A true sea horse: majestic sculpture inspired by life-boat horses unveiled

  • An incredible sculpture honouring the history and life-saving work of horses in a British seaside town has been unveiled at sea.

    The Lifeboat Horse, by Rachael Long, stands in the harbour of Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast.

    The 3m-high horse was commissioned by Wells Maltings for the Wells Heritage Art Trail.

    “I was contacted by the arts centre because they were setting up a sculpture trail and asked if I wanted to put in a proposal,” Rachael told H&H.

    “I live in south Norfolk, so I went up to walk around the town and meet with the harbourmaster.

    “We talked about the site that he wanted one of the sculptures to be on, which was in the harbour. We discussed my work, which is mainly animals and birds, and he showed me this amazing photograph (pictured, below) of the Wells lifeboat being pulled on to the beach by five pairs of heavy horses.”

    Rachael said the harbourmaster also told her how the horses would recognise the lifeboat call-out alarm and gallop to the gate to be caught.

    Wells-next-the-Sea lifeboat, supplied by Robert Smith, Harbourmaster, port of Wells.

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    The horse is made of ridged metal bars, that are used in structural engineering, and “coloured in” with old whiskey barrels.

    The highly-tidal nature of the Norfolk coastline means the amount of the sculpture people can see is always changing. At low tide, he stands on the sandy shore, while at high tide, just his head is visible.

    Rachael Long with the horse on installation day. Photo by Damson Ellen

    “[The reaction to it] has been extraordinary,” said Rachael, who has been creating sculptures for 23 years.

    “It has got a life of its own, the way people respond to horses [is amazing], they are part of our history and culture.

    “I made the whole thing here in my workshop at home. I had to take it out to put the ears on and then he stayed in a huge grain shed on our farm.

    “It has involved quite a lot of collaboration with my brother, other artists and the harbour master.”

    The Lifeboat Horse in progress. Photo by Mungo Behm

    The installation was complex and required a boat with a crane, huge rods to pin the horse to the seabed and exact timing to avoid the tides.

    The sculpture will be on show until the end of September and there are hopes that its stay could be extended, which may require the structure to be galvanised.

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