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Taking a Walk with a Spirit Horse

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

When I prepare to create a work of art for someone of their companion horse, I begin by meditating with the horse's spirit to ask them what part of themselves they want to express through this work of art. Sometimes, as was the case with Caruso, the messages from that connection are as much for me, as they are for their person. ~ Kim McElroy

Caruso Numerus tres

I created the first portrait of Caruso for his person, Becky, a couple of years ago. It was a fun and magical combination of her love of dragons and celebrating the spirit of her wonderful horse. But that is another story.

This story begins with Becky's son Logan. Logan had grown up with Caruso and said he wished he had a portrait of Caruso too, but he wasn't into dragons. So Becky contacted me to discuss a gift portrait for Logan. One conversation led to another and she soon realized she wanted another creation for herself too. You see, another picture of Caruso was in the back of both of our minds

One of the photographs Becky sent me when she initially contacted me was taken in 2009 when she shared a memorable time with him in his pasture.

As I meditated with Caruso's spirit, I felt as if I was in the pasture with them. Visiting as a guest, I was able to witness Caruso not in the past but in the present moment. I felt Caruso's loving connection with Becky from the perspective of his spiritual presence. My thoughts then turned to the knowledge that he had crossed over. The feeling of the present moment had a future, yet there was no sadness, only peace. In my vision, I saw an image of fall leaves blended with his body. The visions conveyed a feeling of both the timeless and the transient nature of life.

As it so happens, it was Fall when this experience took place. My personal life had been overly full, and I was stressed by the health care issues of my aging horses. I hadn't worked in the studio for months. I was feeling challenged by wanting to work on Caruso's portrait, but not having the time or energy.

During my meditation, I was able to set all that aside, and I was able to listen when Caruso gently invited me to go for a walk. I hadn't taken a walk in our woods for more months than I cared to count. The forest had been calling for some time now, and I had not been listening.

The Magical Walk in the Woods

In a state of reverie, I donned some rain gear, grabbed my camera, and went outside. It had been raining for weeks, but suddenly, the sunlight broke through, and the timeless feeling that Caruso had given me in meditation continued into "reality".

Caruso was my muse, inviting me to spend some precious time in a state of being-ness. As I walked into the woods, the trees were dripping so it was essentially still raining in the woods. The air was still and cool. The brilliant sunlight was magical, reflecting off every wet surface and refracting from suspended raindrops.

I looked for fall leaves for Caruso's portrait, but it was late in the season and all the trees had long since shed their colors. But I was drawn to one pile of leaves in an area by the trail. Though faded, the shapes of the leaves and branches seemed somehow... right. I could sense this was what I was looking for.

While viewing the leaves in context of how to combine them with Caruso's form, I remembered a drawing I had done when I was a young girl. It was based on a drawing by another artist depicting the side view of a dove in repose, but instead of feathers, the dove's body was made of leaves and branches. When I recalled that drawing, I remembered being fascinated by how the leaves and branches seemed more alive because they made up the body of the dove. They were composed in an unusual juxtaposition with the dove's beautiful, feathered head and bright eye. It had sparked my imagination of how the animate and the inanimate could coexist. Looking at those leaves gave me that feeling.

As I returned home to my studio, I realized I had started that day feeling stressed because I had no idea what I was going to create for the portrait. But then I took a walk with Caruso's spirit, and I couldn't wait to begin.

With a better understanding of the elements at play, the creation of Caruso's portrait became easier. In selecting the colors for the leaves, I noticed that the leaves, which I felt lacked enough color, were exactly the colors that would match his chestnut coat.

"Nature Spirit" portrait of Caruso

The Unveiling

Becky and Logan lived within driving distance in Oregon, so we were able to share the unveiling in person.

Whether in person, or virtually, it is always profound to be present during an unveiling. It is amazing to recognize all that has brought us there. That someone's love for their horse, their personal stories and experiences, and what we have shared, culminates in a beautiful work of art as a legacy of love that will last a lifetime and beyond.

Becky's gentle tears and sweet smiles were a reminder that as humans we have our own emotional expression of the sun sparkling through the rain.

In looking at this photo of us, I noticed that both of us had chosen to wear t-shirts with nature-leaf themes.


Upon reflecting on this writing, I realized that in Caruso's Soul Essence Portrait, perhaps the leaves represent the inevitable change that happens when our beloved horse leaves their physical body. Like leaves in the fall, their physical self becomes a part of nature, while the spirit continues on its soul path. We are still connected with every memory we have of them. I have found that creating a work of art, or some dedication to the horse in a tangible way that isn't necessarily connected to the past, allows us to bring those memories into the present moment. Then a new season of loving can begin.

I'm so glad Logan decided he wanted his own portrait... for his request led to two more beautiful and meaningful inspirations.

Caruso Numerus duo

Becky's Comments

"Caruso was a sweet Arabian gelding, full of character, and part of our family for 9 short years before he passed. I commissioned Kim to create a portrait of him, and since he was part of the inspiration for my large dragon tattoo, we decided it would be cool to incorporate a dragon into the piece. "Ancient Bond" was the result. Kim discovered that there is, after all, a wise and powerful dragon horse in Chinese lore named "Longma".

My son, who also loved Caruso, requested a portrait from a photo of Caruso looking at us inquisitively as he often did. Thus, portrait number 2, in which Kim absolutely captured his expression, and brought him to life again for us!

I had always loved the snapshot I took of him one day in the pasture, because the side profile of his face became a subtle part of my tattoo dragon's head. Caruso also had a far-off gaze in his eye, which reminds me that horses live in their own world. We, sadly, will never totally understand this world. So, once again, I asked Kim to create another, the 3rd, portrait. This became "Nature Spirit"."

"It is so special to have three distinct portraits of our dear, multifaceted friend Caruso, each fabulous in their own way! One as a mythical being, one of his lovely face, and one expressing his connection to a larger realm, to all that is. I am so grateful to Kim, who is a gracious person and an amazing artist!" ~ Becky

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