Beautiful Horses
of Michigan


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The Beautiful Horses of Michigan series of paintings began in January 2008 when Karen invited horse owners throughout Michigan to nominate their horses for the project. From the 100 nominations, Karen selected 35 to include in the project. She traveled throughout the wonderful state of Michigan during June 2008 photographing horses and talking with their horse-loving owners!

Then the painting began. One painting of each selected horse was completed and became part of this special series, "The Beautiful Horses of Michigan."

The paintings were exhibited as a group at the Michigan Horse Expo
March 13-15, 2009
at the Pavilion at MSU
in East Lansing, Michigan.

Favorito KG
24" x 16"

Favorito KG is a sleek black bay Andalusian stallion with a talent for jumping! It's not a sport usually associated with the breed, but Favoirto has a natural talent and enthusiasm for jumping. So he's been encouraged to develop his talent! You can see him in action in an online video: Favorito Jumping. Watching him as he cruises around the jumping course with his regal Baroque headset is amazing!

Since my visit to Avalon Farms where I first met him, Favorito KG has been purchased by Rivera's Andalusian Farm in Michigan where he is standing at stud. You can find out more about him on their website.

Kay, Favorito KG's previous owner, reports, "Favorito KG is basically 'cloning' himself by passing his beautiful head (very similar to his grandsire - Dejado - made famous by [photographer] Robert Varva), his powerful build and incredible athleticism to his offspring."


32" x 18"

Big, strong and muscular, Arturo is a graceful athlete. The 16.2 hand Andalusian stallion from Avalon Farms, is a natural at Dressage. Born in 2000, Arturo, has a very famous sire, who I got to meet on my first visit to Avalon Farms a few years ago.

Here's a quote from their website:

"Arturo’s sire, Majorio II (our foundation stallion), was one of the few Andalusians to perform with the “Royal Lipizzan Stallion Show”. Majorio II toured North America for years with the show. 

"Arturo KG exhibits the extraordinarily powerful backend that enabled his sire to perform “airs above the ground” for years, and the lift and reach of his pure Carthusian dam.  Arturo has the natural charisma and “flash” that Majorio II passed to many of his offspring as well as his exceptionally smooth gait (in a breed known for a smooth ride)."

You can learn more about Arturo and see lots of photos of him on the Avalon Farms website.

Nikee Swoosh
24" x 18"

Here's the inspiring story Lynn wrote about her Haflinger gelding, Nikee Swoosh:

"Nikee has more heart, soul and spirit than any other horse. He is an exceptional example of his breed. I worked on the farm that bred him and handled him since birth. He had a spark that I I couldn't ignore, nor could anyone else.

"At the GLHA Futurity he caught so many eyes that he made the cover of the magazine.

"I purchased Nikee. I left him a stallion and continued to work with him. He became deathly ill. He had contracted EPM. I was told many times that Nikee would not live. He was so sick he couldn't stand and had to be hand fed. He still had a glint in his eye and I could see him fighting. He proved the vets wrong and made a great comeback, completing his therapy and getting stronger.

"He hit a growth spurt and grew so fast his bones could not keep up, causing Wobblers Syndrome. Again, I was told I should just put him down. Again, Nikee said otherwise. When odds are against him, he comes out fighting. Today, he shows no symptoms of either disease.

"Nikee is beautiful and runs and plays with other horses and is able to free jump 2 feet! This is huge since EPM affects coordination.

"Nikee is also a protector. When his caretaker slipped on some ice and fell in Nikee's turn-out last winter, Nikee stood near him and shooed the other horses away. Then he lay down beside him as if to watch over him for an hour until they were found and help came.

"When everyone said he would not live, Nikee not only proved them wrong, but did so with such unbelievable will that he brought tears of joy to myself and others on a daily basis."

Nikee Swoosh and Lynn


On Black Ice

With his bold black and white markings, On Black Ice (Bart) is striking. His owner Cate wrote, "When I first met Bart three years ago he took my breath away. He was by far the most stunning horse I had ever seen. I wasn't in the market for a new horse, but once I saw him I couldn't take my eyes off of him."

