The Horses of My Heart

Blondie 2005 - 2008

Blondie in her pasture | us at the fair

Blondie was one of my first horses that was actually "mine". At 5 years old when I started riding horses with my trainer, Denise, who was also very conveniently our neighbor, I started out with ponies... oh the ponies I rode- but mostly the ponies I tried to ride but was on the ground more than on their backs! Then I moved up to the lesson horses that everyone rode. They were awesome horses that I loved but they weren't "mine". A few years after I rode several different lesson horses and ponies, Denise bought Blondie.

Showmanship with Blondie at the fair

Blondie was bought with me in mind; Denise specifically chose her for me to ride and show her which made me feel so special. I was about 10 when I started riding Blondie. I showed her in 4-H and we did so well together, I always wanted to show her at Quarter Horse shows but she was injured when she was younger and never fully recovered her hind end... not to mention she really didn't have the bloodlines or training to move like a horse should at a breed show even if she weren't previously injured- but I was too young to understand that at the time.

Riding at the sand dunes
Waiting to do our pattern | State Fair

I remember playing games with Blondie when no one else was in the arena at home, we'd play "tag" (basically me running as fast as I can with her chasing me haha!), soccer (with those big bouncy balls, I'd be riding her and make her jog or lope right into the ball kicking it to my sister who was on her horse waiting for the ball to get to her side of the arena), and other crazy things kids do like standing up and balancing on her back while she stands there like an angel.

Blondie taught me so many things, from general skills like having something to be responsible for and something to take care of... to learning how to take a loss and be a good sport while competing. She also taught me trust. Trust is such a huge, huge part of owning a horse and handling them in any way. But she's a mare so she also taught me respect: when she had her foal, I went out to the pasture to try to pet him... she grabbed me by the arm with her teeth and threw me to the ground (I'm not exaggerating, it was intense!). After that I quickly realized that while I may be important to her, her natural instincts to protect her foal will easily and without a doubt override that. Respect is key.

I can still remember the exact moment Denise told me she was going to list Blondie for sale. She told me it was time for an upgrade, and while I KNEW that, I did not want to accept it. Eventually Blondie was sold to a little girl in Spokane. A few years later she unfortunately coliced and passed away. She had such a good life, taught me and I know a few other girls a lot, and will forever be my favorite horse ever <3

The best horse ever

Stetson 2009

Stetson was this adorable buckskin reining bred quarter horse with such a sweet personality. He was so cool but unfortunately wasn't with us for long. We got him in the fall and I remember seeing him in the round pen when I showed up to ride one day. I asked who the new horse was and Denise said "that's Stetson, your new project." I rode him throughout the winter and once spring came, he started shaking his head uncontrollably every time I got on him. We tried switching his bit, riding with no bit, riding without a saddle, etc. We couldn't figure out what was wrong with him... until we took him to a lady who did body work on horses and humans. She told us Stetson had head shaking syndrome. Head shaking syndrome is "considered to be caused by overactivity of branches of the trigeminal nerve that supply sensation to the face and muzzle. A horse's behavioral reflex causes him to flip his head, snort or sneeze, rub his head, or take evasive action." It's common for horses to have outbreaks in the spring-summer then be completely normal in the winter. Sadly, this just wasn't going to work out for us because we couldn't possibly show him with his constant outbreaks in the summer. I can't quite remember where Denise sold Stetson to, but I believe it was to a family with kids who just wanted to have a horse to enjoy as a fun pet- no showing and nothing too strenuous.

Even though I didn't have him for long he still is one I think about a lot and consider one of my favorites! Since I knew I wasn't able to show him, before he went to his new home we spent a lot of time on the ground playing games. We used the same bouncy balls I did with Blondie playing with those; I spent a lot of time grooming him and braiding his long pretty mane and tail. He was a great therapy horse for me and reminded me that I can have a horse just to have a horse. I didn't need to worry about practicing showmanship with him (even though he was so good at it!) or worry about perfecting our turn arounds and stops. Stetson was one of the very few geldings that I got along with really well. The other few were Chance (pictured with Stetson in the top right photo), Feisty, DJ, Tigger, and Polka Dot but they don't make my top 4 list... they're definitely in my top 10 though ;)

Crystal 2010 - 2012

Crystal and I in 2011 and 2012

Crystal is so incredibly special to me because she took me the farthest and she has the best personality a horse could have <3 I believe I started riding Crystal in 2010, possibly even 2009! Denise bought her for her daughter, Cortney, but they didn't really get along that well so I happily took her over. I've always loved grey horses, especially since when I showed they were so uncommon! I showed Crystal in both AQHA shows and WAHSET. WAHSET didn't last that long for me and Crystal, it was kind of just something that kept us busy during the cold winter months and I was able to spend more time with my horse friends. Showing Crystal at the AQHA shows is what was most important to us. We truly did so well together, winning multiple all-around and circuit awards at every show we went to.

