Toddy makes mark on “invisible” horse with silver fern motif

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Olympic gold medallist Sir Mark Todd has turned his hand to art to collaborate with renowned artist Michelle McCullagh to bring the story of abandoned Thoroughbred horse, Fern to life for World Horse Welfare’s Invisible Horse sculpture trail.
Olympic gold medallist Sir Mark Todd has turned his hand to art to collaborate with artist Michelle McCullagh to bring the story of abandoned thoroughbred Fern to life for World Horse Welfare’s Invisible Horse sculpture trail.

New Zealand eventer Mark Todd added some hoof black and some other touches to an equine scuplture painted with silver ferns honouring an abandoned thoroughbred mare that will be on show at next month’s Badminton Horse Trials.

The moving story of Fern the abandoned Thoroughbred has been brought to life in World Horse Welfare’s Invisible Horse Trail by celebrated artist Michelle McCullagh in a unique collaboration with Todd.

Featuring a silver fern leaf design in homage to Sir Mark’s home country, the sculpture features several stunning portraits inspired by Fern’s face – partially hidden beneath the leaves and embodying World Horse Welfare’s ‘Invisible Horse’ initiative.

Sponsored by the Mark Todd Collection, the sculpture has been partially painted by Todd himself and given the addition of his signature across one hoof. The story of abandoned Thoroughbred Fern who was rescued by World Horse Welfare, inspired McCullagh’s unique design.

“I really wanted to bring Fern’s story to life in a sensitive and emotive way, whilst creating something that visualises the Invisible Horse theme and pays tribute to Sir Mark’s New Zealand roots. Fern’s face is not immediately visible beneath the leaves and I hope the sculpture will encourage people to spend a little while longer looking at the sculpture and thinking about all of the horses who are so in need of World Horse Welfare’s help and may not always be immediately visible.”

Todd was happy to support World Horse Welfare, which was this year’s Badminton Charity of the Year.

“World Horse Welfare is a fantastic charity so I am very pleased The Mark Todd Collection is supporting the Invisible Horse Trail and delighted personally to be involved,” he said.

“As competitors, one of the most paramount things is our horses’ welfare and whilst our own horses are pretty much pampered athletes, we’re also very aware that not all horses get such a good deal and a lot of horses in many spheres don’t get treated as they should.

Michelle McCullagh working on the "Fern" sculpture.
Michelle McCullagh working on the “Fern” sculpture.
“The Invisible Horse Trail is a great initiative to bring the plight of these horses into the spotlight and I think following the trail will make a fun addition to anyone’s visit to Badminton whilst learning more about World Horse Welfare’s work and supporting them in any way they can.”

Todd is among the most celebrated New Zealand sportsmen, with two Olympic gold medals and numerous other honours. He was named to compete in six successive Olympic Games, has competed at Badminton Horse Trials for 36 years, winning the iconic trophy four times, and was named Event Rider of the 20th Century by the FEI in 2000.

Fourteen fibreglass horse sculptures will make up the trail, each one telling the story of a horse who has been helped by World Horse Welfare through the artist’s interpretation of that story. The maquette for the fibreglass sculptures was modelled on the charity’s adoption horse, May, by award-winning sculptor Judy Boyt, with the sculpture trail bringing to life World Horse Welfare’s campaign to raise awareness of the world’s invisible horses.

All the artists and designers involved in the Invisible Horse Trail have given their time and creativity free of charge. As well as McCullagh, three other artists have been named to design and dress a horse each for charity.

Judi Milne's "16 pairs of hands" work designed by field officer Claire Gordon will be coloured in by visitors to the World Horse Welfare stand at Badminton.
Judi Milne’s “16 pairs of hands” work designed by field officer Claire Gordon will be coloured in by visitors to the World Horse Welfare stand at Badminton.

Renowned tattoo artist and cartoonist Judi Milne is translating World Horse Welfare Field Officer Claire Gordon’s idea detailing the ’16 pairs of hands’ that helped take May from her terrible condition when she was found fly-grazing to the healthy, happy horse she is now. This piece has a black outline and visitors to World Horse Welfare’s stand at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials will be able to help ‘colour-in’ the sculpture. Entitled, ‘The People’s Horse’ – the sculpture is sponsored by media planning and buying agency, TCS Media.

“It’s an honour to be involved in the creation of ‘The People’s Horse’ and the idea of the public interacting with her, led to the idea for the design to be made up of small areas easily coloured in,” Milne said.

“With such an amazing eye catching exhibition, you can’t help but want to look at it and touch it and with May, actually get to have some personal input, the experience stays with you for life and so does the message. I volunteered at World Horse Welfare’s Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre, working with the lovely Susie Main who became my great friend and has always been a true inspiration due to her amazing strength and character. Susie very sadly passed away a couple of years ago, so I am dedicating my sculpture to her.”

The Mitsubishi Motors horse painted in silver will be dressed by world-renowned hat designer and sculptor, David Shilling. This sculpture will embody the story of World Horse Welfare Yogi, a pony rescued by the charity in 2006 who is now a key player on the UK competitive carriage driving circuit.

World Horse Welfare’s iconic Clydesdale Adoption horse, Digger, is being embodied through a farming heritage themed design by Judith Stowell. The design will highlight the role of working horses in agriculture and will feature the tartan of Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre.
World Horse Welfare’s iconic Clydesdale Adoption horse, Digger, is being embodied through a farming heritage themed design by Judith Stowell. The design will highlight the role of working horses in agriculture and will feature the tartan of Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre.

World Horse Welfare’s iconic Clydesdale Adoption horse, Digger, is being embodied through a farming heritage themed design by talented, self-taught rural artist, Judith Stowell. Sponsored by insurance provider, NFU Mutual, Judith’s design will highlight the role of working horses in agriculture and will feature the tartan of Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre.

Two of the Invisible Horse Trail sculptures.
Two of the Invisible Horse Trail sculptures.

Since graduating from Falmouth University in 2008 with a Fine Art degree, Michelle McCullagh has been successfully establishing herself as a fine artist specialising in animals, particularly horses. From a very young age Michelle has had a close involvement with horses. Since the age of six she was a member of the Pony Club and went on to compete in affiliated eventing after her A levels. She still now hunts when she can.  Michelle’s work focuses on the fastest, most versatile breed of horse, the thoroughbred.  Her work is inspired by her life drawings with their expressive use of minimal lines. Her oil paintings are an attempt to describe movement and form by using contrasting colours where the light catches anatomical flashes of detail.

The painting of "Fern" in progress.
The painting of “Fern” in progress.

 

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