Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mustang Monument

In 2009, a few weeks after I was laid off from my job, I went to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota. A strong feeling of unexplainable urgency came over me, telling me I had to make the trip; a now or never feeling. 

Here's the first picture I took of wild horses in the Black Hills

Painted Desert, a gorgeous Medicine Hat Stallion

I went on a three hour tour of the sanctuary and I haven’t been the same since. I wept as I  drove down the three mile driveway back to the main road and to my hotel. The experience of photographing mustangs for the first time was so profound. My tears were for a kind of love I had never felt before, a love so beautiful that I still struggle to put it into words.

My last picture of the tour. 
These Spanish mustangs stole my heart like a thief in the night.

Ever since that first trip I have been obsessed with finding a way back into the world of mustangs, and how I could become a working advocate for wild horses. I have been working on my degree, while sharpening my photography skills on the side. I  finally have some hope for the future thanks to Madeline Pickens.

Madeline has been working tirelessly for the last seven years to start an eco-sanctuary, Mustang Monument, for wild horses. Pickens was finally approved by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) on April 19th, 2012. According to the approved plan, the BLM will maintain ownership of the wild horses. They will be allowed to graze on the public land as long as Pickens maintains the land, water wells and fencing on the property and manages the horses. The BLM will provide some financial support to Pickens’ eco-sanctuary, approximately the same amount of money it costs to keep the wild horses in holding pens.

Image courtesy of Mark Terrell & taken at Mustang Monument

Mustang Monument is a 14,000-acre ranch south of Wells in northeastern Nevada. The horses will graze on 530,000 acres of BLM land instead of being corralled in government holding facilities or sold at auctions for slaughter.

I would like to acknowledge and give a special thanks to Mark Terrell for the use of his photographs. Mark gives wild horse tours in Nevada, sharing his love of mustangs with others. I hope I get to meet him someday at Mustang Monument.

Image courtesy of Mark Terrell & taken at Mustang Monument 

Pickens’ plan will not only protect the wild horses, it will also be open to the public so thousands of visitors each year can see the mustangs up close and learn about their contribution to the history of the western United States.

Image courtesy of Mark Terrell & taken at Mustang Monument 

I have kept in touch with Madeline over this last year. I am praying that I will be able to tap into this extraordinary opportunity and find employment. I want to be a tour guide and tell everyone about what a treasure wild horses are. I want to help with fundraising efforts and write programs for educational opportunities and grants. I even have plans to write a children’s book about horses. 

I pray several times a day for my wish to come true. It is the only thing I want to do. I fear that many people will want to do the same thing and I will fall through the cracks. After being unemployed for so long I feel like an old mare that no one has use for but I keep praying. 

Spanish Mustang Mares

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Inspired by Simone

On October 26th 2011, I met a filly named Simone. The Montana Horse Sanctuary was called in the by the Cascade County Sheriff in an animal cruelty case. Simone was one of eight Thoroughbred horses seized that day from a breeder named Lisa Cano.  During the seize one dead horse was found on the back of Cano’s property in a ravine. There was also two dogs and six cats taken in the seizure. This was Cano’s second time to be charged with severe animal abuse/cruelty and neglect.

Simone's pug belly is due to parasites and malnutrition 

Simone, and a little colt named Auggie, were only about six months old when they came to the sanctuary. Both of their mothers had stopped producing milk due to severe dehydration and malnourishment from starvation. “They are the smallest babies I’ve ever seen,” says Jane Heath, the sanctuary’s founder and Executive Director.

Pearl, Simone’s mother, had been wearing the same halter for so many years that she had outgrown it. The halter had to be cut off her face because it was too tight to unbuckle it.  Pearl is seven years old and was used to race, in spite of having a heart murmur. Its amazing that she didn’t die in on the track.

Jane Heath, Executive Director of Montana Horse Sanctuary and Pearl. 
You can clearly see the indentation from the halter Pearl wore for many years.

I spent the winter watching the horses get rehabbed mentally, nutritionally and physically. They were all so scared when they got to the sanctuary, and rightfully so, but eventually they all started to settle in. 

