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Avenger Is… Was… and Ever Shall Be…

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

“Avenger” Pastel 1988

On January 3rd, 2008, the Arabian stallion Destiny’s Avenger, the first horse I ever fell in love with, was released from his physical body and this earthly realm to rejoin the other great horse spirits on the other side. His presence graced my art in thirteen creations inspired by his beauty and spirit, and his famous portrait, “Avenger”, has touched countless people through my art. His portrait was one of the first limited edition prints I ever published, he graced the cover of my first book, and was published as a popular Leanin’ Tree greeting card for over ten years.

Kim with Avenger in 1990

Kim with Avenger in 1990

I met Avenger when I was commissioned to paint his portrait in 1988. I was just beginning my career as an equine artist at the age of 21. Unbeknownst to me, our lives were to be entwined in magical ways for two more decades.

“Shadow Dance” ~ Pastel 1990

“Shadow Dance” ~ Pastel 1990

Here was an Arabian stallion in all his glory, and I was humbled by his magnificence. Avenger awakened something in me that day. Time was suspended as I watched this graceful and majestic stallion dance a solo ballet to his own music, and for me alone. My camera could not capture his magnificence in its entirety, but my heart did. I was infused with his essence as surely as if he had stepped into my soul and taken up residence. He was completely new to me, yet he was so very familiar. At the end of our photo session, he galloped straight toward me. Although we were only separated by tiny decorative chain fence, I was unafraid as he skidded to a stop and placed his head over my shoulder in a moment of grace. I put my hand to his cheek and knew I had been blessed.

“Exclamation”~ Pastel 1989

“Exclamation”~ Pastel 1989

“Spirit of Avenger”~ Pastel 1994

“Spirit of Avenger”~ Pastel 1994

At the time that I met him I had never before encountered a horse like him, except in my dreams. Through him I began to understand that the horses of my dreams were also of this earth.  He was the first stallion I had ever met, yet in all the years since I’ve never met a stallion with his unique mix of charisma, presence and generosity of heart.

“Rhapsody in Blue” ~ Pastel 1991

“Rhapsody in Blue” ~ Pastel 1991

In order to paint him accurately and do justice to his spirit, I realized I had to somehow become him. Experiencing his presence had touched me so profoundly that amazingly, I was able to achieve this, and the portrait I created of him was unlike anything I had painted before. All the works I created thereafter – seemed even more imbued with the spirit of Horse.

“Shadow Dancer” ~ Pastel 1993

“Shadow Dancer” ~ Pastel 1993

“Dark Splendor” ~ Pastel 1995

“Dark Splendor” ~ Pastel 1995

His portrait conveyed the power with which he carried himself, and his eyes showed the generosity of his heart. Little did I know, that though I had been commissioned to paint his portrait by his owners at the time, that 11 years later, his owners would abandon him as a 19 yr. old stallion, and in miraculous ways, this very portrait would lead him to his new life with a woman named Carol Joy and he would come to live here in Washington with her, only an hour away from me. This experience taught me how a work of art that is infused with love can has a ripple effect that can manifest in profound ways.

“Wild Spirit” ~ Pastel 1995

“Wild Spirit” ~ Pastel 1995

“Sovereign” ~ Pastel 1997

“Sovereign” ~ Pastel 1997

This miraculous series of events is chronicled in the following story by his owner Carol Joy Buri. I am so grateful that Avenger found his true home, and that I had the blessed opportunity to spend precious time with him.

“Lasting Impression” ~ Pastel 1998

“Lasting Impression” ~ Pastel 1998

“The Guardians” – Pastel 1998

Avenger’s spirit continues to offer these lessons for those who can experience him through my art. For the paintings he created through me, and those that are yet to come, exist as a tangible reminder of the lasting impression of his soul. He touches us all through those paintings as surely as if he were in the room with us. And he challenges us to not grieve for what we feel we have lost, for as long as we reach out to connect with him, and allow his beauty and wisdom to touch us, he will remain alive in our hearts.