Bart was on stall rest with very limited exercise (walking) permitted when I visited. You could tell he would have liked nothing better than to take off racing around his pasture, but he was recovering from an injury from, ironically, slipping on a patch of ice. So Bart posed for photos in his pasture, with Cate hovering nearby to stop him if he moved too fast. Then she offered to lead him over to the sheep pasture for so I could check them out. We visited with the nearby sheep, but off in the distance we saw even more sheep up under a shade tree. Cate suggested walking up the hill to see them - a perfect spot for photos! So that's how my first beautiful sheep of Michigan painting, with Bart included of course, came to be.

On Black Ice and Cate

24" x 18"

Watching Ares, a beautiful Friesian gelding, as he glided to and from, weaving in and out of the small trees and bushes in his pasture, I couldn't help but think -- this is horse looks like he just stepped out of a fairy tale! His wavy jet black tail trailed behind him like the long train of a princess' gown. And he had a regal, pure Baroque look that made me wonder if a Knight in shining armour and a fair maiden might suddenly appear to claim him. Sarah, is owner, certainly would qualify for the role of fair maiden!This painting hopefully captures some of his dreamy, fairy tale beauty.

Ares and Sarah

24" x 16"

October is multi-talented Mustang/Morab gelding. He was nominated for the Beautiful Horses of Michigan project by Marlie, she and her brother Trevor are as athletic as October -- taking him on long distance rides (such as the annual one that cuts across the state of Michigan), competing in polocrosse, eventing and more. I'm sure they mentioned a competition involving shooting! When I met up with them, the whole family was on the road, traveling home from a competition. This is one busy horse loving family!

Did I mention we met at a campsite? The family had arrived around dark the night before and, in the dark, put up a huge portable pasture just so October could roam around at liberty when I came with my camera. When I arrived at 7 am the next morning the sun was just coming up at the State Park. It was just a bit misty and the early morning light was streaming through the trees. How exciting!

Here are some of October's accomplishments that Marlie listed, "Toby has traveled all over with us. He has been to Indiana for a 25 mile distance ride, Illinois for dressage rally and Lexington, Kentucky (yes--the Kentucky Horse Park) for the United States Pony Clubs Dressage Championships and Festival this past year. He is currently being ridden by two Pony clubers (at the C2 and H levels), and has competed at first level dressage, novice level eventing, and working hunter (3' fences). On top of all that he loves cross country. He has over 100 miles in the Great Lakes Distance Riding Association mileage program and is a regular lesson mount....This year, the gallant bay gelding will be following up last year's debut in Polocrosse. Watching him play with my brother is amazing --- October follows the ball and meaningfully checks the other mounts!"

It was fun to meet this energetic family and their wonder horse, October!

October with his family


18" x 14"

Gray dapples are fun to paint, so when Linda wrote to me about Easterlilly, her description of her Arabian mare immediately caught my attention: "She is a very unique color combination and has a beautiful dark gray dappled body with a silver, gray and black long mane and tail." As promised, Easterlilly was delightfully dappled!

I also liked reading about Linda's quest for horse ownership. "I had my first horse when I was 12 and then we had to move. I couldn't take her with me and it broke my heart. I had to wait to get my second horse until I was 49. When I met Lilly I fell in lover with her the second I saw her....She has taught me a lot of patience and she keeps me grounded. I would not give her up for anything."

My painting is of Lilly in field of green.

Linda and Easterlilly


24 " x 18"

This dark golden palomino, Quarter Horse x Arabian gelding has been a treasure for his owner Kristi. Nugget turned 27 last year. He'd been purchased for Kristi by her parents years ago -- when he was 4 and Kristi was 8. They've spent many years together.

Kristi writes, "In his younger years he turned heads everywhere as he had a glow like that of a golden penny and was very successful in local shows. He was my world and provided me with many adventures. My family later moved to Missouri and we took him with us. Then later we moved to Ohio and he was sent to live with relatives. It took me 9 years before I was in a position to get him back. He will live out his days with me. He has the most beautiful soul."

Nugget and Kristi


Zippin Irish Cream

With her golden tan coat speckled with white spots Zippin Irish Cream reminded me of a young fawn. It was more than her unique coloring, though. She seemed to have such a calm and friendly disposition, and like an inquisitive, innocent young deer, she was curious and carefree.

Julia's Beautiful Horses of Michigan nomination entry described Zippin Irish Cream: "She is a striking buckskin with white markings across her hip (not a blanket), one white ankle, one white coronet and a star and snip. Her unique appearance is such that when we walk through the show grounds, whether open show or appaloosa circuit, people stop and notice."

