All in a day’s work: Equine film producer Nathan Horrocks *H&H Plus*

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  • Nathan Horrocks on mixing parkour with eventing and Many Clouds’ role in the development of the JockeyCam, as told to Kate Johnson

    Riding is an extreme sport. It’s hard to describe what it physically feels like to ride. We set up Equine Productions, specialising in equine films, in 2012, using modern technology, different camera angles and editing styles to create content that puts the audience as close as possible to the horse.

    Our Original Horsepower film was commissioned by the Jockey Club to promote the start of the Flat season.  We used a “Russian Arm” car, with a camera attached to a crane, and filmed alongside, above and in front of the horse on a four-furlong gallop. So many people asked how we did it, the behind-the-scenes film was more popular than the original.

    Watching eventers go round Badminton blows your mind. Our head of production Rebecca Denman was an event rider and brings her understanding of that world. For our film to promote Burghley, we shot two parkour (the sport of negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing, typically in a city) athletes jumping the obstacles.

    My highlight as a jockey was riding a winner at Cheltenham for Pat Murphy on Shadiann. It was a Rugby World Cup year, and I was given my trophy by the winning Australian team – I felt very small. But the life of a journeyman jump jockey took its toll; I felt there was something else out there for me.

    We launched our JockeyCam in 2015 at the Grand National meeting. Aidan Coleman wore one on Benny’s Mist in the Topham Chase. He fell, and it was great seeing his view from under a fence, with horses jumping over him, and hearing the medics and Aidan. When he could get up, he grabbed a loose horse and it was Benny’s Mist. Proving jockeys love horses, he apologised immediately, and said, “Sorry about that pal, it wasn’t too bad was it?”

    Many Clouds was a huge part of the JockeyCam process; as we developed it, I wore versions riding him out. I had a real emotional connection with him, and trainer Oliver Sherwood is such an enjoyable person to work for. Clouds was the best listener; he understood. In 2015 I was going through a divorce and he was my great distraction. Clouds blew the door open for me as a person and us as a company.

    When Clouds raced he’d stick his head down, he’d never quit; he was an inspiration to me. But he ran so disappointingly in the Gold Cup, I nearly took the camera off him for the National he won, but I left it on for sentimental reasons.

    I’ve never felt anything like the day he passed at Cheltenham. I was in the winner’s enclosure waiting for him when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I ran up the course, Oliver walked towards me and said, “He’s gone, Nathan, he’s gone,” and fell into my arms in tears. Minutes after, he composed himself to give the interview of a lifetime on ITV, which says a lot about the person.

    Clouds was loved, we were very proud of him and wanted to tell his story. We launched our tribute, Many Clouds – the People’s Horse, at the Equus film festival in New York. There was hardly a dry eye. We won best director.

    My favourite racing moment was at Aintree, shortly after Clouds died. They were putting a plaque on a wall of fame and Clouds’ groom CJ and I were waiting for the presentation. Lord Teddy Grimthorpe was there and said, “CJ, I want to congratulate you on what a wonderful journey you had with that horse. You must be so proud.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 November 2020