“Watchful” ~ Pastel 1994

“Watchful” ~ Pastel 1994

Prologue to CJ’s Story

Avenger and his daughter Breezy with Carol Joy and Kim

Avenger and his daughter Breezy with Carol Joy and Kim

I was able to visit Avenger a few weeks before his spirit journey. I felt somehow when I saw him that it would be our last meeting on this earth. I had the impulse to show him the picture of his portrait that I had created 20 years before. He focused on the image with great interest, repeatedly looking at it with intensity beyond mere curiosity. His daughter Breezy looked over his shoulder at it intently, and nudged him trying to get a closer look. Carol was equally amazed that he was so focused on the painting.   The moment was powerful and poignant as I recalled our complex connections.

Avenger views his portrait

Avenger’s filly Breezy looks intently at his portrait

Tears came to my eyes as I told him how much I loved him, and he lifted his head and touched his warm nostril to my lips. He breathed long and softly into me as I closed my eyes and breathed back into him. I was lost and found at the same time; I knew that all of our emotions were in our breath, and that he knew, and wanted me to know. It was a moment that passed in a flash, and lasted for an eternity.

Avenger's breath

Avenger’s breath

I will miss Avenger’s physical presence greatly, but I know that we will meet again someday, and he is vividly with me in the colors of my chalks, and the memory of a timeless shared breath.

“Is, Was, and Ever shall Be” ~ 2008

Destiny’s Avenger ~ The Story of How We Found One Another By Carol Joy Buri

Although I only had Avenger physically with me for the last eight and a half years of his life, he has been in my heart since I was 6 yrs. old.

As a child I lived in Wyoming and I was allowed to ride the horses at some of the local ranches. At the age of five, I received a very clear image of what my soul horse looked like, and a knowing of the very special personality this horse would have. I knew that someday we would find each other, and we would be together for the rest of our lives.

When I was ten yrs. old, we moved to Ecuador. I spent my allowance on paying to ride the Ecuadorian military’s horses. There was one horse I rode whenever he was available. Even though I knew he was not the one that I longed for, I loved him. He could sail over hurdles with great ease and seemed to enjoy taking me through the course with him. I felt like I was flying with him.

A few years later my family moved to Thailand and so it went…every two or three years we moved with the next job. After graduating high school I married and continued to move every few years. Though I experienced many wonderful riding days with different horses, I knew none of them were the horse destined to be mine. Still, I clung to the dream of having my soul horse one day.

When my husband, Bob, retired in 1991 from the Navy, we moved to Port Orchard, Washington. We were both so tired of moving that we made this our final move and permanent home. I was 43 years old, and the dream of finding and being with the horse that I always believed was destined to be mine, had all but vanished.

In 1992, I drove to nearby Kingston to browse through the shops downtown. At the end of the day, I saw a shop at the end of town. I was thrilled to see beautiful equine art on display. The artist, Kim McElroy, invited me to follow her back to her studio.

"Avenger" Pastel 1988

“Avenger” Pastel 1988

Going down the stairs into her studio, my breath caught and my heart pounded as I stared at a portrait of a horse hanging on her wall. I instantly knew, from the beautiful image that showed so clearly the spirit, soul and personality of this horse, that this was my dream horse! I didn’t explain this to Kim at the time, but I asked if the picture was of a real horse. Kim informed me that it was a portrait of an Arabian stallion named Destiny’s Avenger from Arizona. She told me that this horse was her first commissioned portrait created four years before. She talked about how awesome Avenger was and how much his owner’s loved him.

As she was talking, my mind repeated over and over, “But that’s my horse!” I couldn’t say that out loud to her. Instead I said, “I have to have one of these prints”. I felt that if I could never have my soul horse, at least I had to have his portrait! But even that was going to be next to impossible; only 100 prints had been made and Kim said they were sold out! But, I had to try! Hopefully, I could at least have that much of him!

Finally, six months later, for the price one might pay for an Arabian, I was able to obtain one of the secondary market limited edition prints. For the next seven years, as it hung above the sliding glass door in our home. I would look up at it and say, “Where are you Avenger? You are supposed to be my horse; you should be here with me!” I wondered if I would ever know where he was, or anything more about him.

