The art of the impossible
- Credit: Angela Sharpe
Twenty years ago a tree surgeon wondering how to fill the slack summer period answered an advert: “Do you have what it takes to be on Europe’s top jousting team?”
Twenty years ago a tree surgeon wondering how to fill the slack summer period answered an advert: “Do you have what it takes to be on Europe’s top jousting team?” John Kearney – born in Australia, and brought up on a farm – thought he’d chance his luck. He applied and so began a new career which has lasted long beyond that first summer of jousting. From taking part in his first film, First Knight with Richard Gere and Sean Connery, to stunt driving a horse-drawn carriage in the recent Maleficent Disney film with Angelina Jolie and creating medieval jousting shows at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, it has been a fascinating and challenging life, and one which John has created from his base at Bressingham, near Diss.
He’s just back from filming in Scotland for Outlander, a British/American TV series, but after travelling around the country and abroad for filming over the past two decades, he would love to also bring his horse magic to more events closer to home in Norfolk too.
“I love it up here,” he says. “I love the people in Norfolk and the culture of this area, the way people help you. It’s also far enough away from the film studios that they only phone you because they want you.
“As for the work, I love the freedom as much as anything else – every day is different and to be able to experience so many amazing locations does mean it is quite a cool job!”
That’s certainly the case when he sees the long weeks of preparation with the horses and actors finally come together in the shots that are used on screen. John recalls when his young son whispered: “Are they our horses?” as they sat side by side watching Maleficent. “A broad beam of a smile spread across his face when I nodded in reply. ‘Cool’ he responded, gesticulating with a thumbs-up sign of approval.
“Teaching actors to ride is not always as straightforward as it sounds,” explains John. “A cheerful disposition, several weeks, (sometimes months) and a large dollop of patience, on my behalf, are required. We get involved in all sorts of stunts from chasing trains to climbing stairs. We’ve even ridden a horse into a busy restaurant to deliver a special message to a diner. You will have seen us without realising – we’ve worked on Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Gladiator, Clash of the Titans and many other familiar titles.
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“From time to time we are asked to transport people in one or more of our carriages to a party, a wedding or a prom. Once we were asked to hi-jack a groom en route to his wedding – it was the bride’s idea – in a Robin Hood style hoist!
“When our horses are not working, they relax and wander across several fields in the heart of Bressingham. These animals love what they do; if they didn’t they wouldn’t perform, and the film crews that run multi-million pound projects such as Maleficent would not ask us to join them.”
To find out more and book Horses Impossible for events, see www.horsesimpossible.com