In Praise of Working Horses

Before becoming a full-time artist, most of my adult life was spent in the saddle. During those years literally thousands of horses crossed my path and a handful of them resonated deeply with me. A few were youngsters earnestly learning how to do a job and a few were trusted partners perfecting an already established job. Those horses I vividly remember, all loved their purpose in life. You know how some people are just happier working and contributing to a cause? I believe it to be true for our equine partners as well. Many are in their element when working their job in a partnership with a partner that knows and respects their integrity. It is one of the greatest joys in my life to be a part of the experience when a horse truly loves their job. I had the pleasure of owning and taking a few steeds to that place of absolute satisfaction where they knew without a doubt that they truly mattered.

Cholo – The Young Showstopper

Cholo was the first of the great horses I came across after trading my reins for paint brushes. July long weekend of 2005, trailer full of artwork in tow, my BFF and I ventured south of the border to St Paul Oregon for my first ‘real’ juried Art Show. This leap of faith proved to be most interesting and productive on so many levels. The Art Show was held in conjunction with the long standing St Paul Rodeo. I was manning my booth on opening night as my friend went to watch the opening ceremonies of the Rodeo. I recall her coming back and breathlessly insisting, “You have to go out there, there is a great horseman performing!” I sought out the horseman the next day before the rodeo started. With my camera in tow, I rounded the corner into the warm up area for the contestants, and a tall dappled grey gelding stopped me in my tracks. I had never seen a horse quite like this before. He was angelic like. I watched from afar. I could tell the grey was young, maybe it was his first time to town, as he was a bit bothered and needed to keep moving. However, his athletic ability and his desire to do right kept him in fine form.

Approaching the grey steed, I asked if I could take pictures of him. We visited awhile and what came from a few quick photographs in the warm up arena grew beyond any intention I had. Tomas Garcilazo was Cholo’s pilot that day. We became fast friends and I got to know Cholo personally on many occasions after that. Later that year I presented Tomas with a small painting of Cholo as a thank you from that day in St Paul Oregon. He embraced the gift fully, while gently asking, “Why don’t you do this painting of Cholo really big?” To be truthful, I had never thought about it.

Pushing My Limits as an Artist

Well, I went home and recreated that salty grey gelding into a 36” x 24” painting. Which later proved one of the best decisions I’ve made in my art career. Two years later I was juried into the Phippen Museum Western Art Show in Prescott AZ. Out of my comfort zone, there I was set up at the Phippen Show, amongst artists I had only ever read about in magazines. One of the privileges of being juried into the Phippen Show was entering a  painting for Best of Show in it’s qualifying division. I took my large scale version of Cholo over to the judging area and left him with his contenders that day. The rest is a bit of a blur to me, maybe it was when I went to pick up Cholo’s painting, that I found out he had won Best of Show in Acrylic Painting 2007. The following year Cholo also won People’s Choice at the Phippen Museum ‘Horses of the West Show’. And he subsequently took 1st place in the Ex Arte Equinus online art competition out of hundreds of global entries.

Equine Stewards of the West

Cholo is a true steward of the West, and has shown his value and spirit through his own contribution as a horse that truly loves his job. As an artist, to immortalize a horse of his magnitude is an honour and I feel it is my contribution to preserving the West as we know it today. Whatever it was about Cholo that resounded with me that day back in Oregon came through the brushes and has resonated with many people who love the West and the great horses in it.

I remain eternally grateful for knowing some memorable horses that love their jobs. Cholo will always have a special place in my heart. Truth be told,  if I could have any horse in the world, I would love on Cholo for the rest of his days.


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