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My Mane Men

05 Dec

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!

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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 momento 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 year.

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 tomorrow??

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!!!)

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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 molds to shape around the hoof giving a better fit.  You can see this process in the video below, amazing to watch.

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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Categories: The Helix, The Kelpies
 
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