Updated: Sep 6, 2021
One of the earliest religious disappointments in a young girl’s life devolves upon her unanswered prayer for a horse. ~ Phyllis Theroux
My artwork is an essential method of exploration into why I am drawn to horses.
As a child, I wanted to be a horse, so my solitary hours were spent galloping on my hands and knees. Our floorboards strummed with the thumping of my gallop. The hallways rang with the whinny that called to my imaginary wild companions. To me, horses seemed strong and sure, and in imagining I was one, I felt that way too.
Somewhere around the age of eight, my imaginary horse-self began to fade. I felt more like a little girl who at times, was helpless and alone. During this time, I created a drawing of a unicorn superimposed with the image of a woman’s face. They shared the same human eye. Perhaps I combined the two because they represented two aspects of myself. I wanted to feel as self-assured as they seemed. As the years passed, and I began to become proficient at my art, I would often remember this image.
The EquiSelf Series
When I began painting horses as a profession, my art often reflected aspects of myself. My childhood feelings reemerged in the form of the painting above, titled “We Are.”
I was inspired to paint “We Are” when I found an unusual photograph of a beautiful woman. Her evocative image made me want to paint her, so I looked for a horse that would mirror her exotic beauty and her subtle, mysterious presence. I intentionally made the horse smaller than life, because I wanted the viewer to understand that the woman and horse existed in another realm, rather than standing side by side. The title, “We Are” conveys the woman and horse are so close as to become one being, with a unity of expression and purpose.
I knew right away that this theme was an essential part of my artistic expression. I decided to create The EquiSelf Series ~ Celebrating the Spiritual Connection Between Women and Horses. In this series, I sought to explore the mystery of why women like me felt drawn to horses.
The next piece in the series was “We Watch.” In this piece, I started with the striking image of a horse expressing intense alertness, and then I depicted a woman that had the same watchful qualities. The woman is almost an apparition, hovering like a spirit over the shoulder of the horse. Upon first glance, the woman and the horse appear vulnerable, and one may think they are on the verge of looking away. But they can also be seen as protecting each other. Though cautious, they can feel empowered by their joint perceptiveness.
At this point in my life, I had never owned a horse. So my only experiences with horses were only from riding lessons, or when meeting other people’s horses. Sometimes, I thought the dream of experiencing loving a horse and having a horse love me in return, was unrealistic. I had only had brief encounters with horses who didn’t know me, so I wondered if a relationship with a horse was even possible. “Longing” reflected this dilemma. In “Longing,” the woman wants to be in kinship with the horse, but the horse is elusive.
I expressed these feelings again in “If Wishes Were Horses.” The woman appears lost, and she is looking inward. The horse in her reflection represents her heartfelt dreams. Does she wish to be with a horse? Or to become one?
In many ways, these works of art were a form of intuition, for it wasn’t long before I met the horse of my dreams at a racetrack in Kentucky.
At last, a horse of my own
When I found Darma, my soul connection with her was palpable, but I still had to learn how to be a horsewoman. I realized the artwork I had created years before was uncannily accurate in providing insights into the stages of our path (See Darma’s Diary 1-6 )
At the beginning of my relationship with Darma, I often felt like the woman in “Longing.” I would look at Darma’s eyes and wonder if we would ever understand each other. Sometimes I would try too hard, and spend more time trying to do things with her, rather than just being with her. In this painting, the horse is depicted as harnessed, whereas in the other compositions the horses are without restraint. Darma taught me that achieving true oneness is when two separate and whole beings choose to be together of their own free will.
As Darma and I became more attuned, I realized that having a relationship with a horse was akin to being one with them. I wanted to understand the world from Darma’s perspective. I discovered that we weren’t all that different in how we viewed life.
Sometimes, when we faced challenges or decisions that were daunting, we seemed like the aspects of “We Watch” ~ not trusting, or self-assured.
Other times, when we had to find the truth, trust in each other, and stand our ground, we were more like “We Are”. The path was not always easy, but we were learning.
Art Expressing Unspoken Truths
There were special moments when I would feel an incredible kinship with Darma, but other times she found it hard to trust me. Again, my art gave me a way to experience my inner knowing, for it was during this time I painted, “Desert of Inspiration.”
In “Desert of Inspiration,” the woman and the horse stand together in the desert. Their future is uncertain, yet they face it together on equal ground. Though separate beings, they have a unity of purpose. Each is independently strong, yet are made stronger still by the presence of the other. They are patient and do not seek a goal; instead, they wait for their path to reveal itself.
Darma and I continue to explore the unity these paintings depict. It is intriguing to think that my intuitive expression of these paintings led to manifesting changes in my relationships with my horses.
As a child, I played at being a horse because I wanted to feel self-assured. My paintings as an adult allowed me to express this subconscious need. Now I am beginning to understand what it truly is to be part woman, and part horse.