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Argo, Trusty Warrior Steed!

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A Tribute to Xena's Horse Argo

Argo is the beloved Palomino horse belonging to Xena, Warrior Princess. Through thick and thin this talented steed, played mainly by a horse called Tilly, is there for Xena whenever she needs her.

Carrying Xena into battle accompanied by that infamous war cry, Argo is a feisty mare who is quite capable of holding her own, delivering a well-aimed kick at many an evil warlord!

Xena: Warrior Princess was a hugely popular fantasy TV show which aired from 1995 to 2001. It followed the adventures of warrior Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle as they went about righting wrongs across ancient Greece, battling gods, warlords and evil creatures.

Argo (and her identical foal, Argo II) appeared in 77 of the 134 Xena episodes made. This lens pays tribute to my favourite horse and reviews some of her best episodes!

So saddle up and meet this beautiful Palomino, and learn more about both the character of Argo and the horses who played her!

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Xena & Argo: An Unspoken Understanding

Aphrodite: "So, you shrunk her horse and then you lost him? So what?"

Gabrielle: "So what? Do you know how important Argo is to Xena? Sometimes I think she likes that horse more than she likes me."

Xena and Argo have an amazingly close relationship. Both seemingly know what the other is thinking. Argo responds to Xena's whistle and other verbal commands with ease. In many episodes Xena would leave Argo roaming wild and always be reunited with her upon returning from her quest.

At the start of Xena there was some confusion over Argo's gender, as early episodes such as Sins of the Past and Dreamworker have Xena refer to Argo as "boy". However, from season one episode The Greater Good onwards, it is made clear that Argo is a mare.

Argo's strength, beauty and intelligence is a perfect match for Xena. She has a personality that is rare in horses, sensing danger, issuing commands to other horses and seemingly feeling emotions just like humans do. She can get jealous and was the first to sense that Xena was pregnant in Animal Attraction.

Watch Argo in Action!

You can find Argo (and Argo the Second!) in all six seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess. which are available on DVD here!

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Argo Breyer Horse Model

Argo was so famous, Breyer even made a model of her! For those of you unfamiliar with Breyer, they are an American company who specialise in plastic, porcelain and resin model horses for play and collecting.

"Xena's Horse Argo" was released in 1999, priced at £29.99 in the UK. She came in a specially designed Xena box and was posed in a fabulous action stance. She even graced the cover of Breyer's Just About Horses Magazine (Volume 26, No.3, May/June 1999) alongside Xena.

Also named "Xena's Battle Charger, Argo", she is model number #757 and made from high quality cellulose acetate plastic. She is airbrushed to create realistic depth of colour and hand-painted tri-colour eyes.

She is now retired but can sometimes be found on sites such as eBay - take a look below to see if there are currently any auctions!

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Argo and Gabrielle

Gabrielle: "Argo doesn't like me."

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Xena (petting Argo): "Sometimes you have to have patience with things that annoy you."

Gabrielle: "Oh, I never said she annoyed me."

Xena: "I wasn't talking to you."

Gabrielle, Xena's beloved companion, initially has a testy time with Argo. The character is not an adept rider and Argo takes great delight in running circles around her! Gabrielle rarely rides Argo except behind Xena or when she is injured. However, as the character of Gabrielle grows throughout the seasons, seeing her become a great warrior in her own right, she eventually gets her own horse, played by a gelding named Flash.

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Meet Tilly, Barbie and Mac!

The Horses Behind Argo

A common question among fans in the early Xena days used to be "why doesn't Gabrielle have her own horse?"

The response was that it was too expensive - for not one, but three horses played Argo in the show.

Tilly was the main horse behind Argo. She was the horse that Lucy Lawless (who played Xena) loved to ride and had faith in when riding. Tilly then had a stunt double, called Barbie, who would perform all the fancy kicks, rearing and other neat tricks. Finally, another horse named Mac (another reason why the Argo gender confusion arose!) was the body double, working with the Second Unit and usually appearing in distance shots.

These are the three horses named by crew members in official sources such as the Xena Magazine. However, some online sources also claim that there were two other horses involved in playing Argo; Aztec, who performed rears, and Honey, who performed kicking and running shots.

All the horses who played Argo were between 10 and 14 years old.

WHERE IS TILLY NOW?

Thanks to a recent blog by Xena actress Lucy Lawless, I can now share where Tilly is now! Lucy posted photos of Tilly from December 2010 and said, "She has Cushings disease which gives her a fluffy coat but otherwise is very well. She is now in her 20’s but still flies like a rocket. She is very safe and loved by all the kids in her community."

You can view the post along with two gorgeous pictures of Tilly at the Lucy Lawless Fan Club Page - scroll down to the post under 2/17/2011.

You can also read about the special "Argo" horse Lucy has painted for Resene Fastest Art Exhibition, which will be auctioned off to raise money for NZ children's charity the Starship Foundation.

  • The Argo Archives
    Very professionally presented site devoted to Argo!
  • Argo and Friends
    Xena fan site that includes Argo artwork, poems, stories and even the type of care and nutrition Argo would have had!

Training Horses on Xena

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The three horses playing Argo (Tilly, Mac and Barbie) were bought by Pacific Renaissance (producers of Xena) from different areas of New Zealand, and were housed at a 10 acre stable complex leased by the company.

One of the horse wranglers on Xena, Sandy Raynor, was interviewed in the November 2000 issue of Xena Magazine. She explained that the producers wanted Xena's horse to have a very specific look, to ensure Xena had a style totally her own (the character originated on the show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and had previously ridden a grey horse).

When selecting a horse for Xena, however, personality was paramount, and more important than looks! The ideal candidates are horses that are quiet, sensible, and interact well with people.

Learning the various stunts required for Xena takes time. The handlers and trainers decide which horse will be best at performing what is required, and training can take quite a while depending on the stunt. For example, to get Barbie to do a particular kick safely took around three weeks. As Sandy explained, anyone can get a horse to kick, but you don't want them going around kicking everything and everyone!

Therefore, the horses had to learn that combinations of different signals and colours meant different things. A certain whip being tapped behind her, that was a certain colour, used in conjunction with a certain word, meant "kick".

Sandy spoke very highly of the horses she worked with on Xena, describing them as sensible and accepting. Tilly was with the team from the very beginning and had excellent behavior.

"As long as you make (the horses) feel safe and comfortable, they'll really do anything that you want them to."

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Key Argo Episode: The Greater Good

"Riding? That would mean...Argo. She doesn't like me." - Gabrielle

This hugely popular episode from the first season of Xena sees the warrior princess hit by a poisoned dart. Too ill to fight against an evil warlord threatening their friend, Salmoneous, Xena sends Gabrielle into their camp dressed as the warrior princess. Gabrielle manages to ride Argo (for once!) but is captured on her second trip back to the camp; however, Argo saves her.

Later in the episode, Xena is believed to have died (but really she is just in a very deep sleep, fighting off the toxins!) and the warlord has both her "body" and Argo. He tries to make Argo and another horse tear Xena's body in two, but Argo refuses. When a soldier goes to beat the horse, Xena miraculously comes back to life (a regular occurrence on the show!!) and does battle with the evil guys.