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83-year-old speech therapist creates herd of ‘Covid horses’ from junk through lockdown

An 83-year-old speech therapist and former eventer and Pony Club member has used lockdown to create a herd of horses from junk.

Renata Whurr had never created anything in three dimensions until last year, although she had always doodled horses’ heads, having spent her youth in the saddle.

She told H&H she was an avid member of the Old Berkley East Pony Club, eventing and taking part in all the usual Pony Club activities with her 15hh Irish vanner mare Sherry.

Sherry, who was kept near Elstree Studios, was used as an equine extra in the 1952 film Ivanhoe, appearing with stars including Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Taylor. She also had an unexpected foal, named Sherry 2, after a three-year-old who was thought to be a gelding was kept in her field.

After Sherry’s death, horses took a back seat in Mrs Whurr’s life, until her “attempts to amuse myself through Covid, by making horses out of bits of cork and bottles”.

Mrs Whurr explained that she had some corks, and googled what she could do with them.

“I found someone showing you how to make objects and animals, so I started by putting corks together,” she said. “My neighbour thought it was rather fun, so she started giving me offcuts and packaging she would have taken to the dump.

“I found if you cut up plastic bottles, you can make a horse’s backside out of the bottom, and head out of the narrow end. In summer, I got ambitious and started using the legs of garden chairs; once you know the anatomy, you can turn anything into a horse.

“They’ve taken over; I gave them names and now I’ve got a herd.”

Mrs Whurr’s niece Andree Cooke has produced a book, The C-19 Horses, featuring pictures of the horses, and covering Mrs Whurr’s early equestrian life.

It includes Corky, made from the wire found on wine bottles, one-eyed Nelson, who started life as a garden table, and Ned and Nedine, the wine-box horses.

“We drink a Sauvignon white called Ned, which comes in black, red and white boxes; they’re a very nice colour, so I turned them into horses and made them a cart,” she said, adding that the legs are made of empty wine bottles and the eyes and nostrils from the caps — and laughing when asked if this could be seen as a good excuse to drink more wine.

“My husband thinks they’re a load of rubbish!” she added.

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Ms Cooke said: “In this time of isolation and solitude, I think the Covid-19 horses brought purpose to my aunt’s life, and a daily conversation and exchange between us.

“They will be a memory of this time and a celebration of how to create meaning and purpose out of what we have at home and the realms of our imagination. I feel very proud of my aunts’ achievements.”

To order a copy of the book, email cookeandree@gmail.com

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