Then, on July 5, 1999, my mother and I visited Kim’s gallery. Remembering that I had purchased Avenger’s print, but having no idea of my love for the horse himself, she had the impulse to tell me of an incredible phone call that she had received in January from a woman named Chandra in Oklahoma. Chandra had found out about Kim through a greeting card of Avenger that she had bought over a decade before and still had framed in her house. Chandra told Kim that Avenger was at her boarding farm and that the owners had abandoned him there along with three other horses. Chandra said that they had already sold 2 of the horses; but, since Kim had done artwork of Avenger, she thought perhaps Kim might know of someone who would really want him. Kim was shocked by the news. Avenger was 20 years old, and Kim said she had worried for his future. She had thought long and hard about getting him herself. But she had strongly felt that his destiny was to be with someone else.

It was at this point that I grabbed Kim’s shoulders and said, “Me, I want him, we have to call her now!” Kim was astonished, because I had never told her of my dream, but she willingly looked up the phone number. I called right there in her gallery. Chandra answered the phone and told us that miraculously, he was still for sale!

I was so excited at the realization that I’d found Avenger and that he was so close to being mine, that I laughed and cried with happiness almost the whole 45-minute drive home! When I got home, and told my husband Bob the wonderful news, he could hardly believe the amazing story of how it had come to pass that Avenger had not only been found, but that he was actually available to be purchased.

Avenger ~ 1999

Friday, July 16, 1999 we flew Oklahoma to see Destiny’s Avenger. As I stood in front of Avenger for the very first time, I felt like I was in a dream. What was happening couldn’t possibly be real. He was just like his portrait…handsome, kind eyes, loving, wise, and yes, spirited. We instantly connected and his eyes never left me as Chandra’s husband worked him in the round pen. It was as if he was giving me a personal show to gain my approval, and watching to see what I thought of him. Chandra commented that he had never done that before with anyone else. She told me that with other prospective buyers, Avenger had either shown absolutely no interest in them at all or displayed signs of fear and mistrust. She said, “You are the only one that he has shown interest in and has been relaxed with.” The day ended all too soon! It was time to finalize the purchase. Now that I was finally with the horse of my dreams, I didn’t want to ever be away from him. But we had to return home and make arrangements for his long trip to Washington.

After one of the longest months of my life, filled with overcoming dangerously hot weather for hauling, and other transportation problems, Avenger arrived on August 18, 1999, to be with us for the rest of his life. He was full of energy and excitement when he was unloaded. What a glorious day and wonderful reunion! 

The free spirit of Avenger

The free spirit of Avenger

In a very short period of time, we became totally bonded. He was everything I knew he would be when I was five years old. In the years to come, I also purchased Avenger’s son Count Avenger, who had also been abandoned along with Avenger. Later I purchased a black Egyptian Arabian mare I named Silky. I bred Silky to Avenger and on April 14, 2002, Silky gave birth to Avenger’s daughter, Avenger’s Wind Spirit. Later, I had Avenger gelded so he could live in harmony with his family. We bought larger property and built a new farm, and had our road officially named “Destiny’s Haven” by the state of Washington.

Avenger with his son Count, and his bay daughter Breezy

Avenger with his son Count, and his bay daughter Breezy

Sadly, in September 2007 at the age of 28, his health began to deteriorate. Several complications ensued and despite all my efforts by vets, farriers and herbalists to rehabilitate him he continued to decline. Though we had brief moments of hope, I sensed in some way that our time together was growing shorter. On January 1, 2008, I realized the time had come for me to tell him I was ready to let him go. I told him that if he needed to be released, I didn’t want to hold him back, but he that he would have to make it clear to me. On the morning of January 3rd, he became dramatically worse. There was no doubt in my heart that he needed to be set free from his suffering. With the assistance of our vet, he crossed over peacefully to join the other hoof beats in heaven.

My heart grieves for him; the pain of not having him physically with me is difficult. A part of me is missing…the same part that was missing before we came together. Yet my soul rejoices that he is no longer struggling with painful physical issues. My consolation is that I know that someday he and I would be together forever. Until that time, I find peace in knowing his spirit is with all of us at Destiny’s Haven.

