Art in the field

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 Field - - Opening Shots -

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.”

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.”

To see more of Tom Hill’s work, go to: www.tomhillsculp­ture.co.uk

To do­nate to the rac­ing horse sculp­ture in aid of Peter O’sull­e­van House, call 01638 662246 or go to: www.in­jured­jock­eys.co.uk/shoes

The trainers and far­ri­ers have been so help­ful giv­ing us their old rac­ing plates

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