The Princess Royal is to unveil a life-size bronze statue of a horse who became a symbol of the struggle against the IRA after surviving the deadly 1982 Hyde Park bomb atrocity.
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) commissioned the sculpture of Sefton, whose recovery from the blast which killed seven stablemates and four soldiers captured the nation’s hearts.
The college’s artist in residence, Camilla Le May, was handed the task of sculpting the black gelding and has created a three quarters of a ton sculpture, showing him walking briskly.
Anne, whose love of horses is well known, will officially unveil the sculpture outside the college’s teaching and research centre in North Mymms, Hertfordshire, tomorrow.
Many people who knew and rode Sefton provided detailed briefings to help award-winning Ms Le May capture the horse’s character and spirit.
The 39-year-old, from Wadhurst, East Sussex, said: “It was fascinating to talk to those who rode and knew Sefton and this, along with studying old photos, enabled me to find out some of his individual traits, such as the way he often tilted his head, looking back over his shoulder, which I chose to represent in the work.
“He was by all accounts a strong character and quite a handful, especially in his youth. Perhaps it was partly this strength of character that helped him pull through his appalling injuries.”
The statue was commissioned to honour one of the RVC’s longest-serving senior academics, Professor Peter Lees, who retired in 2010. It was funded by RVC honorary fellow Lord Ballyedmond.
Jonathan Forrest, development director at the RVC, said: “Artistic inclination is a good thing within the scientific professions and scientific understanding is a good thing for an artist.
“For vets, the use of hands and eyes is critical; similarly for a sculptor.”
He added: “We chose Camilla as we felt her approach was particularly suitable, being based on animals and where anatomy and the underlying structure are key.”
After joining the Army, Sefton became a riding school horse before joining the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
Following the bombing, and despite 34 separate wounds that required eight hours of surgery, Sefton recovered and was able to return to service where he became famous for battling against the odds.
The animal, who served with the British Army for 17 years from 1967 to 1984, went on to win Horse of the Year – a prize his rider on the day of the attack, Sergeant Michael Pedersen, picked up on his behalf.
Sefton also became one of the first horses to be placed in the British Horse Society’s equestrian Hall of Fame and has an annual prize named after him.
It is believed his life was saved by a guardsman who ripped off his shirt and used it to staunch the flow of blood to his neck wound.
A second blast two hours later in Regent’s Park killed another seven soldiers.