Who is Mr Shank? And who is his horse?

The phrase ‘Shanks Pony’ – or Shanks Mare, or Shanks Nag or Shanks Galloway etc, spread around the world quite rapidly after first being coined in Scotland. It has been commonly used in the US and Australia since the 1800s.

Strictly speaking its “shanks’ pony” meaning “legs’ horse” as in using your legs as a horse. But at times it has also been capitalised and punctuated differently – “Shank’s pony” or the pony belonging to Mr Shank.

For a time “Shank’s pony” was used in relation to the Lawmowers made by Shanks and Co (later Armitage Shanks). They made mowers that were drawn by horses but the operator had to walk behind the mower. The term seemed to evolve to describe for mowers you had to walk behind and push rather than ride on.

Part of the development of the sculpture is determining a character for the pony. Where ‘Shanks’ pony’ is used in speech it ofter used as a means of transport you’ve settled for rather than preferred “I missed the last bus so I had to take Shanks’ pony”.

In designing the sculpture I’ll be considering the character and stature of a horse thats humble, reliable, ever-ready and utilitarian in contrast to the more heroic depictions of horses normally seen in sculpture.

So part of the research for the project is wondering who Mr Shank is, and why we can borrow his pony, and who his horse is – does it even have a name?

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