Man and his horse.
THE MUSTANGS OF LAS COLINAS
You'll know you've arrived at Las Colinas when you spot the working Flower Clock at Highway 114 and O'Connor Road. The clock is covered with fresh flowers and blooms throughout the year.
FLOWER CLOCK WELCOMES YOU TO LAS COLINAS
Throughout history, a love affair has raged between man and his horse. Wherever you might wander, you will be hard pressed to find a city center or village square without its hero on his horse. But nowhere in the world is there a sculpture that comes close to the free-spirited, breathtakingly realistic bronzes that appear to be snorting, through flared nostrils, as they splash through a stream of water in the midst of a granite office complex in Las Colinas, Texas. This 1973 master-planned business and residential development within Irving, Texas includes office and convention space, more than 20 hotels, and is home to the world headquarters of many companies.
The tourist area, with its potpourri of shops, galleries, and restaurants is an ersatz mini-Venice, complete with gondoliers steering boats up and down the Mandalay Canal that connects to Lake Carolyn.
The Mustangs of Las Colinas, the worlds, largest equestrian sculpture, is located at Williams Square. The centerpiece of this plaza, opened to the public on September 25, 1984, is nine larger than life-size horses that pay tribute to the heritage of Texas…not only the geographical Texas, but also a Texas personified by free-spirited individuals and entrepreneurs.
This monumental sculpture, memorializing the distinctive people of Texas is dedicated to a people committed to freedom of action, initiative, and expression. And no one Texan exemplifies the spirit of the Lone Star State better than Ben H. Carpenter, the developer of Las Colinas.
First, Carpenter created the methodically planned Las Colinas, transforming the open grassland of the past into the urbanized community of the future. Once that was done, he envisioned a grand plaza that would serve as a gathering place for new generations of Texans.
Carpenter named the plaza Williams Square, after his sister and brother-in-law Carolyn and Dan Williams. Then he determined that the plaza (larger than two football fields) would be paved in Texas pink granite, the same granite used to face the three office towers flanking it.
To the Texas tycoon, no subject seemed more appropriate for the plaza's sculpture than the wild mustangs that once roamed across his land. To Carpenter, they were an integral part of Texas history.
"These horses," wrote Texas scholar J. Frank Dobie, "bore Spanish explorers across two continents. They brought to the plains Indians the age of horse culture. Texas cowboys rode them to extend the ranching occupation clear to the plains of Alberta.
Spanish horse, Texas cow pony, and mustang were all one in those times when, as the sayings went, a man was no better than his horse, and a man on foot was no man at all. Like the longhorn, the mustang has been virtually bred out of existence."
In the summer of 1976…to design, create, sculpt and supervise casting and installation of the sculpture that would bring the mustang back into existence…Carpenter hired the internationally renowned East African wildlife sculptor Robert Glen.
For the sculptor, born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, a year of preliminary research of the wild horses was the first step in this gargantuan project that would ultimately consume the better part of a decade. Glen devoured books and historical periodicals to further his understanding of the magnificent creatures that sired the original wild horses of Texas.
In his research, Glen discovered that the horses presently living in the preserves and parks reflected a crossbreeding unlike the original Andalusian breed brought by the Spanish to the American continents. To search for authenticity, Glen was sent to southern Spain, the only area in the world where purebred descendants of the Andalusian horse still survive. He spent many weeks studying the Andalusian horse.
The second step in the birth of The Mustangs of Las Colinas began when Glen returned home to Nairobi. From the mood and concept given him, Glen constructed some 47 small-scale model horses in a variety of positions and motions. After larger working models were made, Glen and Carpenter selected the final nine horses that would be reproduced at one-and-a-half times life-size.
The next stage took Robert Glen, his five mares, two stallions, and two colts to the Morris Singer Foundry in Basingstoke, England. The world famous foundry, a one hour drive from central London, is renowned for utilizing British, French and Belgian artisans to cast such works as the Lions of Trafalgar Square and the art of such famous sculptors as Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein and Barbara Hepworth.
During several of the years in which the mustangs were being created, cast, and covered with a life-like bronze skin, the final stage was being set in Irving, Texas. With the granite-clad, copper-roofed buildings well under way, landscape architect and planning engineer James Reeves designed the plan for the granite prairie and rippling stream the mustangs would be crossing.
Eight years after the project was conceived, thousands flocked to see nine living bronzes galloping across a pebble-finished streambed. A concealed fountain spray system suggests the splashing of water around the horses' hooves as they cross midstream. The horses themselves suggest the spirit and vitality that is Texas.
YOUNG AND OLD FLOCK TO SEE THE HORSES
Four years later (August 1, 1988), the Mustang Sculpture Exhibit opened in the adjacent museum at Williams Square. This museum/gift shop features a short documentary film that depicts the history of the mustang and how the Mustangs of Las Colinas were created.
MUSEUM DEPICTS THE HISTORY OF THE MUSTANGS
In addition, there are several "working models" of the horses used in the creation of the full-sized bronzes by Robert Glen. Also on display are several of Glen's limited edition sculptures many of which have graced the private collections of such notables as Queen Elizabeth II, his Highness the Aga Khan, the late president of Kenya and the late actor James Stewart.
MODELS OF HORSES IN MUSEUM
Returning to my car, still hypnotized by the startling mustangs, I thought about extinction. At that moment in time it seemed that Ben Carpenter and Robert Glen had truly saved the stunning creatures from extinction.
Pulsating bronze replaced warm flesh as the words of J. Frank Dobie came to mind: "But mustang horses will alway symbolize western frontiers, long trails of longhorn herds, seas of pristine grass, and men riding free on a free land."
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and a Travel Consultant with the Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio