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Archives for March 2021

Local Artist – Virginia “Ginny” Furness

Originally from Argentina, Virginia Peralta de Furness came to the United States with her family as a child.  With a medically inclined family, Ginny followed into the healthcare field in 1988 when she graduated with a BS in Occupational Therapy.  Throughout her long and successful career in healthcare, she continued to be drawn to art and sought out creative immersion in different forms. 

She started with photography, which allowed her to express her personal response to real and imagined experiences.  When digital photography ended the era of photographic film, she pursued digital media and earned a Diploma in Web Design which turned into work as a freelance web designer. 

All of these artistic endeavors continued to bring her back to traditional forms of artistic expression.   With a significant life change in 2014, Ginny made a career reset and decided to fully pursue her passion for art which lead to studies in drawing and painting at the Art Students League of Denver and then her Masters of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2019.  For her MFA thesis, Ginny’s subject was wild horses. Ginny explains, “My definition of what it meant to have a partnership with a horse changed especially when I chose to study, photograph and paint wild horses for my MFA thesis in western Colorado, Utah and Arizona.” 

A lifelong lover of horses, Ginny was not able to fully realize her connection with horses until her four sons were raised and she then had the time to pursue riding at 38 years old.  Ginny reflects on that time, “Early on I became involved in classical dressage through a local Spanish trainer. In those years I really packed it in and emersed myself into trying to understand and master this art form. While my horses were in classical training, I took all the lessons and clinics that were offered. Although I learned all the high-level dressage skills, I wasn’t sure that I was becoming a better equestrian. (Studying wild horses) was my segue way towards being an intuitive rider. One that connects with the horse by being closely attuned to their behaviors and movement. My horses and I are happier now that we are in better harmony.”

Ginny’s study of the wild horses and burros changed her “permanently” and changed the way she sees and interacts with them.  She stays closer to home now and her equine subjects are local, whether that be her own, friends or clients. 

Ginny paints exclusively in oils on linen, canvas or boards.  The pigments of oil paints are suspended in linseed oil which results in a mixture that maintains a vibrant color and dries slowly. The slow drying time, during which their colors do not change, allowing her the ability to rework, correct and even scrape off areas of paint. 

Early influencers of her work were James Reynolds (cowboy artist), T. Allen Lawson, Clyde Aspevig and Michael Workman. Currently, Ginny relates she is “focusing on my own style which is loose and painterly. Representationally but flowing in and out of abstraction.  Loose means not getting bogged down with unnecessary details. It also means operating by intuition more than intellect while paying attention to the gesture, mood and flow. In the end I want the loose passages, color combinations, value patterns and composition to come together in a dynamic and pleasing manner.  I prefer depicting horses in the most natural states as possible whether alone, within a herd or interacting with their owners.” 

Ginny does commissioned work in oils or charcoal drawings of horses, horses with their people as well as people portraits.  It is up to the client if they are painted in Ginny’s “loose” style or she can render the subject realistically. 

The Stone Heart Gallery in Evergreen features Ginny’s work or for more of her work and contact her, go to: www.virginiafurness.com or https://www.instagram.com/virginiafurness/

Heather McWilliams © 2021

Time to Ride South?

Online work?  Online school?  Why not do it all from somewhere a little warmer this winter?  What if you could keep working online, keep the kids in online school, and take a break from winter – with the chipping ice out of your horses feet, blankets on and off, long periods of time out of the saddle, cold and snow?  At the same time, you would be ready for the show season a little earlier and back in shape for spring events and riding in Colorado! Sounds too good to be true?!

Maybe you haven’t noticed but it’s a thing to go south and not just for retirees. For decades, entire barns from the eastern United States head to the Carolina’s and Florida for the winter.  Or from the northwest to California, Arizona, and Texas.  It seems far-fetched for many of us to be snowbirds with horses in tow but look at us now…more mobile than ever before!  Many of us are working and doing school online at home, at the coffee shop, or anywhere else with a Wi-Fi connection.  Geographic locations matter less.  If not the entire Winter, you might consider a geographic shift of just a month?  For those online school parents, imagine just sending the kids out to mess with their horses, or go for a hike or bike ride in January as if it were June.  Here are some ideas to get your creative thoughts flowing.

