Argo, Trusty Warrior Steed!
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!
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!
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 Â£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!
Argo and Gabrielle
Gabrielle: "Argo doesn't like me."
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.
Argo Photo Gallery - Enjoy these BEAUTIFUL Argo Pics!Click thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Top Argo Links
Training Horses on Xena
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."
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.
Key Argo Episode: In Sickness and in Hell
"Apples? You left me for APPLES??" - Xena
In this season four episode, Xena and Gabrielle are suffering (and so is everyone else around them!) - Xena has lice, and Gabrielle has foot rot. Nice!
Xena is looking for Argo, having left her for rather a long time after her travels to the Amazon Land of the Dead searching for Gabrielle. But Argo doesn't want to know Xena, and keeps running away. A rather miffed Xena concludes that she must be mad because Xena has been gone so long.
Their friend Joxer enlists them to help a village fight back against a Scythian army. The leader of the army sees Argo, and, wanting such a magnificent creature for himself, captures her. Xena attempts to steal her back but Argo still doesn't want to go. Put off by the lice and foot rot, perhaps?
Towards the end of the episode, the Scythian leader charges Xena while riding Argo in a rather fetching war ensemble complete with horn. Luckily, Argo recognises Xena and stays faithful to her mistress, coming to an abrupt halt in front of the warrior princess and throwing the warlord off her back.
At the end, when Xena asks Argo why she let the Scythians capture her, she nods towards an apple tree. Xena is extremely put out to discover that her beloved, faithful steed defected over apples!
Key Argo Episode: Takes One To Know One
"But I can't take back a horse! I don't do animals!" - Discord
This season four episode ran like a classic whodunit? Discord, Goddess of Retribution, traps Xena, Gabrielle and friends in Xena's mom's tavern giving them until sunrise to work out which of them killed bounty hunter Ravenica, found dead in the tavern. How did she wind up with a dagger in her chest, up to the hilt, with the door still locked, from the inside? A rather amusing Cluedo-style investigation ensues, until Xena finally works it out.
Turns out nasty Ravenica, who was out to kill Xena, was trying to cut Argo's tendons. Sensing danger, Argo kicked out, slamming the window shut and knocking Ravenica flying, who ended up knocking herself silly on the candelabra and stabbing herself with the knife she was holding.
Furious that she can't take retribution on a horse acting in self defense, Discord vanishes back to Olympus in a very bad mood!
Key Argo Episode: Punch Lines
"So, you shrunk her horse! Big deal! Everybody shrinks as they get older. That's why old people are so short." - Aphrodite
Gabrielle takes Argo to the river for a bath, and to her horror, Argo shrinks! She comes across the God of Despair, Lachrymose, who tells her he will return Argo to normal size only if she can make him laugh.
Knowing Xena is going to be extremely mad when she finds out what has happened to Argo (especially being even more cranky now she's pregnant), Gabrielle tries to make the miserable god laugh, to no avail. Eventually, he shrinks Gabrielle too!
Towards the end, Gabrielle is returned to normal size, but Xena catches sight of mini Argo and is not impressed! A pie fight ensues in a tavern, and this, of all things, makes Lachrymose laugh. Argo is restored to horse size once more!
Key Argo Episode: Livia
"Argo... there'll never be another like her." - Xena
In the previous episode, Xena and Gabrielle faked their own deaths to try to stop the Greek gods from killing Xena's baby daughter, Eve. Unfortunately, before they could come round from the potion they took, Ares, not realising they are still alive, takes their bodies and places them in ice tombs.
In this episode, they awaken from their frozen tombs after sunlight breaks through the ice cave and melts them. They stagger out into the world, horrified to discover that 25 years have passed!
They find their friend Joxer, now a much older man, and he sadly tells Xena that he had looked after Argo all these years, but she eventually passed away peacefully. However, he is delighted to present her daughter, Argo II!
Argo II is the image of her mother, and she and the warrior princess have an immediate connection. Despite having never been ridden, Xena bounds onto her back, and the two are instantly bonded.
Vote for your Favourite Argo Season!
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