Movie star equine up for auction

SAM CLARKE
Last updated 12:00 17/07/2014

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One of Levin's biggest movie stars is looking for a new home.

Big Nick played the role of Draysill, Gandalf's horse, in the second Hobbit film and is also said to feature heavily in the upcoming final instalment of Sir Peter Jackson's trilogy.

Big Nick's owner and the head animal wrangler for the Hobbit, Steve Old, said it was sadly time to find the 9-year-old a new home.

Old placed an ad on Trade Me last month seeking offers for Big Nick.

His star power has netted him a $20,000 price tag, roughly double what one would expect to pay for a similar animal.

But his owner said it was about more than just who had the cash.

"I want him to go somewhere where they'll use him," Old said.

"He's an intelligent horse, I don't want to let him rot away in a paddock."

He said the animal actor would be a good attraction, pulling wedding carriages or returning to his roots in horse trekking.

The purebred clydesdale was originally bred in Levin before moving away to pursue a horse trekking career in Cape Farewell at the top of the South Island.

He was headhunted by Old who had been commissioned to find a "big and beautiful" steed for the movie's grey wizard.

Old said he found the six foot six, big, black horse with four white hooves and knew he was the right one for the job.

He returned to Te Horo where he was trained before travelling across New Zealand, from the Ruapehu desert to south of Queenstown, for the films.

Old said the horse was easy to work with on set and spent a bit of time with co-star Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf.

"We obviously put a lot of work into getting him ready for filming," Old said.

"But he has a good personality for it. He's a little soft natured . . . a little cautious but he's the kind of horse that will nuzzle your chest."

But Big Nick was not always easy to control.

Old said there was one tricky scene where the gelding had to stand in front of an army of two hundred, including other horses.

"He got a bit excited so I had to hold his tail to keep him still," Old said.

"I don't think he liked that because he kicked me in the kneecap. He got me good, I'll give him that."

The film animals trainer said he would be sad to see the equestrian star go but it was time for him to downsize.

"They take a lot of feeding and a lot of looking after but I don't really want to sell him."

Big Nick's auction has received more than 46,000 views on Trade Me.

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- Manawatu Standard

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