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We're kicking off the Beautiful Horses of New York in style with Smidgy, who has been called "the best-known miniature horse in Western New York" by the Buffalo News. A favorite with the vistors at Knox Farm State Park before in closed, Smidgy has belonged to Susan, his number one fan, for 22 years!
Susan described Smidgy's career visiting with students and adult -- allowing young and old to experiment with horse handling -- picking up his feet, brushing his shiny black coat, and just petting him. He has visited day care centers and worked with special needs people along with residing at Knox Farm.
Everyone loves this little horse!
Susan, remember his number on fan, described her personal bond with Smidgy when she nominated him for the Beautiful Horses of New York project:
"In 1997 I had a bad accident which left me orthopedically challenged for a long time. During my recuperative period, my mare of 17 years foundered and had to be put down. I was devastated. With my mare gone and my leg compromised with heavy metal, I was afraid to start riding again. What gave me the strength to come out of a deep depression was my little horse, Smidgy. He is the reason I am up early, looking forward to a day of hay, grain, manure, water and fresh bedding. He is a carrot and piece of sugar in my pocket. He is the nicker of friendship that says 'looks like a good day, mom, let's hitch up and go for a drive.' He is the pressure valve release when the daily grind of life gets a little much. He is everything Beautiful to me."
Susan and Smidgy
Sunny Acres Miss Scarlet
When I looked into Scarlet's stall, I have to admit I was instantly taken aback by her delicacy. I have never seen such a dainty horse. At age four, Scarlet is a real beauty! If there were such a thing as a "Teacup Morgan" she would be the poster girl! Not because she is small, but because she is awesomely fine -- like fine China.
Because it was show season, and Scarlet was wearing special footwear, she could not be set free at liberty in a pasture, but after much begging, we talked her trainer into trotting her up the drive. She is so pretty when she is moving! And so pretty just standing there posing as well!
Here's what Kathryn, her owner, wrote when nominating Scarlet for the Beautiful Horses of New York project:
"Physically, Scarlet is one of the loveliest horses I (and many others, if their comments are any indication) have ever seen; she is, literally breathtaking, especially in motion. Beyond that, she possesses one of the most beautiful hearts, minds, work ethics (her trainer says she's the 'most honest' horse he's ever know) and senses of humor. Without being arrogant or diva-ish, she is proud of who she is and it shows in all she does."
Sunny Acres Miss Scarlet and Kathryn
What artist wouldn't jump at the chance to paint a horse who is described as a "Peacock Leopard Appaloosa"??? With my love for colors, the word peacock caught my attention right away!
Reading Sue's nomination for her husband Steve's Appaloosa, Phantom, made me realize this gelding's beauty goes way beyond pretty colors. Sue wrote:
"Phantom's paperwork allowed us to track some history. As a stallion he had attached and caused the death of gelding. He was passed on and subjected to training that consisted of being hobbled and thrown to the ground whenever he didn't comply.
"He came to us aloof and ring sour. I wanted a horse that greeted me with a nicker, not a half-hearted kick. I tearfully told my husband to find something more suitable. My husband said no, he saw something of worth in him. I bought a Paint gelding with a sweet persnality and Phantom became Steve's.
Hours spent trail riding healed Phantom's mind and created a bond. Then we received a call from the stable that Phantom was sick. The vet diagnosed laminitis, cause unknown. Months of intensive treatment/rehab followed. As he healed, unable to be ridden, my husband would walk Phantom on those very trails they had once ridden.
"Just months after buying our own property and moving our horses, my husband was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. Chemo, radiation and surgery followed. Still he rode Phantom through much of his treatment. Restricted from riding following surgery but needing to regain his strength, he would walk miles with his horse. As important as family was to him, his horse and the desire to ride again were his motivation."
When I met Steve and Phantom, they were a healthy happy team!
