the great war horse november 11th 2018
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a favourite creative horse clipping project. They all hold special meaning, but The Great War Horse (2018) was a tribute project for the Centenary celebrations of the end of the World War One & holds a very special place on a personal level, for reasons that go beyond my understanding. All I know is, in a parallel universe or another life, I would probably have joined the army and felt completely at home. The clip was born from a deep love of military history and the desire to express gratitude and honour towards those that fought for honourable reasons, which in my opinion, is the most noble thing a person can do. I cannot stand injustice and I have great respect for those that uphold it.
When I was a young teenager I did dream of joining the army, I even visited my local Fusiler office to find out what I had to do. Train and get your fitness up he said, then come back in 6 weeks. Life did however take on a different form, the main hurdle was fitness. From leaving school, I suffered terribly from an inflammatory skin disease that still plagues me today and being able to reach the fitness level to join basic training was proving exceptionally difficult. While some of my friends went off to join up , (friends who I had met through army cadets ) I entered into corporate employment, which, I would end up walking away from to pursue my dreams. Ultimately I don’t regret the journey at all. It is however probably the only ‘what if’ I have. Army Cadets gave me a taste of army life, we shot rifles, went on exercise, camped out, made unbreakable bonds, and felt a sense of belonging. The barracks and the travelling, I loved it.
The Great War Horse Creative Clip was worn by the exceptional horse ‘Obi’ who I met through Clippersharp. Clippersharp’s Vicky Goody contacted me & invited me to do a creative clipping demonstration at their trade stand at Your Horse Live. It would be the first ever clipping demonstration of its kind, as creative clipping was emerging into mainstream clipping practices and I was at the forefront of it having just been to America to give clipping demonstrations in the Midwest & Wisconsin. We started planning the feature in summer 2018 and when I put the call out for demo horses, I saw Obi , whom his owner Michele Cooper put forward for the feature. I immediately knew this would be the time I do my ‘War Horse’ creative horse clipping project.
The War Horse is a project clip that I have wanted to do for many years, but I was waiting for the right time. It was a project where I would pull out all the stops and NOTHING would be left out or to chance. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realised something very significant. In 2018, the 11th of November (Remembrance Day) fell on the actual Sunday AND it was the Centenary celebrations, one hundred years to mark the ending of the war! We would be featuring The War Horse in public, for the two minutes silence in the main arena on Sunday – and it was the 11th November 2018! I couldn’t have timed it better if I tried. The next time Remembrance Sundays would fall on a Sunday would be November 2029 – 11 years later! (And at the time of writing this it still hasn’t happened yet).
Obi’s stature was that of a true strong and noble working war horse, his black and white colour offered contrast during my design process, with his neck holding the ‘trenches’ – each colour representing the opposing sides. For the design development I got out books from the library, I visited the Imperial War Museum in London, visited friends at Hyde Park Barracks, which was in itself a major treat for me. I have always felt a strong connection with military and the horses, and thought I wasn’t fully aware of it as a child, I was trained by cavalry solider turned officer Tony Dampier (see image below), from the early age of 8. I was learning the foundations of my equestrian career with Tony, imprinting his cavalry ways into what would become my professional equestrian life with horses . I know I owe my foundation of horsemanship knowledge and skills to Tony. His meticulous standard ingrained into my approach with horses, I don’t cut corners with horses ever, it doesn’t even cross my mind. I can hear Tony’s instruction to this day. Tony served with the Household Cavalry for three years during National Service.
Back to the clip, with the show falling on Remembrance weekend; including the Sunday 11th 2018, I wouldn’t have swapped that experience for anything. The bridle Obi wore was an actual Cavalry bridle, kindly lent to me from friend Owen Watkins, whom did spare time to show me the barracks and where Tony had served. The photo’s below are of Tony at Hyde park barracks.
I do feel a sense of ‘closure’, in that, I did what I set out to do. It’s the only thing I think I could have done, without being in the army myself. This is without a doubt, a highlight moment in my life and one that I am happy to have forever etched into the history books with my art at its purest form. I only wish I had better photos and videos of The War Horse Clip, but even in the past 5 years, technology has developed immensely snd we simply were not utilising portrait style videography like we do today. I do however have a fabulous collection of photos, some that the public took during the weekend of clipping demos, plus some great shots taken by EJ Lazenby so for that I am most grateful.
About the clip: The clip consists of elements to reflect the First World War, the Remounts cap badge is clipped into Obi’s right hand side / off side , along with the ammunition symbol (the triangle), a cannon (artillery) with two soldiers, the merchant navy ship and the dates of the beginning and the end of WW1 – 1914-1918. You can also see barbed wire and a bandolier (belt of ammunition).
On the opposite side, Obi’s right side, also known as the near side, you can see ‘Rat’s Alley’, a nod to the trenches with names. These helped the soldiers navigate their way through the trenches during World War One, similar to street names. There is also ‘Lest We Forget’ , with a poppy, a Cross and a soldier paying his respects, or stood reflecting with his Lee Enfield Rifle. There is also a space unclipped, that I left for demonstration purposes for the Your Horse Live demos .
The weekend at Your Horse Live was fantastic, I met some incredible people, fans who have followed my work for a while came to visit and meet me in person, people had their photos with Obi, the two stand in soldiers in full dress who completed the picture, I cannot thank enough, It was super fun teaming up with Michele Cooper Obi’s owner who conducted an interview style demonstration which worked fabulously! Behind the scenes at the stable block was great fun, we had some super star neighbours , I met Geoff Billington, he came in to see Obi – I grew up in the era when Geoff Billington & The Whitakers were all over the magazines (no social media then) and the top of their game (and of course still are). We also shared the main arena with Ben Atkinson and his team , we were up in the small hours in the morning getting familiar with the arena and also Sir Lee Pearson, affectionately known as ‘The Godfather’ of British Para dressage.
On Remembrance Sunday itself, we were introduced and interviewed in the Your Horse Live main arena by Spencer Sturmy (pictured below) which was great fun because Spencer made me feel completely at home in an otherwise very nerve racking scenario. There were lots of people watching and listening and my knees were shaking! But Spencers questions about the clip helped bring me back to focus and before I knew it the Centenary and the Great War Horse story and meaning was flowing into the microphone.
The night of the 11th November I was driving home and I remember feeling a sense of overwhelming accomplishment , although, I was also in a ‘void’ from a close friends suicide just weeks earlier. There was a lot of emotion happening. I look back and I’m glad I did the clip, I’m not quite sure how I did considering the great loss and Conrad’s suicide but I think I was still in a shock / daze, because I remember for the first 3 months, I barely cried. The year that followed it (2019) was horrendous and excruciating. And it all unfolded. That night, I was drifting off to sleep and something happened for the first time ever. I was awake, I was conscious, not in sleep state. I was seeing a vision in what felt like a parallel place somewhere but it was in the past, it was definitely in the history. It was in a clearing in the woods, and there was a woman there. In all honestly I know it sounds bizarre but it happened.
And I have had this happened a few times since. I believe it’s connected to something deep within, when you reach a heightened ‘state’ , you feel an immense ‘love’ feeling or overwhelmed with achieving a purpose of sorts. Connecting to a higher source and completing a mission.
I don’t really know what it is, but if and when I figure it out, no doubt it will come out in my work. I think my most recent work, ‘The Astrology Clip’ is half way there…