and Indians with my brother, Daniel, was a favourite. It involved numerous tumbles — but you can’t be a decent rider without falling off. My earliest experience of Roman riding — standing on top of two horses — in public occurred at Horse of the Year Show at Wembley in 1995. I was eight. I galloped around the ring on Charlie and Foxy, my two Welsh section As. I did my first stunt aged nine, when I threw myself ‘The audience reaction at any show makes you feel like a rock star’ off two ponies in a circus ring, and I was 12 when I started Cossack riding. The biggest risk to trick riders are trips and slips on wet ground. If you are hanging upside down with your leg in straps, there is no quick release. If you are keen to have a go, learn from the experts. Don’t try it at home. I particularly enjoy trick riding at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe and at the New Forest Show, although the audience reaction at any show makes you feel like a rock star. Our trick team, generally made up of nine riders, works on the circuit every weekend between April and September. We also take private bookings, and once put on a gypsy-themed show for Madonna at her Wiltshire home. My most impressive “save” occurred at a county show in Northamptonshire. Four of us were Roman riding eight horses around the arena at a gallop. On a corner, my inside horse slipped down to his knees. I fell, ending up on his neck, but as he got up he propelled me back into the saddle. I still don’t know how I escaped a really serious fall. We have 100 horses, all of whom are trained from a young age to ride, drive and trick ride. All the staff have their favourites. For many years mine was Raphael, a 15.3hh dark bay Welsh cob/Lusitano. He retired last year, so on the show circuit I now ride Moses, who’s an eight-yearold roan Lusitano stallion. We don’t feel “married” yet and I feel slightly unsafer on him than I did on Raphael. My father, Gerard, began stunt riding in Paris in the 1970s, jousting on stage at The Lido. Now stunt riding is rarely live, being restricted mainly to films and TV. I was a stunt double from my late teens to my mid-20s, generally standing in for the pretty lead actress and galloping across a moor. Back then, very few female parts included impressive stunts — that was a man’s game. Although I don’t stunt ride any more, I’m involved in choreographing the sequences for the films and TV series we work on, including Game Of Thrones. Generally we are informed of the sequence required six months in advance, giving plenty of time for rehearsals. When it’s time to film, every movement has been pre-rehearsed and timetabled almost down to the second. My life is non-stop. Alongside the summer trick riding, I run a yard of 100 horses and a team of staff. Along with my assistant, Rebecca Horan, I also work out the logistics of getting numerous horses to their film and TV commitments. I spend 80% of my time on film sets, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. H&H NEXT WEEK Legendary tack shop owner Shirley Rankin Words by Julie Harding. Picture by Graham Stone/REX/Shutterstock 16 Horse & Hound 8 February 2018

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