Phantom and Steve
Keuka Twist "Jack"
Keuka Twist, aka Jack, is a wonderful warmblood. Megan, his owner, sent a couple photos with his nomination form, and I loved his earnest expression as he stared into the camera lens.
When I got to meet him in person, I could tell why Megan had referred to her 17.2 hand horse as a "cupcake," who was sweet, patient, reliable and charming. This big guy was indeed a darling. He patiently posed for photos where ever we asked -- even carefully wading into a small pond for a few shots.
Megan wrote a bit more about Jack, "His innate curiosity makes me laugh as he sniffs and nibbles anything from fake flowers, to barrels, to snow plow markers. This curiosity also makes Jack brave through any cross-country obstacle. We have great trust with one another and I know Jack will always keep us safe."
Jack and Megan
AJ - Always TSH
Haflingers are one of my favorite breeds to paint, and AJ proved to be a perfect model. He was everything his owner Brycie had promised:
"AJ is the most beautiful horse I know. He has a wonderful air of beauty about him. He is very tall for a haflinger and solid muscle . .. He is very personable but also mischievious and it shows by looking at him. His eyes are dark, huge and sparkle. He loves to gallop up and down the hill in the pasture. This has made him very muscular and sleek.... He loves to steal things from me and run with them in his mouth, including my hats, plastic bags from shavings, lead ropes, etc. AJ is very photgenic and always puts himself in the picture. It is impossible to take pictures of his friends without him gettin in the picture -- or trying to steal the camera (literally.)"
I had a good grip on my camera when photographing AJ! Luckily, he didn't try to steal it! But I could tell he'd already stolen Brycie's heart. He's her dream horse!
AJ and Brycie
Chugger, Shamrock and Dillon
These three pasture mates, Churgger, Shamrock and Dillon, stand ready to stop crime in its tracks! They are specially trained by their owner Joann of Gentle Dove Farm, they are some of the most well behaved horses I've ever met! Joann lined them up during the photo shoot, and they stood like soldiers at attention! No halters, no ropes, no restraints. How impressive!
Sorrel Quarter Horse Chugger is 20 and has done it all according to Joann, " . . . from beginner's horse, to show horse, to police horse and retired to trail horse."
Shamrock, a Percheron/Quarter Horse cross, helps Joann with mounted police horse training demonstrations across the northeastern part of the United States. He's just starting his career, but is already excelling.
And Joann is especially proud of Dillon, her grullo Quarter Horse Morgan cross, . . . "a trusted police horse, [who] went on to win international police horse obstacle competitions . . . and is now my star demonstrator for police horse style training for the general equestrian public. At each training event Dillon performs a series of difficult obstacle such as standing still while a gun is fired, walking calmly over the plastic tarp with the sprinkler running, standing quietly while a flare is lit, and willing pushing past the barrel blockade. Dillon exhibits the ultimate trust that can be achieved and he is beautiful and spectacular to watch as he inspires others to partner with their own horses."
You can find out more about Joann's obstacle clinics on her website: Gentle Dove Farm.
Chugger, Dillon and Shamrock cruise their pasture
Retired thoroughbred racehorse, Makem Hagar, has been a delight to his many fans -- but will forever be much, much more to his owner Sherry. She loves this horse! When we visited, Sherry showed us her scrapbook filled with clippings and photos from Hager's race career. Hagar had to have a peek too! He's very proud of his accomplishments.
Makem Hagar and Sherry look through his scrapbook.
Sherryi's nomination of Hagar for the Beautiful Horses of New York series gives us a peek into their interesting life together:
"Makem Hagar was a people horse from the day he was born. He made over $260,000 the hard way - at Finger Lakes Race Track, a small track in upstate New York. He fractured his hock at 3 months old and as a yearling I was told to give him away and cut my losses. As a 2 year old my trainer and I saw a promising runner and although he treated my trainer badly at times he could see her a hundred yards away and nicker to her. He would see his exercise girl ride her bike past the barn and throw a fit in the stall and she would have to come back and give him grass or a donut so he would settle down.
"He gave us thrills watching his come from behind wins. We lost him in a claiming race when he was 7 years old and for 9 months I sulked until I got him back. My trainer and I watched a broken horse get off the trailer and when we called his name he picked up his head and nickered.
He is now retired at a farm with a couple that boarded him every winter for me and when they built the farm they built it with Hagar in mind, not knowing if he would ever be back. There are many more stories about this horse that touched so many people in this area. People who never went to the track would watch for him and then watch him on TV. I have owned many horses but Hagar deserves a home till he passes. I raised him and I said I would be there for him till the end."
Imagine the Energizer Bunny with a jet engine. That would be Rooney! This 28 year old Arabian has more energy than a month old colt. When Judy, his owner, set him loose in a huge arena - about the size of a football field, I admit I wondered what would happen next. I never dreamed that Rooney would take off galloping around the huge arena -- and keep going nonstop - around and around! It was thrilling!!! I got so many fantastic photos of Rooney in action, I couldn't believe it!
Judy was certainly correct when she wrote that "Rooney... still runs for the joy of running."
What a wonderful horse!
Rooney and Judy
Rosie is a Thoroughbred. As her owner, Lisa, promised Rosie is a "beautiful copper penny color."
As you can see in the photo below, their Finger Lake hilltop pasture has picturesque views that sure beat life at the racetrack, where Rosie was once a racehorse. This 13 year old mare found a great home!
Rosie and Lisa
Frankie and Guinness
Kathy nominated both her horses, Frankie, a Clydesdale/Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross, and Guinness, a Tennessee Walker/Quarter Horse. They both live at Davidson Knoll Farms with Rosie, and enjoy her pasture with gorgeous views of the Finger Lake region.
Frankie and Guinness seem to be best friends, and I decided to paint them running together in their huge pasture. While taking photos, we had a moment of surprise when Guinness headed right toward me and jumped the fence that I was stand beside! I wish I'd captured that on film, but I was trying to get out of the way! Luckily he landed in an adjoining pasture, and was towed back to the original field for more photos.
Kathy is Guinness' sixth owner -- and he is only seven. I have to wonder if he simply leaps gates and switches owners every year or so. Just kidding! He is a beautiful horse - chocolate with an amazing white tail. I can see why people would love this horse!
And Frankie, who is 22, is semi-retired and volunteers at a therapeutic riding facility.
Guinness and Kathy
Annie is a darling black Morgan mare whose attentiveness to her owner, Teresa, was extraordinary. The pair are dedicated Parelli Natural Horsemanship students with an amazing "playground" of bridges, jumps and more where they demonstrated their skills for me. I was amazed!
Let me share with you Teresa's description of Annie:
"Annie's inquisitive and sensitive nature draws you to her as much as her beauty. Jet black, with a coat as glossy as mink, I still marvel at her magnificence, watching her prance around the pasture, playing chasing games with my golden retriever.
"I am a student of Parelli Natural Horsemanship and she is my teacher. i've learned to understand the language of a horse, and she responds to my attempts at the ancient equine vernacular with gracious submission to me as her leader. Nonverbal, this language is communication at a deeper level. Subtle movements of my body invoke response from her. No tight ropes, no cracked whips. The transfer of energy between us is a dance.
Teresa and Annie have a beautiful home to go along with their playground. I loved the long sycamore tree lined drive, so I decided to include it in Annie's painting. The young trees create a patterned background as Annie flashes by - a blur of shining equine energy.
Annie and Teresa
After reading Kathy and Mark's description of their Dutch Warmblood Vanguard's early life struggles, I would never in a million years imagined the giant, gorgeous, rock solid dappled gray they lead out from a stall in their cool, quiet barn. Vanguard calmly towered over us as his owners recited his many medical maladies. Vanguard seemed to be listening in - silently agreeing that it was a miracle that he survived.
