All eyes were on Britain’s native Shire horses on Friday when more than a billion people from around the world tuned in to watch the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Five Shire horses from Drayhorse Shires in Kent took centre stage during the opening sequence of Danny Boyle’s breathtaking ceremony – Isle of Wonder.
The Shires appeared pulling two omnibuses and a cart around Boyle’s green vision of Britain at the Olympic Stadium during the beginning of the three and half hour spectacle.
Horses Honour, Valour, Jim, Charlie, and cart horse Albert took it all in their stride and have since won the hearts of Shire horse fans from across the world.
“We have had such great feedback from people all over the world on our Facebook page – it has been fantastic,” said Nara Stevens owner of the Olympic Shires and who was also riding in one of the omnibuses during the opening ceremony along with her husband Gavin.
“I’m so proud of how the horses behaved – they were just brilliant the whole way through and so relaxed.
“The two grey horses even slept in the tunnel just before the ceremony started; they weren’t at all fazed by the crowds.”
Nara and Gavin were contacted by the Danny Boyle’s creative team in September 2011.
“At first Danny Boyle wanted to use different horses to pull the omnibuses but we managed to persuade him that the Shires would cope better,” added Nara.
“We had 15 rehearsals altogether and each time the noise level was built up to see how all the animals would cope with the atmosphere. The horses were so calm every time – it has just been so great to be part of it all.”
Shire horses have long been associated with the British countryside but with advances in industry their numbers dwindled from well over a million to just a few thousand by the 1960s.
The Shire Horse Society is the only charity dedicated to the protection and promotion of Shire horses, which are now classed as a rare breed.
“It was an extremely proud moment to see the Shire horses perform so gracefully and show the world what a magnificent breed they are,” said David Ralley-Davies, Secretary of the Shire Horse Society.
“The Shire horses played such a magnificent part and the story of our countryside couldn’t have been told without them.”
For more information about Shire horses, or on becoming a member of the Shire Horse Society, visit www.shire-horse.org.uk