Fine Art Equine portraits of Crystal

We showed in the all-around, so we did EVERYTHING. Even halter, when we all knew we're getting last place no matter what (sorry Crystal). We loved doing showmanship together and hunt seat eq. Those were probably our two favorite and best classes. Crystal was also amazing at trail, I always thought it was so cool to go into the open classes with her and we'd win first under all the judges when we were showing against trainers. For the year of 2012, we showed almost every single weekend that summer and fall. Shows all over Washington, some in Montana, and we ended the year with the Novice Championships in Vegas. We won reserve champion in showmanship at that show and I still consider that one of my proudest moments. All of our hard work from that year and a couple prior paid off.

Crystal and I loved showing English

Crystal taught me independence, perseverance, and built my confidence.

With Crystal I learned to be more independent of my mom and Denise. Since I wanted to go to all the shows I did in 2012, I had to find a way to do that on my own. One of my friends, Jeannie, had an extra spot in her trailer and an extra spot in her truck. It was perfect! I'd travel with Jeannie to all of the shows and be able to earn the points I needed to make it to the Novice Championships in October. There was only one problem: my mom wasn't able to make it to 90% of the shows, and Denise was there, but I didn't stall with her, I barely even saw her at shows. The two people who I heavily depended on were not there to help me.. which ended up turning out to be for the absolute best. I learned how to do everything on my own, literally everything. It not only helped me learn how to be independent but it built my confidence immensely because I was doing all that on my own but STILL winning classes, circuits, and all-arounds. Of course there were some tough times where I really, really wanted my mom to help me with something at a show or Crystal and I just had a horrible class and I didn't know if I could pull ourselves together before the next class, but we persevered. We kept on going, and we did it by ourselves.

After our big win (well, reserve win... it was big for us!) in October at Vegas, I decided I was done riding horses for a while. I needed a break. So Crystal went back into Denise's program and was eventually sold.

Trail in Monroe | Getting ready for HUS in Vegas
The group!

Crystal is now owned by the sweetest girl, Hannah Iwerson in Idaho. I get to see her every once in a while when they go to shows in Washington. Hannah and her family are the perfect people for Crystal, they love her and I know she'll have a place with them for forever. I'm so happy Denise found the best home for the best horse.

Western Pleasure in Monroe | showing with Blake and Armani

Gracie 2007 - present <3

Gracie has been around for as long as I can remember. I believe she actually was owned by Denise when I started riding with her in 2001! Denise bought her as a 2 year old, trained her for a while, showed her for a bit, had her daughter show her for a while. Then sold her. She came back a few years later... and that's when I started riding her & fell in love with the big red girl.

Gracie is a do-everything horse, and by that I mean do-everything-really-well. At the state QH shows, she won western pleasure, showmanship, horsemanship, trail, halter, everything! But she's also ran sponsor flags with me at rodeos, gone on countless trail rides, worked cows, done gaming events, she's hung out with the goats, cows, and chickens on my family's farm... She's a true all-arounder.

Gracie's been around since before Blondie and Crystal, and the rest of the 100's of horses I've ridden. I showed her at quarter horse shows before we ever sold Blondie, I showed her in WAHSET before Crystal... and she's still here after Blondie passed away and Crystal and Stetson moved to new homes in different states. With Gracie I made so many new friends, went on a million adventures, and learned so much about myself. The learning continues while she's still with me, living on Denise's property (her forever home, since she was 2... off and on) where she's comfortable. I've learned to trust other people taking care of her, whether it's my sister (who does a great job), or a friend who's back in town from college who wants to jump on a horse. She may be retired but she's still loved and will have a home with us until she's ready to go in her old age.

These four horses are so special to me, they made me who I am, and I want them to live on in my work today. So I've re-named my 4 different collections for my equestrian portrait sessions after them. These four (and, of course the rest of the amazing horses I had the privilege to ride and show) are always in the back of my mind at every equestrian session, making it so easy for me to capture the true bond between you and your horse.