After six months the horses have made a big turn around. Simone is a frisky, wild little bucking bronco now that she feels so good. She loves to romp and play-even when the other horses don’t want too. I like to call her a wild woman, firecracker, and twister when she plays; she’s such a live wire!


I have grown a little attached to Simone. Luckily for me, she will stay with the Montana Horse Sanctuary for the next five years or so. She will grow up happy and healthy. When she is five years old she will go to a trainer named Jess Holloway in Bozeman, MT. Jane will not adopt out a horse that isn’t completely sound.

Simone has the biggest, most beautiful eyes I've seen on a horse.

Over the next five years, I will continue to watch Simone grow and develop into a beautiful mare. I plan to document her journey and write a children's book about her. The message will be about animal cruelty, Simone’s successful turn around, and how animals feel (emotionally) and should be treated. The writing will be simple, soft, and effective. I plan to have my friend Diane Hausmann do the illustrations. Diane fostered Pearl and Simone, and just recently adopted Pearl.

Simone and Pearl

I am looking forward to taking classes that will help me write my book. Once its published, a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of my book will go to the Montana Horse Sanctuary to help other horses.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Its All in the Details

I have been a member of the Equine Photographers Network (EPNET), an international community of equine (horse) photographers, for three years. 

EPNET provides “... numerous membership benefits including access to private forums and discussion groups, photo sharing, workshops, retreats, business resources and much more. The EPNet is ranked highly in the search engines, receives strong, relevant traffic and is listed on most of the major horse related websites.”

One thing I really enjoy about my membership is the monthly assignments/themes. The assignments are for fun and anyone in the network can participate and vote on the a pictures submitted. This month’s assignment is “details.” According to EPNET detail shots are “Close up detail studies of the horse: eyes, body parts, horse related gear and equipment also qualifies.”

Here are some of my detail shots. 

Upside Down Heart on a Quarter Horse Stallion

Zebra Striped Legs Spanish Mustang Mare

Dorsal Strip and Bicolored Tail Spanish Mustang Bachelor

Cold Wet Day Spanish Mustang Mare

Bicolored Mane Spanish Mustang Mare

Tail Accent Bachelor Mustang

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Equine Photographers Network's Annual Photo Contest

I have been a member of the Equine Photographers Network (EPNET) for three years. Here’s part of their mission statement:

“Our mission is to encourage professional integrity and career development through education, communication and mutual support, while promoting our members in numerous markets.”

EPNET has an annual “Equine Ideal Photo Contest” and the contest is open to the public. 
In 2011 I entered a photo called “December’s Honey.” It was the first time I have ever entered a contest before. I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. When EPNET sent out an email notification on the winners last year, I deleted the email. After seeing all the entries I was sure there was no way I could have placed. A few days later I received a Facebook message from Bev Pettit, a professional photographer who’s work I really admired, congratulated me on my win. I was confused, but sure enough I received an honorable mention for my image. I was ecstatic at the news, but mostly because I found out through Bev Pettit; we hadn’t even met in person yet.

Head Study
Decembers Honey
Honorable Mention Award in the Category of Head Study 2010
For this years contest I finally had a body of work I was pretty happy with and decided to go for it entering six categories:
Black and White

Eye of the Beholder
Honorable Mention Award in the Category of Details 2011

Extreme Action 
Snow Dash
Honorable Mention Award in the Category of Extreme Action 2011

Head Study 

Horse and Human Portrait
Eddy and the Boys
Honorable Mention Award in the Category of Horse and Human Portrait 2011

Wild Horse

I’m happy and disappointed all at the same time. I’m thrilled that three of my images received a mention, but I’m a little bummed that I didn’t place better. The perfectionist in me is such a torturist. Its so hard for me to focus on the good, four out of seven of my images received recognition in the last two years, but instead I think what can I do better next time? What was wrong with the three images that didn’t place? Hopefully my speculation will relax when I receive my awards in the mail.

If you would like to see more of my photos please visit my website