Thomas Holland, 87; Sculpted Statue to Honor Pony Express

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thomas Holland, 87, sculptor who created Sacramento’s prized horse and rider statue that honors the historic Pony Express, died Jan. 3 at a nursing home in the artists colony of Ajijic, Mexico, after a period of declining health.

A third-generation Californian born in Alameda in the Bay Area, Holland was a natural choice to fashion the monument at the western terminus of the mail delivery trail that originated in St. Joseph, Mo.

He studied art at the California College of Arts and Crafts, UC Berkeley and the University of Mexico.


In addition, Holland, a veteran polo player, became adept at sculpting horses and equestrians.

Holland posed his own thoroughbred polo pony, Sundance, to create the 15-foot-high bronze statue. His 11-year-old nephew, Tobin, was the model for the rider, and the sculpted clothing was based on a paragraph in Mark Twain’s “Roughing It.”

The statue was unveiled in 1976 as part of the national Bicentennial celebration.

Before turning to art full time, Holland worked as a ballet dancer, sailor, boxer, fencer, and radio and television actor. He began his art career by sculpting props for the 1960 science fiction film “The Time Machine” and animals for Disneyland.