Giant duck used by Olympic equestrians

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A BUDDING artist is hoping his new career will take off – after he was commissioned to paint a 9ft duck.

Freelance graphic designer Oliver Speck-Smith was asked to create the artwork for an equestrian event featuring international Olympians.

The 31-year-old, from Shepherds Way, West Boldon, who is more used to designing album covers or restaurant menus, said: “I thought it was an opportunity to get into something more creative.”

The duck, which took days to complete, is one of the fences on the new cross-country course at Burgham Horse Trials, in Northumberland.

Nicknamed “Quackers’ Leap”, it will feature at the competition this weekend, which is set to attract some of the biggest names in eventing and Team Great Britain Olympic hopefuls.

Oliver, who studied fine art and design at Sunderland University, said: “Burgham is a great place to work, out in the middle of nowhere, and fortunately the weather has been fine for me.”

The course, near Longhorsley, has been designed to international standards by former Olympic course designer Ronald Alexander and built by a team led by former top eventer Peter Wilson.

Joint Organiser David Nicholson said he launched an appeal in local papers in a bid to attract the best designers.

“Equestrian events rely heavily on volunteers for fence judges, stewards and course runners,” he said. “But for this unusual role we were looking for an artist who wanted to add something quite unique to their portfolio – and the media appeal came up trumps.

“We have a number of feature fences, also including a rugby goal, and wanted the duck to look as lifelike as a 9ft wooden duck possibly could and Oliver has done a great job.

“We’re really pleased with it.”

Oliver would be happy to hear from anyone with unusual commissions and can be contacted at

For more information about weekend’s event and opening times visit

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho