Ed Dabney loves to play the bad guy. But, trust us, he only plays one on T.V. Dabney is the owner and operator of Dabney Riding Academy in Covington, Georgia and has been working in films for over 20 years. Originally from Tennessee, Dabney grew up with a love of all things equestrian and worked his family’s horse farm. His film making career began as a Civil War re-enactor with the National Parks Services. A producer for the ABC film Class of ’61 witnessed Dabney’s work and offered him a role in the film. Soon, Dabney’s horsemanship would take him across the country to work on movies like Gettysburg, Crazy Horse, and The Patriot with Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger.
As the production business began to boom in Georgia, Dabney made the decision to move his farm from Monroe to Covington, Georgia. The family found a 50-acre facility and purchased the property after just 30 minutes. “It was a moment of pure serendipity. Everything just fell into place.” Now, the Dabney Riding Academy is buzzing with activity. Dabney told us that his philosophy with training is patience and kindness. “We believe in teaching ‘good riding’, which involves learning about your horse and understanding how to give it commands. It’s a partnership; if the horse understands what the rider is asking, it’s more than willing to do it.”
His philosophy seems to be working because, for the past three years, Ed Dabney has been the equestrian supplier and coordinator for Fox’s hit television show, Sleepy Hollow. “Working with this cast has been truly enjoyable. They’re all so much fun and a great cast and crew. We were contacted in Season 2 because the producers needed a white horse that could rear up on cue.” Luckily, Dabney’s daughter Elizabeth had trained her white stallion Accolade for that very trick. Elizabeth also teaches and rides with the two-time national champions, the Diamond D Girls and performed as the stunt rider for Nikki Reed, when the actress portrayed Betsy Ross.
Dabney even got to ride in front of the camera! Dabney portrays the character of “War” on Sleepy Hollow. His character’s costume is a full suit of armor and a flaming sword. Dabney told us that he had to wear a specially designed masking suit (to hide his features), a full sheet of chainmail, and the heavy armor. He couldn’t see, hear, or even feel his horse while they were filming. He says that he has a real appreciation for the knights of Camelot now! The most important piece of moviemaking, for Dabney, has to be historical accuracy; whether its traditional Native American garb to Revolutionary era bits and bridles, Dabney attributes his obsession with accuracy to his days as a Civil War actor. His wife says that he’s no fun to watch movies with because he constantly points out the mistakes.
We wondered how the horses reacted to the special effects that are called for on set. Dabney’s horses are specially trained to handle gun fire, fireworks, fog, and even fire! He created a special training routine that allows the horses to slowly become accustomed to the loud noises. By the time the horse and rider hit the set, both are completely prepared and comfortable, which means that both are able to complete their scenes safely. Dabney even mentioned that he used this training method to help the riders with the Atlanta Mounted Police Force!
It’s safe to say that the Dabney Riding Academy can handle anything a script can offer. And, with its convenient location to I-20, the Academy proves to be a true one-stop-shop for filmmakers. Ed Dabney and his incredible team have created the perfect location for television and movie production. The grounds are gorgeous, his horses are friendly, and his expert staff is nothing short of exceptional. A huge thank you to Mr. Ed Dabney for showing us your farm and for participating in our interview. We had a blast and can’t wait to be back in the saddle again!