Animating the Horse


You want to help with animation? Awesome.

Let's get you started.



What You Need

The asset is rigged in maya 2014. You can use newer versions of maya.

You can use maya student version.


If you are animating the entire horse, please click here for guide. If you are performing lip syncing duties, please continue below.

Files you need

1.    horse head rig
2.    textures
3.    plates
4.    sound
5.    animation scene

1. and 2. are here.

Download the entire HorseHead folder on your local drive. The rigs (all versions released) are in the ‘scenes’ folder. Textures are in ‘sourceimages’ folder.


3. and 4. – the link to these files can be found on Shotgun. 
Go to your shot -> Shot Info (All Info) -> Linked Media. 
Download Proxy plates and save them in the ‘sourceimages’ folder (in HorseHead project). 

Audio file should go to ‘sound’ folder.

5. – this is a maya file also found on Shotgun. 
Go to your shot -> Tasks and there are two possibilities: 
- if LayoutHorse task exists, then use the latest file uploaded in this task,
- if LayoutHorse task doesn’t exist, then go to Animate Horse task and pick the latest file from here.
Save this file in the ‘scenes’ folder.
You animate in this file. Don’t animate in the rig file itself.

Video tutorial “TB HorseHead rig v04 part1” shows where you find the files (link below).

Set up maya project

When you have all the files needed on your local drive:

  1. run Maya

  2. set HorseHead folder as a maya Project directory (in Maya go to File -> Set Project and pick HorseHead folder from your local drive)

  3. open your animation scene

  4. In order to load the plates into your animation scene, select the camera (TB_#####_Cam) -> imagePlaneShape (in Attribute Editor) -> Image Name and pick the directory to the plates you downloaded. 
    Check Use Image Sequence. If maya fails to load an image sequence, make sure that the files naming convention is: “filename.####.ext”. Maya doesn’t read sequence if the naming convention uses underscore before numbering “filename_####.ext”. 

  5. Drag and drop your audio file on maya timeline

  6. Make sure you’re working with 25 FPS (Window -> Settings/Preferences -> Preferences -> Settings (in the Categories menu on the left) -> Working Units -> Time: PAL (25 fps)

  7. The animation scene has the rig loaded as a reference to it. Make sure the scene is using the latest rig available. Go to File -> Reference Editor and you should see the rig file on the list. In order to upgrade the rig, select the file on the list and go to Reference -> Replace Reference and pick the newest rig.

  8. Make sure you have the following object types visible in viewport: 


  9. In order to work with joysticks, divide your viewport vertically and in one section look through FaceGUI_Cam. In the Panel menu shown below, you can also choose Tear Off… if you want this to be a floating window.



Video tutorial “TB HorseHead rig v04 part1” shows briefly how to set up your project (link below).

About the Head Rig

Rig version 05 has all unnecessary nodes (locators and joints) hidden. Fixes the upperTeeth_Ctrl bug. It scaled along with the nose_master_CTRL.


Features implemented in version 04 and how to set up your project:

TB HorseHead rig v04 part1:

  • Intro

  • Upgrading the rig

  • Set up Maya project

  • Working Camera

  • Ctrls visibility

  • Performance Attr

  • Bridle

  • UpLip Master Ctrl

TB HorseHead rig v04 part2:

  • Tongue

  • Teeth

  • Ears and Cheeks

  • Eyes

  • Gum Fix Ctrls

  • Muscle Ctrls

  • Master Muzzle

  • Jiggle

Features implemented in version 02:

Rig Update 11: Extended Bridal Controls. MUST WATCH

What to Animate with the Head Rig

You animate the lip sync only. Don’t animate the eyes, ears, neck and don’t reposition the head unless you’re asked to do so.

This part of the head is going to be replaced in most cases:






If you’re not sure how to start lip sync animation, start with simple blocking using top joystick mouthShapes_1_CTRL. Block open and close poses of the mouth, paying attention to proper timing. Post your blocking on Shotgun and you will get feedback.

Animation Personality Style

Who’s the horse? He’s a commentator and jester. From among three main characters, his personality and attitude are the most constant. He’s ironic, cheeky, ignorant and playful.

This is a comic character and his animation should be exaggerated, rather than hyper realistic. Although he can speak like humans, he should remain very horsie.

An example of real-life “talking horse” for your inspiration:

How to Supply the Animation and How to Name the Files

Visit general FAQ section for details!

Save your scene as maya ascii (.ma), not maya binary (.mb).

To make a video preview, create a playblast H264: right click on timeline -> Playblast (options).

Maya doesn’t have h.264 encoding by default, so you can:
- in Playblast Options choose Format: image, Encoding: jpg/png and then convert this image sequence into a video format using Quick Time Pro, After Effects etc. with your audio and using h.264



- install K-Lite codec pack. When installation is completed, restart maya, in Playblast Options choose Format: qt, Encoding: H.264

Horse Body Asset

Maya project folder containing the rig and textures is here.

Rig Demonstration:

Trot in Slow Motion

Stubborn Horse

Video Inspiration:

If you want to analyze video on youtube or vimeo frame by frame you can use this tool: