Tehanu brings us this report:

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One of the disadvantages of being an LOTR website that actually has a base in NZ is that we can’t post anything from the local papers and magazines without their permission and expect to get away with it. Luckily the Dominion is the only print journal that dislikes seeing its articles reproduced on the Net, so I’ll paraphrase their article of last Tuesday.

What interested me was the information that various allegations of cruelty to animals have been posted on the Net concerning horses on the LOTR set. “Every report is posted on the internet and is judged by the world,” according to the Dominion. I’d love to know more about that; it’s news to me. Is there some “LOTR Film Sucks and is Doomed to Fail (because it’s Evil)” website out there?

The allegations are that a horse was so badly injured that it had to be put down; that the film company dyed horses white with toxic peroxide; that a block and tackle was used to knock horses to their knees. One horse supposedly broke its back in a trick, another was put down after falling from a wharf, and another shot for a hide to cover Liv’s barrel-shaped ‘riding contraption.’

This sort of talk had the Ministry of Agriculture and the International League for the Protection of Horses worried enough that they came and inspected the way the animals were being treated. They had no concerns regarding what they found.

The rumours also worried the film company enough that they invited The Dominion’s reporter Alan Samson out to the Te Horo stables so he could see for himself. (Maybe this is a great idea – I’ll spread rumours of terrible demeaning cruelty to short people on the LOTR set and see if that gets me an interview with the hobbit doubles!)

Samson got to watch animal trainer Dan Reynolds making Shadowfax rear on command. Moments afterwards, according to the report, the horse “nuzzled his boss affectionately.”

The head wrangler, Dave Johnson, said the rumours seemed to be blown up from real but innocuous incidents. There was a lack of available white horses in NZ and the film crew had briefly worked with the idea of lightening a horse’s colour using human hair-dye, not peroxide, but the substance was ineffective. One of the Ringwraith horses had slipped when it was being unloaded onto a wharf, but it was given antibiotics and recovered.

A horse had died of colic, another of a heart attack – both regarded as natural causes of death. Among 70 horses, they had merely the normal kinds of injuries such as strained tendons and puffy joints, according to LOTR vet Ray Lanagan, who testified that the horses were well-treated and subject to less strain than, say, race-horses.
“If horses could talk, they’d say they were pretty happy about what they’ve got here,” said Lanagan.