Napier's Olivia Ahlborn is used to creating sparks with her blistering speed in the showjumping ring, now she's hoping a welding labour of love will have the same effect when it's auctioned off for charity at this year's Land Rover Horse of the Year Show.

The 19-year-old physics student and former Horse of the Year competitor is donating 25 per cent of the sale proceeds from her first life-size horseshoe sculpture to the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust via a silent auction across the week of the event.

Being holed up welding in a workshop from daybreak until dark has become Ahlborn's new and not-so-normal "norm".

There are nearly 500 horseshoes welded into the sculpture. Photo / Supplied
There are nearly 500 horseshoes welded into the sculpture. Photo / Supplied

"Alongside riding I began to learn how to weld. First a good friend Paul Sands introduced me to the skill, and then I apprenticed to one of the best welders in Hawke's Bay, Brendan Miller of Miller Custom Fabrication.


"So for the past half year I've been working in an engineering workshop.

"At the beginning of the year I began my own project which developed into the horse you now see.

"This is my first major sculpture. I have always drawn and painted - especially being inspired by horses."

The process involved in creating the pony-sized sculpture involved painstakingly cleaning the rust from the shoes, shaping them and then welding them together.

The shape and form grew from a concept in Ahlborn's mind, though she often referred back to an actual horse for anatomy and proportion.

"I first started with the head then I built the neck and barrel, followed by the two front legs.

"The hind legs and tail completed the horse, and then I plasma cut the steel plate beneath to mimic the shadow of the sculpture."

Then it gets technical.


"The horseshoes are welded together with a MIG welder using wire to feed metal into the weld - this also carries the electric arc.

"A shielding gas is necessary to prevent porosity in the weld. It is much easier to 'tack' the horseshoes into place with the MIG welder as it only requires one hand, so the horseshoe can be held in place with the free hand.

"There are nearly 500 horseshoes welded into this sculpture - I counted them when it was finished. I'd estimate the weight at 250kg with the steel plate beneath."

The entire sculpture, which was sandblasted and powdercoated to protect it from the elements, has a reserve price of $20,000 with Ahlborn more than happy to donate part of the proceeds to CatWalk.

"I am super keen to support this awesome mission especially as a rider, runner and tramper myself, so getting others back on their feet really resonates with me."

The sale of the horse sculpture will fund her overseas study which will start at the end of this year in the Netherlands.

"I will be studying a double degree in applied mathematics and applied physics at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, but will certainly continue riding in a stable there, and even sculpting in my spare time."

Ahlborn's sculpture is on display beside the Premier Jumping Arena all week at Land Rover Horse of the Year, with silent bids being taken via email at

The auction winner will be announced at noon on Sunday and will take possession of the piece after next month's NZ Rural Sculpture Awards in Kimbolton.