He is strong and healthy now! Proof that love and care -- and expert care -- can have very positive results.
Mark and Kathy led Vanguard out to a grassy pasture where he trounced around whinnying for his best buddy who was still in the barn -- and I tried not to get underfoot as I took lots of photos. Vanguard's size and energy were a bit intimidating; Kathy and Mark assured me I was very safe.
Here's what Kathy and Mark wrote about Vanguard:
"Vanguard had six surgeries before he was six months old. He had his legs stripped (as they were extremely crooked, to the point of being almost disabled and was gelded. From his gelding he got pneumonia. The first time he was turned out after stall rest, he came in lame. The vet diagnosed a joint infection, plus he still had pneumonia. Two joint flushes with a tourniquet were done, but were not successful, but he recovered from the pneumonia. He was referred to Cornell [University] for an arthroscopic joint flush. The head of surgery was away, so the residents recommended two more joint flushes with tourniquets. While there he contacted colitis X and euthanasia was recommended. We refused and the next day he turned the corner. He was sent home and went lame again two weeks latter. The next trip to Cornell, the resident said it was too bad we didn't bring him in earlier, as the infection was in his sesamoids. However, the head of surgery was back and he scraped the sesamoids arthroscopically. From all his illness, he was nothing but skin covering bones, during a very frigid winter. (Our friend told us not to let her daughter see him, as his condition would make her cry.) After the last of the surgeries, he was sent home with the prognosis that he might only be pasture sound. Today, he's a sound, gorgeous and very cocky juvenile delinquent that enjoys a very laid back life. Our vet calls him our 'very expensive horse.' Note: he was born as part of Cornell University's equine breeding program of warmbloods."
Vanguard and Mark and Kathy
Diamond has lived many lives.
She is now 34. She had eight owners, before arriving at her owner #9, Amy's farm, with papers intact. In fact Amy was part of Diamond's life during some of those earlier lives. Amy remembers, "I have seen her as a lesson horse for adults and children, as the beloved first horse of an eight-year-old girl, as a trail horse, and now as an active retired horse; in each job, she performed willingly and dependably."
I was most impressed by Amy, whose small herd consisted of three extremely elderly horses who she carefully nudged out of her barn into the pasture so I could meet them. Amy's devotion to her horses was clearly evident as she introduced me to each horse and gently reassured them that all was well.
And all is well for the horses that spend their days with Amy compassionately watching over them.
Wildfire and Dream
Amy nominated two of her many horses - Dream and Wildfire. Her stories about both horses were so touching, I had to include both Dream and Wildfire in the Beautiful Horses of New York series.
Here are the descriptions Amy sent:
"When I was little my dream horse was a leopard appaloosa with lots of spots. Aside from their coloring appys were known to be a stubborn lot . . . much like myself. SO it was a breed I identified with.
"I first met Dream when he was a foal by his dam's side. He was a little appaloosa with little leopard spots. Of the 3 like him he was the smallest and saddest looking. He was weak looking, skinny and lacking the muscle definition of a colt his age. So at 4 months old he came to live with me. His name was Jazz then. However only four months after finding my dream horse, I injured my back at work and shortly after found out I was expecting my second child. Being physically unable to now care for the horses I had to find homes for Dream, my first horse Doode and the older mare that I had taken in.
"Years went by with no horses in my life. I would always stop and admire any one that I came across over those years, wishing and hoping that I could have one again some day. I tried to buy one, another leopard appy, but the money was just not there. So I gave up.
"It all changed six years later at the Fair.
"My first stop was always the arena. I would sit and watch as the horses walked, jogged and cantered their way through their classes. A beautiful Leopard Appaloosa caught my eye, there was my "dream horse" if ever I could have one again. He was placing well taking first and second in his classes. He was tall, strong, and well muscled, almost the spitting image of Prince Plaudit. I could have sworn he looked at me from the line up in the middle of the ring. His face looked familiar and I wondered if maybe he was my Jazz.
