Lights, camera, action!
Dayna Grant combines a lifelong love of horses with astonishing daredevil lm work, running the New Zealand Stunt School in Karaka
Dayan Grant combines a lifelong love of horses with astonishing daredevil !lm work, running the New Zealand Stunt School in Karaka
Horses have been involved in television and movies since the very beginning. ey have charged into battle scenes, galloped across prairies, reared up and fallen down, as important to the action as the human performers even if their names never end up on the credits.
In the past many horses su ered for the sake of entertainment – particularly in some of those old Hollywood westerns. Electric shock collars were employed to make them rear and, even more cruelly, a wire known as a Running W was used to trip them as they ran, o en resulting in serious injury and death.
ankfully, times have changed and today’s stunt horses are highly trained and valued. Between them, Dayna Grant and Rory Mctavish have a string of 23 horses they use for lm work. Dayna is a stunt performer and co-ordinator whose credits include Xena:warrior Princess, Mad Max: Fury Rd and Legend Of e Seeker. She also runs the New Zealand Stunt School from her base in Karaka. Meanwhile fellow stuntie Rory is based in Christchurch where he runs Action Horse NZ and is known for his work starting horses and dealing with problem cases. Now they have combined their skills and are passing on what they’ve learnt to the younger generation of human and equestrian stunt performers.
“We met on a lm called Underworld: Rise Of e Lycans,” explains Dayna (39). “Since there aren’t that many stunt performers who are also horse people, our paths tended to cross on various shows. We saw an opportunity to work together.”
While they share the same philosophy when it comes to training horses, their backgrounds are very di erent. Dayna has been riding literally since before she could walk. When she was an eight-month-old baby living in the King Country, her father would tie her to the saddle, with a contraption he’d made himself, and she was so relaxed she would fall asleep up there. “It was my happy place,” she says. “I don’t remember being taught to ride. It feels like I could always do it.”
Dayna’s father trained racehorses and ran a rodeo. “We used to get problem horses that he would break in and as a kid I was always the one that had to get on them. I’d ride all the lunatics,” she laughs. “Dad was my strength on the ground and so long as he was there I felt like everything was safe. He was tough and