The Times We Lived In: Son of Shergar’s coltish vulnerability

Published: November 21st, 1983.Photograph by Matt Kavanagh

The Shergar foal in a frisky mood during a photocall with handler, Yvonne Morrissey. The foal was later sold for 325,000 guineas. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The Shergar foal in a frisky mood during a photocall with handler, Yvonne Morrissey. The foal was later sold for 325,000 guineas. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Sat, Jun 28, 2014, 01:00

 They say that when you can see the whites of the eyes you’ve got a good wildlife photograph. Okay, this isn’t a wild horse. But as foals go it’s pretty frisky. As well it might be, because this leggy young animal is the son of Shergar, legend of the Irish racing world.

It’s a tough start in life for any young creature to be in the spotlight because your dad is famous – and missing.

The kidnapping of Shergar in February 1983 spawned a mini-industry, yielding books, documentaries, a feature film, countless “investigations” and a range of theories that fingered just about every baddie on the planet, from the New Orleans mafia to Col Muammar Gadafy.

It would be enough to frighten any horse, let alone baby Shergar. The colt had been kept under close guard for most of his life but – in this photograph – was being shown off by his handler, Yvonne Morrissey from Thomastown Castle Stud, Co Kildare, prior to being auctioned in November 1983.

The auction reports, naturally enough, don’t mention any of this. Instead they stress the money involved: the foal was sold for 325,000 guineas, breaking the European record at the time.

Our photograph captures the vulnerability of the young animal, highlighting the unease in his eyes but also the healthy shine of his coat and the latent power in that muscular body.

With the exception of the handler, who presumably is trying out a bit of horse whispering, the humans in the picture have a hostile look, all the way from the woman on the left with her arms folded to the men on the right, their faces thunderous.

Still others have half-turned to gaze at this extraordinary creature, gleaming as if he has just risen from the sea, balanced – so it seems – on three impossibly thin legs.

And he gazes back at us, through the eye of the lens.

– Arminta Wallace This and other photographs from The Irish Times can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales

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