Kim McElroy’s Soul Essence Portrait of Avenger

Knowing that Kim McElroy would share in the loss of Avenger, I called to let her know that he was gone. We both wept as we shared our loss. She told me that she felt I had made the right decision. She expressed how grateful she was, that just a few weeks earlier, she had been able to see him one last time.

Later, Kim told me that she had begun creating commissioned art called Soul Essence Portraits, and asked me if I would like her to paint Avenger. I felt strongly that the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Kim happened to have an opening in her schedule and she began his portrait immediately.

"Is, Was, and Ever Shall Be" ~ Pastel 2008

“Is, Was, and Ever Shall Be” ~ Pastel 2008

When Kim unveiled his portrait, I sensed Avenger’s spirit reaching out and connecting with me on a new level. I realized, that the more I absorbed Avenger’s Soul Essence portrait, that additional revelations and meaningful messages would continue to be bestowed upon me. Kim explained that a blue area in the center of his face felt strongly like it had to do with my energy. Tears came to my eyes as I realized that this is was the exact spot I would always place my fingertips to begin caressing his face. This confirmed for me even more of a connection was possible through this work of art.

Shortly after Bob and I returned home, we had the impulse to show Avenger’s portrait to our horses. Now that he was physically gone, would his horse family sense anything of his spirit in the artwork she had created?

Bob and I took a photo of the portrait to the barn.. We also took a picture of our house. It was very interesting to see their reactions! We went into each of their stalls to show them the pictures individually.

First of all, no matter how hard we tried, the horses were not remotely interested in the picture of the house. They would just glance at the picture of the house and then turn away. Then we showed them the photo of Avenger’s Soul Essence portrait, and what amazing reactions they displayed!

Count, Avenger’s son, looked at it closely with widened eyes, his nose touching the photo and moving from side to side. To me his expression seemed to communicate that he was trying to understand why Avenger was “flat”. Count seemed to ask, “Where is the rest of him?”

Silky, Avenger’s life mate, was wide-eyed and pricked her ears sharply forward at attention, seeming to show a definite recognition of the picture. She placed her nose on the picture, but then quickly turned to me with a snort, as if to say, “But it doesn’t smell like him!”

Avenger’s beautiful and ever so innocent 5-year-old daughter, Avenger’s Wind Spirit (aka Breezy), stood close to the photo staring at it for several minutes. It reminded me of the way, a few weeks earlier, she had looked so intently at a picture of the original portrait of Avenger, painted by Kim so many years ago. Just as she had then, she seemed to show that she recognized it as her “daddy” Avenger. Her nostrils flared with quick deep breaths, as she tried to get his scent from the photo. Then she quickly turned and walked out to her paddock. She stood still as a statue and stared intently out over the pasture to where he had been buried, where she had seen him last. I felt she was communicating to us that she understood she had seen his soul essence in a very real way.

Count, Breezy, Silky, and also Bob and I know, that even though Avenger is not with us anymore in a physical form, that his spirit IS and always will be with all of us.

For me, Avenger’s Soul Essence portrait captures his spirit and the wonderful love he had for me. The magnificence of his power and energy fill his portrait. His eyes speak to me now through his portrait as they always did. I see the deep love and appreciation he had for me. His eyes of kindness, which sometimes would show concern for me, asking, “Are you ok?” Then reassuring me saying, “Everything is going to be ok!”

The colorful sands swirling around Kim’s creation testify of his spiritual origins; the desert from which God took the South wind and created the Arabian horse. Now, surrounded by the desert winds, Avenger dwells in an oasis of plenty. The fire in Avenger’s portrait reminds me of how God used him to refine and teach me the truly important lessons of life.

The most comforting symbol of all is the silver cord that extends through his face and beyond. It is like the bond of love coming from the center of his being reaching out and connecting with my soul. As I look at Avenger’s Soul Essence Portrait, I am reminded of the eternal link that brought us together years ago, and forever will remain. Although we are in two different realms, we will eternally be intertwined as Destiny’s Avenger and Avenger’s Destiny, Carol Joy.

More about Destiny’s Avenger – A Truly Remarkable Arabian Horse.

