Clare from our marketing team tells us about
meeting Duke and Baron the Clydesdales and the mark they are
leaving on The Kelpies.
A few months into my role in marketing here at The Helix, I was
asked to accompany a team down to the canal who were
arriving to shoot some footage for The Kelpies to be used
on the BBC's One Show. The team included two lovely
ladies, Donna and Lorraine, from Pollok Country Park who brought
with them two of the most handsome men I had ever laid eyes on.
These guys were called Duke and Baron. Tall, distinguished and
weighing in at around one and a half tonnes each.
Duke and Baron are Clydesdale horses that Andy Scott, the artist
behind The Kelpies, chose as his life models to base the sculptures
on. Watching them gallantly bound out of their horse box that day,
it was clear why Andy chose these boys almost 10 years ago to help
bring an idea on a piece of paper to life. Their size is so
intimidating, yet one look into those big brown eyes and it was
clear they were nothing but gentle giants with amazing dispositions
- true gentlemen!
Back in the office later that day, I started comparing some
photos I took of the boys to their 30m high counterparts. The
resemblance and life like qualities of them versus The Kelpies was
amazing - right down to their individual personalities. The strong,
majestic muscle definition of Baron on the `head up` Kelpie to the
quirky ear slant of Duke every time you take his picture mirrored
in the `head down` Kelpie.
During the topping out ceremony celebrating the construction
work being completed on The Kelpies, Duke and Baron gifted us with
some of their horse shoes as a memento to their modelling
work. Everyone involved with the sculptures thought that it
would be a great idea to physically link Duke and Baron to the
artwork and commemorate their contribution to the project,
including Andy. So what better way to do this than
by mounting each of the horse shoes inside their Kelpie
counterpart? Look out for them on your first tour next
Earlier this week, when we were given the opportunity to go
visit the boys on their home turf to find out more about where
their shoes come from, I was there. Welly boots at the
ready, jacket on, let's go! What do you mean not until
Ben and I arrived bright and early in Pollok Park; eager to see
the boys again with cameras poised like excited tourists whilst
trying to pretend that we were serious professionals here on
official Kelpie business (I love my job!!!)
And there they were - looking as gorgeous as ever, munching
their breakfast alongside some of their younger stable mates.
Jim the farrier arrived at the same time as us, cracking straight
on with the job (or hoof) in hand. It's another lovely strand
to The Kelpie story to find out that Jim and his brother, alongside
their apprentice, run their family business. They are
semi-retired but continue after many years to hand make and fit
both Duke and Baron's shoes. Both seemed quite surprised that
two of these were going to be paid tribute to inside the world's
largest equine sculptures...
Watching the process was absolutely fascinating, if you were to
imagine it in a movie that's exactly what it was like, complete
with cowboy like leather chaps - anvil out, banging on red
hot metal, the steam as they were then plunged into cold water and
sparks flying everywhere as rough edges were sanded out. I'd
like to point out at this stage that this was all done from
equipment installed on the back of a small truck!
What I was not expecting during this process however was when
Jim approached Baron's extended hoof with a shoe that was glowing
bright red, giving off enough heat to cook not only an egg but an
entire fried breakfast. Hang on a minute I hear myself think,
do you know that's really hot?? Run Baron!
The shoe is pressed into Barons under hoof, smoke billows across
the courtyard and a distinct burning smell enters our
nostrils. Looking up with concern for Baron, I notice he is
having a stand up nap. Jim explains that he can't feel
anything, his hoof is like a massive, thick toenail and they do
this so that the hot metal moulds to shape around the hoof giving a
better fit. You can see this process in the video below,
amazing to watch.
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We also learnt that day, with a bittersweet understanding, that
Duke and Baron are not as young as their other stable mates and
getting on a bit. Baron suffers from arthritis and is only
helping out with light duties at the moment. A younger
Clydesdale called Chancer has been brought in to take over some of
his workload including pulling the Santa sleigh this year around
Pollock Park. Baron is due to find a new retirement home next
spring while Duke will do the same the following year -
after living in the park since he was 6 months old. It was a
sad realisation, especially for the broken hearts they will leave
behind in their many fans and carers Donna and Lorraine.
However it's also a happy thought that they will be allowed to
retire gracefully and chill out in their latter years.
And so, we tore ourselves away from the boys after a blissful
few hours to return to Falkirk, happy and smelly - the distinct
aroma of burning hoof with just a hint of hay and horse
poo. So although confident that Duke, Baron and I will
meet again soon, I will be reminded of my equine romance on a daily
basis in the meantime, every time I look up at The Kelpies.
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