I sure noticed! I'd never seen a buckskin appaloosa. How pretty! DZ Weedo is Zippin Irish Cream's sire, and when Julia showed me the Breyer Model Horse fashioned after him, I was amazed at the similarity.

In this painting I wanted to show not only Zippin Irish Cream's special, unique appaloosa markings, but also her wonderful peaceful spirit.

Julia with Zippin Irish Cream



Emma Black Beauty
16" x 12"

Don, who is 70+, used three pages of a "Senior Companion Program" note pad when he wrote to nominate his filly, Emma Black Beauty, for the Beautiful Horses of Michigan project. Black Beauty is a three year old Arab mix (part Friesian, Don recalled, after much thought).

Here's what he carefully and neatly wrote, "Being a owner of a horse, rarely do I see a male owner, always surrounded by females, mostly young girls. Watching, listening to the girls, they don't seem to say how beautiful heir horses are, only comparing the prices, saddles and outfit. As for me, I think all horses are beautiful. My fily's name is 'Black Beauty.' Only at 3 years old - she is tall, long slender legs, big eyes, black shining hair, gentle, has a star in her forehead. Beautiful yes, a winner, yes. I don't intend to ride because of my age - I could but I have to be careful. Just walk with her, talk. Brush and show her off to the many seniors that I take care as a senior companion. They always ask about Black Beauty."

It was so fun to get to meet Don, who had spent many hears with Arabian horses. He boards Black Beauty at a farm with lots of great horses, who are her companions. I got to photograph them as well. Maybe they will appear in future paintings!

Black Beauty and Don


20" x 16"

Raighney is an Arabian filly, just two years old, and a buckskin! She was so friendly and curious and so cute! It was fun to get to meet her!

Jamie, Raighney's owner, fell in love with her at first sight. She was tagging along with her sister, who was shopping for a new horse, when Jamie spotted Raighney, who just a little foal at the time. She immediately asked if Raighney was for sale. "No." was the response. But a few days later, to Jamie's delight, the owner called and the rest is history.

Jamie writes, "Raighney means small but strong in Irish. And it fits her to a T."

Raighney and Jamie


gray quarter horse painting

Macs Ariel Plane
24" x 18"

One step away from Mac's pasture, there is a trail heading off into the most beautiful forest I've ever seen. It would be a perfect place to ride: tall trees, low undergrowth, great footing on the trails. I was a little jealous of Tiffany who gets to ride there all the time!

I asked Tiffany, Mac's owner, if he could pose by the edge of the forest, and she obliged. Mac is such a beautiful Quarter Horse, with his silver and black dappled coat and strong, muscular body. I liked the dappled sunlight playing on the foliage and on his dappled coat.

Tiffany knows her horse is special! When this teen nominated him for the Beautiful Horses of Michigan project, she wrote, "My horse Mac is so beautiful and captivating. He looks like a big, muscular, gray movie star.... His face is emotional looking; it makes you feel like he knows what you are saying when you talk to him."

Mac is terrific horse. Great for trail rides and a great mount for Tiffany in the horse shows where they compete.


Mac and Tiffany

24" x 18"

Gainango is a Thoroughbred stallion by Grand Slam. I got to meet him and some of his newest babies at his home near Howard City, Michigan. What impressed me most was his home was so, well, homey. It looked like a wonderful place for a horse to live. A nice barn, with his own doorway to a green pasture. Here he is, wandering outside to see if any of his mares are nearby.

Gainango and Dan

Sherri's Quartet
32" x 15"

Sherri originally nominated her blue roan, Valentines Blue Rain, for the Beautiful Horses of Michigan project. When I arrived to photograph Rain, Sherri introduced me to all four of her horses. She'd been torn about which horse to enter because she was so close to all of them. We decided to photograph Rain and then take some pictures of all four together. And after reviewing all the photos we wanted to include all four horses in the project.

Sherri leases a little piece of horse heaven for her lucky foursome. It includes not only a super new barn with an indoor arena, but shaded grassy pastures, beautifully landscaped grounds and interesting neighbors. . . . zebras! Yes, zebras live in the pasture across the drive. Oh, I should have painted them running alongside the horses! Too late now....

It was so fun to get to meet Sherri. She is so enthusiastic about her horses. She sometimes rides bridleless --in parades! Including the Holland Tulip Parade! And she loves to trail ride - which is my favorite horse discipline.

