Love Horse, Love Horse Art – Where did it all start? Part 1

Love Horse, Love Horse Art  – Where did it all start? Part 1

In the first of a three-part series, Jo GG Barrett, the artist behind Urban Fraggle discusses her love of animals and the inspiration behind her amazing artwork.

Why only horses?

Well, that's not entirely true. I've done cats, a tiger, peacocks and buildings. But it is true that the body of my work is horses. As a child I was always sketching horses, my step dad bought be a book on how to draw horses, and when I doodle, it’s usually a horse! My mind just takes me there. I am sure there is a psychological explanation that Carl Jung would pick up on, coming from my subconscious mind, but, it’s clear I like horses and art as a combination.

Here is my story with that grey mare who was sent to me to teach me, that horses are not a right, they are a privilege. You can see her and my other horses depicted and revered in my art work at

Did I even like my Warmblood?

My mare, a stunning little 15.3h Thoroughbred x Section D had been diagnosed lame. For the first time in the years I had had her she threw me off with 3 great bucks. She was a flighty mare, but she had never thrown me, so I knew there was something wrong. I was on a competition yard, working there after I had just moved to Essex with some guy I had met online. I competed as a child, show jumping, but I had gotten older, and a 13 year break from horses, competing couldn't have been further from my mind!

However, being on a competition yard opened my eyes to possibilities of grandeur. Dressage was the name of the game, and I fancied myself as the graceful rider over the plucky showjumper! So, Bronte and I got to work… but it was very short lived. My journey to understanding horses, their bio-mechanics and nature was just about to begin, although I didn't know it just yet!

Gutted that the inspiration I had felt had come to a whopping end, I started the hunt for a new one… a warmblood… yeah… a warmblood. Because after all they made the best competition horses! I was surrounded by these impressive big beautiful horses that I wanted to be part of it. I knew I wanted a dun, red and white or a grey. My heart had always been with greys. As a child the greys always stood out for me in the show jumping ring on TV.

Boy, was I in for a shock… The yard I was on always sent potential clients to a dealer, who usually bought young horses from abroad. I had given my desired colour, height and sex (mares, always loved mares, although we know geldings are usually easier!)And of course budget. She had a Red & White come in who apparently had stunning markings, but, by the time we had organised a viewing, she had been sold. I was then told about a grey, 4 years old, mare, 16.1hh out of a Grade A showjumper Nelson Z and within my budget.
Also, a big black gelding. At 17.1hh I decided was much too big for me (I had seen quite a few in the meantime and actually put a deposit on a lovely black mare who seemed as safe as houses, but she failed the vetting). So, I went to view this gawky, strawberry roan with a big straight head and a short neck! I didn't like her, I thought she was ugly! (Bearing in mind Bronte was a pretty little mare, and I was used to pretty)

Anyway, my ego got the better of me, and because she was out of Nelson Z, and the girl I was viewing her with said if I didn't want her then she would buy her, I decided to try her. The first viewing I wasn't able to ride her as she had sores on her mouth from the bit and a saddle sore… but I watched her move… and watched her try and jump out of the arena (that's daddy’s girl!), and decided she had potential.

My second viewing I liked the look of her a little bit more. And it was time to get on her. The dealer rode her (tight, but my limited experience I didn't question back then). I got on her… her trot was sticky and uncomfortable, she reared… more than once. But, I 'pushed' her through it (because that is what you are meant to do, right?). Anyway, I got a canter out of her and my word, it was like riding a rocking horse! It was so up hill and smooth and comfortable. I was sold!

I started the training process, lunging. I've never really been a fan of gadgets, but it was recommended to me to put side reins on her to keep her head long and low. So I did, and to drive her forwards. So I did. She seemed lazy and switched off, vacant in fact. Not the idea of the competition horse I had in mind! I was disheartened. 
I can't remember why I decided to move from the yard I was on, but I found a quiet little private place and moved Bronte & Nancy. This was where all my problems began (not that they weren't already there, I just hadn't ridden her yet). The first day I tacked her up, and tentatively got on her, and walked her round with her head in the air, then asked for trot, with her head in the air, was the first experience of being bolted with and subsequently thrown! Hmm… This was not good!! Just a one off? Nope. It was happening every single time, and my confidence was starting to be knocked!

Visit Jo's portfolio to discover more about Urban Fraggle

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