Colourful war horse memorial sculpture for Hamilton

A sculpture commemorating war horses killed during WWI has been chosen.
Supplied/ The Warhorse Charitable Trust

A sculpture commemorating war horses killed during WWI has been chosen.

The details of a colourful sculpture chosen to remember the thousands of horses that served in World War I have been revealed.

The Warhorse Charitable Trust is looking to commission the sculpture entitled Cavalli Acqua. The  sculpture is described as a modern showcase of 20 aligned and vividly coloured horses by Italian sculptor Mimmo Paladino.

Hamilton City Council has approved a site for the sculpture at Hamilton Gardens Governors' Lawn and funding proposals are now underway to ensure the memorial is built.

The Warhorse Charitable Trust Chairwoman Nancy Caiger said they were looking for funding for the through sponsors, partners, collaborators and friends.

"If the fundraising remains on track the trust will look to commission the artist by next year," she said.

Caiger said the story behind it will be a powerful emblem for the region and the country.

"More than 10,000 New Zealand bred horses were shipped overseas for World War I battlefields and only four returned," she said. "Most of the horses came from the Waikato region and the part they played in our history is powerful and worthy of remembrance."

Sculptor Mimmo Paladino has sculptures in museums and public places around the world.

Former City Gallery Wellington director and Warhorse Trust art advisor Paula Savage said Paladino's sculptures are expressive and communicate with dramatic power.

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She said his horses in particular are unequalled on the international art scene.

"One was sited at the entrance to the New Town Plaza in Hong Kong as a tribute to the Olympic Equestrian Events for the Beijing Olympics," she said. 

In August, a debate arose about the design of the sculpture used for the memorial.

Caiger said the sculpture would be of a 'contemporary' style but "not so contemporary as to be unrecognisable".

Waikato Equestrian Centre patron Noeline Jeffries and her supporters were not happy with the chance of the sculpture being in a 'contemporary' or modernist style, wanting something more traditional.

Caiger believes they have made the right decision and have combined something modern, but still recognising it is about horses.

"We wanted something that moves with the times, we wanted to appeal not just to older people but to the younger generation," Caiger said.

She said Paladino was overwhelmed to be chosen for a commission so far from home.

"From a small nation on the other side of the world, he felt very honoured," Caiger said. 

The horses shipped from New Zealand to Europe with NZ Expeditionary Force served in Gallipoli, the Middle East and the Western Front. They suffered greatly from exhaustion, starvation, dehydration, and the extremes of heat and cold. Some died from disease, wounded or were killed in action.

On Anzac Day, Waikato Mounted Rifled organised a march, the first of its kind in Hamilton, to commemorate the horses who fell in war in Hamilton. 

The march saw 100 registered riders travel a loop in the Hamilton northern suburb of Pukete to honour the horses who carried the soldiers into war. 

 - Stuff

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