Bred and foaled on May 30, 1979 in Washington State, Avenger was from a line of famous well-bred Arabian horses. His Arabian Horse Association registration number, for those that like to research lineage, is 0192796. It is probably sufficient to say that he was the son of Aza Destiny, grandson of Azraff and great grandson of Raffles and other well known Arabians including: Skowronek, Bint Bass Hisan, Witez II, Rapture, Sheherzade and Desert bred Heijer.

Avenger always had a strong spirit. Despite trainer’s efforts in his earlier years to break his spirit with abusive tactics, his inner strength prevailed. His strong Arabian ancestry gave him the ability to overcome the physical and emotional hardships he endured.

Everyone who met him, especially the women, was so impressed by him. It wasn’t just his perfect Arab horse conformation, but, his spirit, self-confidence, and loving personality. You could tell he was very proud; he projected an air of nobility in such a matter of fact manner. There was always such a strong “presence” about him; a light seemed to surround him. He was so proud but he wasn’t prideful.  

Even as a senior horse, Avenger was so young at heart. It was evident when we watched him enjoying himself in his pasture; running, bucking and playing that he clearly thought of himself as a young horse. His energy was so powerful that it seemed like I could feel and hear it! His strength and balance were so strong, that even when he was 20 yrs. old, he could walk on his hind legs perfectly upright for yards! Watching him took my breath away from the sheer magnificence of his performance. It was clear that he thoroughly enjoying performing! From all of this, it was easy to understand why the makers of “The Black Stallion”, originally wanted Avenger’s father, Aza Destiny, to be the star of their movie.    

Despite being such a powerful stallion, Avenger was so kind and gentle that he allowed a baby bird to rest on his head between his ears when it was learning how to fly. He was totally unconcerned when our cat, Ginger, would walk on his back and lay down on his hindquarters. He was all too willing to provide her with the ride.

Avenger’s patience and tolerance were brought to light with the care he took with his pet goat, Rocky. Before he had his own horse family, we acquired a goat to keep Avenger company. He was an adorable black and white goat that liked to chew on rocks, so we named him Rocky. At first, Rocky was so small that we made a cozy home for him in the wash rack area next to Avenger’s stall. Avenger was very entertained by his antics. When Rocky grew bigger, we moved him into Avenger’s large stall and paddock. It was quite a sight to see the two of them sharing the same flake of hay. Avenger would even put up with Rocky stealing a few bites of his grain.      

Avenger was a discerner of people, which was proven by his reaction to them. There had been a few occasions when someone came around who I didn’t like because they were self-centered, egotistical, and unclean. Avenger would not allow the person to get anywhere near him, no matter how they tried to approach him. Yet other people, who were complete strangers, he would happily approach and allow them to pet him. He would reciprocate by licking their hand. He could sense their clean character and pure intentions.

Avenger showed me the important things of life. All the possessions and things I used to think were so important became so insignificant.   Now with him gone, they mean even less to me. I would gladly trade so much just to have him back healthy and happy again.

Destiny’s Avenger was a very wise teacher. Although I was 50 years old and set in my ways, Avenger revealed a new way of thinking and a better way of living to me. Some of the things he taught me was how not to hold grudges, and to be quicker to forgive when I felt I had been wronged. He taught me patience, and to be less demanding of those around me. I became less selfish and more understanding, and I developed a kinder, gentler way of treating others. In fact, I like myself a lot better now! I can see the many ways, that through Avenger, my destiny has changed.

I thank God for the miracle of bringing us together. Despite all the odds of it ever happening, my destined horse, Destiny’s Avenger, and I were united. Through Avenger, God gave me a better life than I could ever have imagined possible. And, I was Avenger’s destiny; giving him a life I know Avenger thought would never have been possible.  

A friend recently commented that I was meant to own him. I told her I didn’t own Avenger. I was united with Avenger, and I was allowed the gift of loving and caring for him, but nobody could own him. He is, was, and always will be an independent and free spirit.

Author’s Note:

Avenger’s son, Count Avenger, and his mate, Silky have also joined t

he heavenly herd, may their spirits live on in freedom and harmony

Count Avenger

Count Avenger

Silky and friend

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