Equine vet Oliver King is appealing for funds to construct a memorial to commemorate almost one million horses that died during the First World War.

Free Spirit memorial
The £250,000 “war horse” bronze by artist Georgie Welch will be completed for the centenary celebrations in 2018 marking the end of the First World War.

The planned tribute – a life-sized bronze “war horse” costing £250,000 – is to be displayed in the National Arboretum, just a mile away from Pool House Equine Clinic in Staffordshire, where Dr King works.

It is hoped the work – by artist Georgie Welch – can be completed by 2018, the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Breathtaking design

The fund-raising project is being run by charity Free Spirit, which needs £90,000 before it can begin construction. So far, Oliver has run one of four planned half marathons in an ongoing bid to raise cash for Free Spirit.

He said: “I understand this is a lot of money being raised for a cause vets may think could and should be put to better use improving the welfare of animals that are alive. But that is the nature of a memorial and human memorials are still built all over the place.

Artist's impression
An artist’s impression of the Free Spirit memorial in-situ. Images © Georgie Welch.

“However, I share the values of what the charity is trying to promote and having walked around the arboretum and seen the finished artist impression design of the finished memorial, it would simply look breathtaking and completely fitting within the reflective atmosphere of national centre of remembrance.”

Wider tribute

Tracy Francis of the Free Spirit Horse Memorial Appeal, who runs Gartmore Riding School in Walsall, believes the memorial would be a wider tribute to horses’ contribution in areas such as work, sport and rehabilitation.

Approximately 800,000 British soldiers died in the First World War, but of the one million horses that served with the British and Commonwealth forces, fewer than 60,000 returned to Britain.

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