Life-size Shire horse made of willow goes viral online

  • Shire horses are always a draw for the crowds at a county show — and anyone headed to Cheshire Show next week (19-20 June) might come across not only the real thing, but also an unusual life-size replica.

    Sculptor Jane Foddy has spent more than 200 hours crafting a 16.2hh Shire out of willow.

    The former primary school teacher took up the hobby after her retirement and while she creates a range of creatures — from chickens to stags — equestrian subjects remain her favourite.

    “I just love horses. When I am making them I shut my eyes and feel the shapes round the head and hocks, I’ve been used to checking horses’ legs showing them as a child with my grandfather,” explained Jane, who has had to give up riding because of a bad back.

    Shires are a particular passion, as her grandfather was a breeder, producer and judge.

    “It’s in the blood,” she said. “The first horse I sat on when I was three was a Shire my grandfather was showing Bath and West — I remember it was like being on a mountain.”

    The sculptures are constructed from willow sticks that are harvested in Somerset in the late autumn, January and February and come in different lengths. An 8ft stick has to be soaked for eight hours before it is pliable enough to use.

    “I also get shorter pieces that I can make feathers or a blaze with that I can spray with a colour,” she said. “I like the willow, it looks subtle in a natural landscape. I didn’t want to work with a medium that was large and metallic.”

    Usually working from commissions, Jane’s other equestrian subjects have included an Arab mare and foal for a stud in the New Forest, a 13.2hh palomino pony and an Irish cob constructed to go with a cart. More of Jane’s sculptures can be seen at www.gingercatwillow.co.uk

    “Not everyone is into horses and I’ve made goats and highland cows as well, and stags have been popular with stately homes,” she said.

    It’s her Shire, however, that has attracted the most interest.

    “After I put a picture of the Shire on Facebook it had 64,000 shares and I have had a potential purchaser get in touch from the US, I’m just trying to find out if it’s possible to export it,” she added. “I’ve had enquiries from all over the world.”

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    While a commissioned piece of this size usually sells for around £1,800, the Shire will be on offer at Cheshire Show for £1,595.

    “We’re hoping it fits in the van to get there!” Jane added. “I do own a vintage Rice trailer and I’ve travelled horse sculptures in that before with their heads poking out of the back. People have hooted as they drive past — it was good fun!”

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