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Cavalluccio Marino (Sea Horse)

Cavalluccio Marino, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

“Cavalluccio Marino” is a privately commissioned stone sculpture carved from Italian Ice Alabaster, and inspired by a special horse named Meri. The title is Italian for Sea Horse. Meri’s owner, Laura, describes her as “a protector and a big hug.” Her goals for the sculpture are a feeling of purity, illumination, and liberation.


Laura gave me a breath-taking description of the personality of her horse, and I felt as if I already knew her. SRC American Xxpress, also known as Meri, is an 11-year-old Friesian-Arab cross, a gorgeous combination of breeds unfamiliar to me. She was a show horse who moved like a ballroom dancer until arthritis in one of the small joints in her foot left her unable to carry a rider. 

Laura and Meri, peak performance.
Laura and Meri–Showtime!

Laura is a midlife therapist, and an enthusiastic and accomplished horsewoman. Meri is her Heart Horse. She knew through a horse psychic that Meri did not want to retire to pasture as a brood mare. Rather, she wanted to help her owner in her therapy practice. Meri’s big heart, quiet strength, even temperament, and serious work ethic will serve her well as a therapy horse. She far prefers pats to carrots, and loves attention. She is solid, steady, confident, and sensitive to peoples’ feelings. All these virtues point to success in her new career.

Laura and her Heart Hores, Meri.
Laura and her Heart Horse, Meri.

I had the pleasure to meet Meri when I delivered Laura’s sculpture to her home. Meri was instantly friendly, sweet, and asked for a hug only minutes into our conversation. She is very generous with her attention and most satisfying to pat! I do not have much contact with horses any more, only by sculpting them, so a horse “fix” is a rare treat for me these days.

The Pose

I chose to present Meri in this standing pose, head turned to face Laura, left front foot raised in anticipation to join her in her therapy practice. Meri wears her show braids in mane and tail. I felt that she is a formal horse who always wants to look and act her best.

She has the longest tail I have ever seen, it trails behind her for several feet along the ground when she moves, giving her an elongated and floating appearance. She holds all the best characteristics of her Arabian and Friesian breeds. Her powerful legs, rounded chest and hindquarters are Friesian, with abundant flowing mane and tail. She has the sculptural finesse of an Arab; her face has a shallow dish; her neck is arched and colossal with calligraphic curves.

Italian Ice Alabaster

Meri’s psychic friend told Laura that Meri sees herself as white, even though she is dark bay in color. Italian Ice Alabaster is an opulent translucent stone. It glows when lit, and one can see opaque veins, masses, and fused lines deep beneath the surface. It is a luminous, ethereal stone perfect to represent this extraordinary personality.

Meri also has a spiritual bond with the ocean, so I added Blue Onyx elements to the base to represent the sea. Meri could be mist, sea foam, and cloud formations. Cavalluccio Marino/Sea Horse.

A Revelation to the Maker

I enjoy working with clients to realize their personal ideas in stone because it expands my perceptions of stone sculpture and my relationship to the world. It gives me a connection to a special person, their vision, and a special subject through my art.

I am oriented to the earth and look down when I walk. Meri’s sculpture feels like I am metaphorically looking up. I would never think to sculpt a horse from a stone that feels like air or mist or spirit. It is outside my experience and my notions of stone, and therefore important in my evolution as a sculptor to do so. It was exciting to carve this illusive Italian Ice Alabaster, and comforting to create this special horse during a global pandemic.

The experience of making “Meri” caused me to look up and out and at the boundaries of solid form. It was exciting to make a sculpture defined by shine, by highlights, by absorbed and reflected light.

Viewing this sculpture takes me to another dimension that I will call spiritual, beyond the magic I know in opaque stone. Forms are elusive the way understanding can be elusive. Clarity of thought and feeling can come from ephemeral forms. Some ideas are easier understood in sculpted forms than in written words. 

Meri is ready to be a therapist, like her Laura.
Meri is ready to be a therapist, like her Laura.

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Cavalluccio Marino (Sea Horse)

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