Sculptor Kelly Graham, left, and horse owner Gail Holmes, right, with Graham's sculpture of the broodmare Stylish Play Lena. The statue was installed Nov. 20 outside the National Cowgirl Museum. • Photo by Lillian Kent.

Stylish Play Lena Sculpture Joins Famous Herd at National Cowgirl Museum

Rounding out a herd of five famed cutting mares, a bronze sculpture of the great Stylish Play Lena recently took her place in the Alice Walton Cowgirl Park at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

The sculpture was installed on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the sculpture park outside the museum, which is on the Will Rogers Memorial Center complex in Fort Worth, Texas.

Upon seeing the finished statue for the first time, Stylish Play Lena’s owner Gail Holmes was misty-eyed. She visited the sculpture after it was installed Saturday morning by its creator, sculptor Kelly Graham.

“This is exactly how she stood,” Holmes said, “I’m in awe. It’s like she’s back. Her eye, her head, her ears [are perfect].”

Stylish Play Lena: One of the Greats

Daughter of Docs Stylish Oak, Stylish Play Lena (out of Play Lena, by Freckles Playboy) carved herself a legacy in the cutting horse industry. Earning $289,624 in the show pen, Stylish Play Lena produced the winners of more than $2 million, including EquiStat Elite $4 Million Sire Hottish ($301,200, by Spots Hot) and 2015 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Open Horse of the Year Smooth Talkin Style ($305,284, by Smooth As A Cat).

The 24-year-old mare is living out her life in peaceful retirement in Colorado. 

“This has been such a wonderful project, and being adjacent to the Will Rogers Coliseum [is perfect]. Everyone can come here every year for the next hopefully 100 years and enjoy seeing the history of cutting,” Holmes said.

According to Holmes, honoring the late Charlie Moncrief was at the forefront of this endeavor. Moncrief, who died in January, and his wife, Kit, have been long-time promotors of Western culture and very involved in the horse industry, together breeding the winners of more than $2.7 million and owning horses with more than $1.1 million in winnings. 

“He was so involved in this great project with his wife, Kit,” Holmes said.

Sculptures: a Famous Herd

Stylish Play Lena rounds out a trio of cutting mares at the Northeast corner of the Alice Walton Cowgirl Park. Her herd mates include NCHA Horse of the Year Little Badger Dulce (Peppy San Badger x Sandia Dulce x Doc Bar) and all-time great cutting broodmare Royal Blue Boon (Boon Bar x Royal Tincie x Royal King). 

Graham, a sculptor with a background steeped in the horse business, didn’t have the chance keep Stylish Play Lena at his home throughout the sculpting process, as he usually does with his subjects. 

The famous herd of broodmares at the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. • Photo by Lillian Kent.

“It felt like a lot more guesswork. I went back to her breeding to know what to [look for],” said Graham, who creator the statue of Buster Welch and Peppy San Badger that stands at one of the entrances to Will Rogers Memorial Center. “Just how she’s bred meant she had a big hip, Doc’s Stylish Oak head, and a lot of bone to her. Structurally she’s just a phenom.”

The entire project took ten months, and Graham said the most difficult part was instilling movement in the standing sculpture. 

“Sometimes [movement] happens and it’s there, and sometimes it’s not. It’s a lot like training a horse. It’s give and take – take clay back just like you’re training a cutting horse. Then you add the heat back to it,” Graham said. 

With Stylish Play Lena’s sculpture in its final resting place, Cowgirl Museum Director Patricia Riley expressed satisfaction with the garden’s progress, emphasizing thoughtful, organic growth of pieces. 

“I think one of the great things about The Cowgirl Museum is we’re always evolving. All kudos to Alice Walton for wanting to pay tribute to these great mares,” Riley said. 

Other statues in the park include Walton’s great mare Boon San Sally (Boon Bar x Hula Stopa x Hula San) and that mare’s daughter, Boon San Kitty (by High Brow Cat) as a foal. Decorated war horse Sergeant Reckless, and two dogs; war dog Lucca and Good Friday Walton round out the collection. 

A formal unveiling of the statues will be scheduled at a future date.