COLCHESTER, Vt. —Mark Freeman is a big man and strides through the barn with the confident movement of a big man. He stops when he gets to the stall of an oversized horse with a long white blaze down the center of his face. The horse leans out of his stall, knowingly and nuzzles the big man.
“There you go, Duncan,” Freeman says in a deep voice. “How are you?”
The big Clydesdale and Freeman met weeks ago when Freeman was looking for a horse to play the role of his steed in the upcoming film “The Green Knight.” Duncan had been rescued earlier in the fall by Spring Hill Horse Rescue and was being trained at Gentle Touch Training in Colchester. Freeman knew right away that the big horse would be perfect for his movie.
“A few people that know Gentle Touch and know Spring Hill said ‘they’ve got this amazing horse, you really need to check out this horse,’” Freeman recalled. “And, so I contacted Peggy and got some pictures of him and then we came out and met him and he’s perfect. He’s exactly what we were looking for.”
Duncan when he first arrived at Spring Hill September, 2012
The “Peggy” Mark referred to is Peggy Murray, the trainer at Gentle Touch. Murray trained Duncan even as he was recovering from a prolonged period of starvation. She guided the big horse back from the edge of despair.
“It’s like an abused child,” Murray said as the big horse nuzzled her. “He was withdrawn, to himself and really was afraid to do anything wrong.”
Duncan became one of her standout pupils as he gradually regained the hundreds of pounds lost during his prolonged starvation on a Windsor County Farm. Peggy knew instinctively that Duncan had the intangibles necessary to make movie magic. It was Murray who introduced the horse to Freeman.
“When the actor saw him, Mark, he fell in love with him instantly,” Murray said as she stroked the big steed’s nose. “I don’t know if it’s his eyes or what it is, but he really loved him.”
Indeed, to spend even a little time with Duncan is to fall in love. Before Monday’s shoot, Murray allowed this reporter to climb into the saddle atop the giant horse. I found the big guy to be almost push button, responding to my hands and legs. He trotted enthusiastically especially if we were moving in the direction of his trainer.
“I think he’s a little bit of a mama’s boy,” I said as I stood in the saddle moving forward at a good clip.