Poised mid-stride at full gallop, the latest life-size racehorse and jockey sculpture by Tom Hill is made from sport for sport, says Janet Menzies
The first of three life-size racehorse and jockey sculptures by Tom Hill is made entirely from used racing plates to raise money for the Injured Jockeys Fund, as Janet Menzies discovers.
Sporting art is generally about sport but now horse sculptor Tom Hill’s latest work has gone a step further: it’s made from sport and in aid of sport. Hill’s life-size racehorse and jockey galloping is made entirely from old racing plates, which have been donated by the farriers, trainers and owners from flat racing’s HQ, Newmarket.
Better yet, every shoe is sponsored by racing lovers in order to raise money for the Injured Jockeys Fund’s (IJF) latest fitness and rehabilitation centre, Peter O’Sullevan House, which is currently under construction at the British Racing School in Newmarket.
The first of what it is hoped will be three horses fighting out a finish was unveiled in the autumn by Injured Jockeys Fund president AP McCoy. Poised in mid-stride at full gallop, the sculpture is full of movement, speed and grace, making us think again about the humble horseshoe.
Hill isn’t quite sure how he saw the potential for art in discarded shoes and confesses: “It’s pretty dirty work when you are using old horseshoes.” Perhaps it is the link between the metal shoe and what it enables the horse to do that inspired Hill to create his athletic, galloping horses. He explains: “I grew up on a farm and have always been around horses. Even though I have never ridden myself, I have always appreciated horses. I try to capture the personality of the animal I’m sculpting.”
Hill faced a technical challenge in welding the shoes together to create a different shape but started small and gradually learnt what could be done. “We had a large pile of horseshoes at the family farm and I started to make small pieces — and a friend showed me how to make garden planters. It progressed from there. I’ve developed my style as I have gone along. I’m continually trying to progress from one sculpture to another. I always try to learn a new technique when I make a new sculpture. It’s hard to pinpoint one particular influence on my work but I appreciate most sculpture.”
SPONSORED RACING PLATES
His love of the medium means Hill is always soaking up new images and ideas, including a move into stainless steel and bronze — which is certainly a bit easier and cleaner to work with than old racing plates. The original idea for the sponsored racing plates came from the Injured Jockeys Fund marketing manager Paul Taplin.
He explains: “It came about because I wanted to find a way for our supporters to engage with what we do and to feel that their contribution will be a lasting part of the centre when it is finished. Those sponsoring a horseshoe will be recorded in an album and will have a chance to come to the centre when it opens in 2019 and see the work that we do — as well as admire the sculpture.”
It was when Taplin came across Hill’s work online that he made the connection between horseshoes and racing, which gave him the idea of a commemorative sculpture made entirely from racing plates. “The trainers and farriers have been so helpful giving us their old racing plates and each one used in the sculpture has been worn by a Newmarket racehorse,” adds Taplin.
Imagine sponsoring a racing plate worn by Cracksman or Too Darn Hot — it’s a wonder the sculpture doesn’t race off into the distance. This is exactly the feel Taplin is aiming for: “We unveiled the first sculpture in the autumn but we want to raise enough money to complete two more so that we can have them riding out a real racing finish.”
This is appropriate for a charity that is all about the thrills and spills of horse racing. Since being founded in the 1960s, the Injured Jockeys Fund has spent more than £18m assisting injured jockeys and their families. For every exciting finish the public enjoys, there is danger behind the scenes — one in every 16 rides over jumps results in a fall for the jockey.
The IJF’s two existing rehabilitation centres, Oaksey House and Jack Berry House, are world leaders in treatment, and Taplin is delighted with the current project. “I’m thrilled with how it is coming along,” he says. “We have already raised £20,000 from the first sculpture. Now we just need to raise enough for the next two and hopefully they will be ready when the centre is opened in late summer or autumn.”
Hill agrees: “I’m looking to start work on the second one in February and follow up with a third. Then my next project is a personal one for me and is one I’ve been planning for a few years. It’s going to be a 30ft tall rearing horse sculpture made entirely from horseshoes — and it will be up for sale once completed.”