The Lone Ranger was a former Texas Ranger who donned a black mask and rode a white stallion in his quest for justice in the Old West, with his trusty Native American sidekick, Tonto at his side.
So maybe that's why the horse who played the Lone Ranger's horse, Silver, in the new Disney remake came to Houston to be honored by fellow equine upholders of the law, the horses of the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol, on Wednesday morning. Maybe.
Either way, Silver, the 11-year-old quarter horse who plays the Lone Ranger's horse - also named Silver - in the film, was a sight to see. It was hot in that glittering Houston summer way, but Silver took it all in stride, so to speak, as the stallion stood before an impressive row of the HPD Mounted Patrol on Discovery Green and was inducted as an honorary member of the force. (Fingers crossed that they actually gave Silver a badge. And that the HPD horses have badges, because that would be pretty cool.)
Silver was one of four horses used in the movie, and he was in about 60 percent of the filming, according to trainer Bobby Lovgren. The horse and his trainers were coming through Houston on a Disney publicity tour before the July 3 release of the movie. Silver was the star of the show, but Lovgren did most of the talking.
Lovgren has been working training horses for the movies for the past 25 years. He started out apprenticing with the famed Hollywood trainer Glen Randall. If the name doesn't ring a bell, the fact that this was the trainer who worked on Ben Hur and The Black Stallion. Randall also worked with Trigger, the horse Roy Rogers rode in his films, and was known as one of the best horse trainers in the business. (Trigger was known as "the smartest horse in the movies" and Rogers loved him so much, he had the horse stuffed when he died.)
In short, Lovgren apprenticed with the best and he's been working with the horses who appear in the movies like War Horse for years. Last year, he and his son, Tanner Lovgren, worked as a team on The Lone Ranger to give Tanner a taste of the business.
Finding the right horse to play Silver was tricky because temperament and all of that are important, but, that's secondary to the fact that it's really hard to find a pure white horse, Lovgren said. In this case, not only did Lovgren need a white horse, he needed one that was glowing white, without a speck of other color. While you can dye horses to be other colors, there's no faking that snowy white that the Lone Ranger's stallion was famous for.
He eventually tracked Silver and three others down and when the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer, got on his horse and cried, "Hi-Ho, Silver!" he did it about 60 percent of the time on the horse actually named Silver, Lovgren said.
"It's very difficult finding them," Lovgren said. "The reason we wanted Silver for this is because he's very quiet and very forgiving, so he was very easy to work with."
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Silver also had a lot of work with Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto in the film, so he needed to be patient and easygoing to film the comic bits with Depp, he said.
Lovgren has been in the business long enough that he's used to complications of the movies. Sometimes his work has ended up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes his work just doesn't get noticed at all. On Wednesday morning, he was grinning beneath his straw brimmed cowboy hat as Silver was made an honorary member of the HPD Mounted Patrol. Capt. L.J. Satterwhite read a proclamation from Mayor Annise Parker declaring the day to be Lone Ranger Silver Day.
Bobby Lovgren watched as Tanner Lovgren acted as Silver's handler, standing alongside the horse as people snapped pictures while Silver turned and looked inquisitively at the row of police horses, allowed himself to be petted and tossed his mane with the absolute confidence of a horse who knows he's got this Hollywood thing down pat.
Silver accepted the honors as his due, but didn't much comment on the proceedings, aside from a delicate snort or two.