Olympic Rings: Shire Horses at Work

If this blog’s purpose is to report on the equestrian events of the London 2012 Olympics, this story certainly qualifies. We all know about the Celtic and Druid lore of the British Isles. We’ve heard about the eerie pillars of Stonehenge and surely crop circles are connected to the mystical British occult past as well. Likewise, the stark and ancient chalk horses carved into the hillsides must have meant something very important to the ancients. They remain to haunt us today. So how best to honor the old traditions of British mythology than to update the ancient field arts by executing an epic set of the Olympic Rings? Greenwich Park, site of the London Olympic Games’ equestrian events, is a Royal Park, a green island in the midst of the city. But it’s not the only one. The vast Royal Richmond Park is an equally surprising place to find in one of the world’s largest cities. But Richmond Park has something that Greenwich Park does not. While Greenwich Park may soon be home to horses, Richmond Park has had them all along. And they recently put them to work on a very special task. It took six Shire horses to mow the world’s largest Olympic Rings, which are approximately 300 meters wide and over 135 meters tall. Over the remainder of the summer, the Rings will be maintained by two of the horses — Jim and Murdoch, who regularly trim the roadsides in Richmond Park. The grass will be regularly cut throughout the summer and the Rings are expected to become more defined over time.

When Olympic competitors and spectators fly into London’s Heathrow Airport, they will see the world’s largest set of Olympic rings–the ultimate crop circles–mowed into a field in the city’s Richmond Park by a team of Shire horses.
The chalk horse at Uffington, England is unrecognizable as anything but chalk patches on the earth from close up. This horse was created to be viewed from afar…or even above…and still baffles art historians and cultural anthropologists. It’s right up there with Stonehenge and crop circles.
One could do worse than be a teamster at London’s Richmond Park.
This image gives an idea of the scale of these rings.

Shire horses have been used to maintain the park for many years as the Royal Parks feel that horses are the best method for rolling bracken areas and are especially useful during the winter when the ground is soft. Horses have worked in Richmond Park since 1637 when the Park was enclosed as a royal hunting ground by King Charles the First. At 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park and almost three times the size of New York’s Central Park. It?is home to 650 roaming deer, who help preserve the Park’s special grassland. The Olympic cycling racecourse will pass through Richmond Park during the Games. But of all the people and creatures who roam Richmond Park, the Shire horse is the largest and possibly the most endearing. They have certainly mown their path in history with this endeavor.

The sad post script to this story is that the Shire horse is now considered a “rare” breed and may even be on the endangered list one day. They are symbolic of British agricultural history and are the largest of all horse breeds.

And this is how they do it, with a horse-drawn lawnmower: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRGXQzDsJm0 Thanks to London 2012 for help with this article and the photos.


Fran Jurga is a freelance writer and editor from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her award-winning blogs include?The Jurga Report for EQUUS Magazine?and?War Horse News?on the 2011 Steven Spielberg film. Fran is the founder of?Hoofcare and Lameness Journal?and writes a specialist?Hoof Blog.? Fran wrote the?WorldRides blog for the Hong Kong equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics?and the Discover WEG blog for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010.You can?follow Fran on Facebook,?Pinterest?and?Twitter?for more news about the horse world. To make sure you don’t miss any news, grab the blog?s RSS feed and also??follow or subscribe to this blog?s headline news stream via ScoopIt.

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