Rain and Sherri


morgan champion horse painting

Sunforest Loaded
18" x 18"

Morgans are one of my favorite breeds. Their calm exterior can momentarily mask their extreme kinetic beauty, which is unleashed with their slightest movement, and explodes as they demonstrate their athleticism dancing freely at liberty.

Sunforest Loaded is a Champion Morgan. He was recently honored at the 2008 USEF Horse of the Year banquet where he was named National Reserve Champion Classic Pleasure Saddle & Regional Champion Classic Pleasure Saddle.. Congratulations!! He has a long list of awards, with many champion titles. But to his owner Jayne, he's much more than a show horse. Here's what she wrote about Sunforest Loaded,

"He is the king and has known it since birth. Celebrated show horse, friend, teacher, babysitter and disciplinarian. He is the master of all he surveys and all must be right in his world. He has gifted me with his heart to cherish and protect, and he will give ALL if I ask . . . . He can be bribed by a mint, or maybe, he only makes you think he can."

He was ruler of the pasture the day I visited. As alpha horse, he herded his two buddies around the large field. He also made sure his "people" where paying attention. This painting captures him as he glances back to check on us.

Jayne with Sunforest Loaded


Friesian Mintse Black Stallion galloping in painting

24" x 16"

Some horses are breathtakingly beautiful. This Friesan stallion, Mintse, is one of them. I first saw him at the World Friesian Extravaganza near Dayton, Ohio, in 2007. And I sort of followed him around for during the event. You should see him competing in Dressage! And you should see him in the Liberty class! And you should see him just walking from the barn to the arena surrounded by a crowd of fans!

When I decided to travel to Michigan for this year's series, I emailed the De Boer Family to ask if I could include Mintse in the series. They graciously said, "Yes."

When I arrived to photograph Mintse, he was gleaming! The family had spent hours preparing him for my visit. And the whole family was on hand to make sure Mintse galloped around the huge pasture and didn't stop to eat and accidently step on his luxurious mane. (The crew is pictured on the "Beautiful Horses of Michigan" page.) Mintse gave a dramatic performance demonstrating the animated movement that Friesians are famous for.

This statuesque horse is .... well I said it before .... breathtakingly beautiful! It was so fun to get to photograph him. And very tough to decide how to depict him in his painting. My goal was to portray his dramatic energy, bold movement and power.

Hopefully someday you will get to meet Mintse. It's a great experience.

Click here to see the De Boer's Friesian Connection websiste with some wonderful photos of Minste and their other horses.


Mintse and the De Boer Family

Hot Streak
18" x 18"

Sara nominated her Paint horse, Hot Streak, for the Beautiful Horses of Michigan project writing, "She's a big girl but is truly a doll....Her beautiful coloring and wonderful talent catch attention from everyone -- in the showring and out." Sarah also told me that her 4-H club had voted Hot Streak the "prettiest horse," beating out 50 other horses.

You can see from the painting above, Hot Streak deserved that honor!

But wait....there's more.... while I was in Sarah's pasture photographing Hot Steak, the family's other horses wanted in on the action. They all wanted glamour shots! They were running around together having a ball while I snapped photos. Hot Streak had to herded into a separate pasture so I could concentrate just on her. But I couldn't help notice the other beautiful Paint in the herd. The mare was Lady and belonged to Sarah's sister. So when Sarah's mom declared that if one daughter's horse was going to be painting, she thought I should also paint the other daughter's horse as well -- it didn't take any time at all to convince me...... Here's Lady's painting.

16" x 16"

Hot Streak and Sara


A Regular at Jacks Bar
18" x 14"

This painting is about contrasts: the contrast between organic and geometric shapes, the contrast of bright white against bold orange, the contrast of a voluminous paint horse against the flat planes of the buildings, straight lines and curves.

Paint horses often remind me of abstract art, and "Blossom" was no exception with her striking color. She was a beautiful example of the breed.

Denise, her owner wrote, "She is a playful spirit....The spirit of this filly will steal your heart as she has mine." Blossom was fun to watch as she gamely trotted around the arena. But she seemed to prefer a pensive pose -- demonstrating her calm disposition. If she were a "Regular at Jack's Bar," as her registered name infers, I would picture her thoughtfully nursing a single drink for the entire evening.



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