Fine Art Equine Portraits
Every Spot Matters, Scarlett O’Hara
These equine fine art portraits mean more to me than you may realize. This horse, Scarlett, has been my pride and joy for 10 years. She is the one who inspired this project, Every Spot Matters. Scarlett is a Pintaloosa Bashkir Curly, I call her my mutt. One of the main traits of Appaloosas are their lack of hair growth, specifically on their tail and forelock. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked (even by a clinician!) “What is wrong with your horses tail?”. It is, unfortunately, one of the first things people notice about her. Despite her many wonderful traits, people see her looks and immediately judge her. This is so prominent in the equine world, especially in the hunter/jumper world. If your horse doesn’t fit the “norm”, or what people have deemed as “ideal”, then you’re immediately judged regardless of how well you might perform. Even in the Appaloosa circuit (which amazes me a little), there are more solid horses than colored ones. The colored horses are expected to have perfect blankets, perfect matching socks, etc. I wonder when we lost sight of what makes a horse “worth it”? When did we start placing color over performance, attitude, and willingness? Don’t get me wrong, I love a well colored horse. Clearly, I’m a fan of spotted and loud colored horses, which is why this project was created. I want to bring attention to the horses whose color is loud; it might not be 10/10 on the symmetrical scale, but this project isn’t about that. This project is about the HORSES. The horses who make their humans happy and put forth the effort time and time again. It’s time to break the barrier, you don’t need a perfectly colored or plain colored horse to win—you need a willing horse, Every Spot Matters.
Mine and Scarlett’s story is probably similar to some, or at least those who might not be as competitive in the showring like myself. Let’s throw it back to ten years ago, I was in high school and my mom’s friend had a horse that needed to be weaned. He didn’t have anywhere else to put the foal so the solution was to give it away. My mom, who isn’t a horse person at all, said we would take the foal. At this point I had been riding for about ten years, but I had no training experience. It wasn’t until we went to pick up the foal that we learned it had limited human interaction, but at that point I was excited to have her and leaving without her wasn’t an option. We battled her—I’m not proud of this part of the story, but I was a kid with two men who didn’t know how to handle horses—she was forced into a cattle shoot, we forced a halter on her, and pulled her into the horse trailer. She made it back to our property and we turned her out with my older gelding which she quickly befriended. After the traumatizing trailer experience, I couldn’t get anywhere close to her…for weeks. I sat in a chair in her field and read a book for hours a day. Scarlett would come and smell me, meanwhile I ignored her and read my book. Eventually she was grazing close to me often and I was able to start petting her. One thing led to another and before I knew it, she had a new halter on and I was practicing leading her around.
I quickly became attached to Scarlett. She was quite the mare, which is why I named her “Scarlett O’Hara” from “Gone with the Wind”. Though she was really sassy, she was incredibly willing. For years we only trail rode. We would head out on trails for hours; I joke with my mom now about how unsafe it was to let me do the things we did together. Scarlett was barely three and we were riding trails for hours, alone, no helmet, sometimes bareback, and no cell phone… we’ll just say that times were different then. We did everything together, she turned into one of the most “broke” horses I’ve ever met. We jumped, we raced, we even swam through flood waters from a hurricane (like I said, it was a different time). Scarlett got to the point where I was putting kids on her at just 4 years old, and she didn’t mind, I actually think she liked it because I wasn’t asking her to do anything fast or crazy. Eventually, I learned more about horses and decided I wanted to be a hunter/jumper. We started schooling and learning how to properly ride, Scarlett took to it like a champ. I started jumping Scarlett, which I didn’t think she would take to well, but she surprised me. At first I thought we would just do crossrails. Then we moved up to 18”, she started to like jumping more. Now we can jump 2’3 and still have room to move up. Scarlett has gone from a backyard do-it-all pony to a pretty cute moving hunter/jumper. The moral of the story is she overcame the odds, and still continues to surprise me.
Every Spot Matters
Scarlett is the epitome of a horse who started at the bottom, but did her best to please her rider. Each time I start to think “this is it, this is the extent of her capabilities”, she gives it her all and conquers it. Each time I doubt her, she shows me that she’s willing to put in the effort. That’s what makes a good horse. It isn’t the color, the height, or the fancy lineage, it’s the willingness to please their rider. It’s being able to take them anywhere, do anything with them, and know that they will do their best. It’s feeling safe on them and trusting them because they’ve proved you can. Every Spot Matters is more than just showing off pretty ponies, it’s about showing off their versatility, their attitude, and their willingness to please. I hope that Every Spot Matters will encourage everyone to look past coat color, and look at the heart of the horses.
Braids by Cannon Equine Services.