Last surviving Black Beauty is still going strong

  • Of the five black horses that starred in the 1994 Warner Brothers production of Black Beauty (shown yesterday on ITV) only one is still alive.

    Bought by his groom on the film set, Billy is now 28 and still living happily at his owner’s yard in Wales.

    Louise Maryon went straight from school aged 16 to work on the film.

    “I spent six months sewing false manes in and sticking stars on but I can’t watch the film because it’s so sad,” said Miss Maryon, who now breeds, shows and judges Arab horses.

    Bred in Moscow, Billy, an Orlov trotter, raced three times before he was bought by the Russian Horse Society and came to Britain.

    Warner Brothers needed horses broken to harness for the film and bought Billy, or Blindaj as he was originally named, and Vandal from the society and a chestnut called Gidrap.

    The other three black horses came over with a trainer from the US.

    In the film, Billy was ridden by Sean Bean and galloped by Alun Armstrong, who plays the drunk Reuben Smith.

    “I fell in love with Billy,” remembers Miss Maryon, who is now 40.

    The horse was originally going to be sold to a film horse supplier but she managed to persuade the company to let her buy him.

    She paid £750 for Billy, who was rising four when he starred in the film and has had him ever since.

    “He’s been my riding horse, done a bit of showing in foreign breed classes and some film work,” she said.

    Billy’s acting career also included a commercial for Guiness and several music videos – but it is for his role in Black Beauty that he will always be remembered.

    “When we took him to the Arab National Horse Society show three years ago he was mobbed,” remembers Miss Maryon.

    Although it was the first time Billy had been in public for 15 years he did not put a foot wrong in front of the 250-plus well-wishers.

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    “Billy is very stoic, nothing frightens him. So many people remember him as a special part of their childhood,” said his owner.

    The horse, now 28, is “a bit creaky” but still has plenty of Facebook fans and even a chestnut horse for company, like Black Beauty himself.

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

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