"I walked through the fair thinking about the gelding still wondering. The name announced was Dream Catcher but that meant nothing. Maybe it was fate finding him here. Over the years in my 'dreams' I had always seen him coming back to me at a show or some large event. I couldn't wait any longer. I went back to the barns to find him. I would know him by his spots, his 2 paw prints and his distinct spots down his blaze. My heart raced as I reached the last aisle. I was about to give up. He must have gone home I thought, but then I heard a familiar nicker and there he was. He popped his head over the door and watched me walk up almost as if he knew. As if it was meant to be. In talking to his rider who was leasing him at the time, I found that he was for sale. My heart sank to the floor. I was in no position to buy a horse but there was no way I could let him go again. I got a loan and within 2 weeks, Dream was back home with me. It will be 10 years this August that Dream came back to me. We have learned a lot together, he has seen me through some hard times but through it all I promised him that he would never leave again. He lives the good life, in a big pasture with two of his own family. He taught both of my kids to ride, and though he is as stubborn as he is smart, I would not trade him for the world. He is my Dream horse."
"In January 2004 I took in 2 mares, sisters that were ALSO sisters to my gelding Dream. They were half blind, pasture bred, with unknown due dates, and bound for 'an unhappy end.' Mama had her filly, Rain, May 12th. She was strong and healthy. Two months went by and nothing from Cayenne, she just kept getting bigger! In the very early morning of July 17th I received a call. Cayenne had died. I rushed to the barn and found her with Mama and Rain by her side. She was as big as she was before. It appeared she had died in labor. While I waited to bury Cayenne I set to feed the loud rowdy bunch in the barn. I tripped on something in the dark of the aisle, and there he was, hidden but clean and dry and all curled up. Somehow he squeezed through the posts of the run and hid in the dark. I named him before he was born, Wildfire. To my surprise, when he stood and hobbled to me on his forehead was a little flame. He was meant to be. After 2 weeks of IV's, Pepto, bottle feedings and sleepless nights, I was finally able to get him healthy and drinking formula out of a bucket. To this day he sucks his tongue when I give him treats.
"At 3 weeks old he squeezed through those posts again, and I found him standing between the legs of my 3 geldings. What a sight, 3 fat butts and this scrawny thing between them."
Dream and Amy
Nina nominated her daughter's Appaloosa mare, Katelin's Fawn, for the Beautiful Horse of New York. She included the touching story of how the two have bonded. I'd like to share Nina's narrative with you:
"Beauty is captured heart, soul and body in this horse. Eleven years ago soulmates met - Fawn and my disabled daugher Katelin on her 12th birthday. Fawn was a young and nervous 6 year old who had traveled from specially bred to hunter barn to lesson horse to sale horse in her short life. Their connection immediate - Fawn sensed the need for care, so she took control; Katelin sensed her need for love, so she surrendered herself to Fawn. Together, the girl who suffered from dyspraxia (inablility to coordinate muscle functions) and the horse who needed unconditional love, melded to compete successfully in 4-H, Pony Club and horse shows.
"The two formed a unique ability to communicate as reins were of little use to Katelin as she flew around a course. Both gave each other a confidence and beauty known only to those who are able to truly give unconditionally to each other.
"Today, Katelin works with other disabled children; and Fawn continues to speak to other children, most amazingly to a selective mute, whom her mare nickers upon meeting released an experience that this child just had to share in words. Although I have had 10 horses of my own or shared with my family, each wonderful and unique in its own way, none compare to the gifts this mare and my daughter have shared and the confidence and love demonstrated between them. At age seventeen, [Fawn] remains a beauty - refined Thoroubred bones, soft snow flake coat blizzard with aging, and eyes that speak to those who will truly listen."
Fawn and Katelin
There are many more paintings to see!