Sweet Dixie South barns and RV spots

Find a spot that caters to your specific equestrian discipline with RV spots and stalls/pens for rent.  There are equestrian parks throughout the South that have RV hook ups and stalls for rent.  Many also put on events like ranch sorting, roping, schooling shows and clinics for their guests and locals to take part in.  Check in with people you know and related Facebook groups to see where they choose for destinations. 

Some of these equestrian parks are next to public land or are on large acreage parcels where you can enjoy exploring from horseback.  An example is Lonestar Equestrian in Arizona that puts on Ranch Sorting and Team Roping competitions.  The current prices at Lonestar are $1,150 monthly (each additional horse is less) which includes feeding, RV hook ups, daily sorting and roping practice and use of all facilities. 

For the Dressage, Eventing and Hunter/Jumper disciplines, there are a few facilities in the Carolina’s and Florida that have RV spots, stalls, turn outs, arenas, jump fields and cross-country courses – all on green grass!  Two such facilities in Florida are Sweet Dixie South and Majestic Oaks. Sweet Dixie South for example is $550 for a dry stall (you do all the care) and about $500 for an RV hook up.  Use of all the facilities, 140 acres, two schooling jumper shows and two cross-county schooling events per month are also included.

Sweet Dixie South Barns

Often, especially in the English disciplines, trainers will rent out entire barns in the Southeastern horse areas for a few winter months, typically from January to March, to take their training operation south.  Many of them actually own facilities they only use during the winter months.  Winter is the season for shows and events in this area which are basically scheduled every weekend with some running all week.  During their time down south, these trainers spend time honing their own skills with the plethora of top professionals gathered within a short distance.  They also attend shows weekly and take their clients to the many different facilities available for schooling that are in the area. 

Trainers based in the south may try to appeal to the northerly horse folk and offer clinics that last a couple weeks.  They provide accommodations for the horses and sometimes the owners as well.  In addition, they may have space for your living quarters trailer. 

For trail riders, find southern parks where you can stay and trail ride.  Connect with other trail riders though Facebook groups to find out the best options in terms of amenities and trails to explore.  You can choose to make a particular park your “home base” or try a different park every week.   

Walking to turnouts at Sweet Dixie South

Instead of reacting to changing schedules and safety orders, switching between work/school environments in person and online, and the uncertainty of the coming months. This proactive approach, whether for a month or three, may be an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. Ride south for some quality horse and kid time this winter!  If you do, make sure to take photos and videos to share with me. Heather@MtnHomes4Horses.com. Heather McWilliams © 2020

Facing Fear in Riding

Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is assured.  – Eleanor Roosevelt

Having fears can cripple us.  Fears are nothing to hold on to or live with.  In order to be the best version of ourselves, we have to face our fears in all parts of life and take action toward them.  Step into them in a healthy way.  Recently in my own life, I had a fairly significant fall aka unplanned dismount, while competing my horse cross country jumping.  I actually flew into the jump at about 15-20 mph with my head and cracked my helmet.  Fortunately, I was wearing all of the gear required in competition such as a helmet and body protector and was mainly just sore with a little whiplash. 

Two weeks later I had another competition coming up.  Those two weeks were full of “mental gymnastics” and fear and the desire to find some excuse not to go, but I knew that is all it was and I had to take action and get my mindset right to not let those fears grow.  I knew that if I did not push into it, it would be very detrimental to my confidence and for that matter, the best version of myself. 

There is a healthy fear that comes with working with an animal that is ten times your size.  If you say you are not afraid of horses, you may want to rethink that.  Non-horse people often tell me that horses scare them and my answer is, that’s okay, they scare me too!  But, if horses are your passion, you accept that risk and working with a large animal that has their own ideas, just like we accept risk when we walk out our door everyday, but that is part of really living.  We cannot live in fear of the “what ifs”.

First, take action.  Break down the fear into what you are afraid of.  Is it a real fear and what can you do to minimize that risk.  Everybody feels fear.  The most accomplished riders feel fear.  I don’t know any competitive riders who don’t have butterflies and nerves at a competition.  Often they learn to turn that adrenaline into an advantage of a sharp mind and reflexes that produces an excellent performance.   

When we take action on fear, we come out of it with confidence. True quiet confidence comes from, I felt this fear and these emotions, I didn’t give into them.  I took action in the midst of it.  Fear cannot win out.  John Wooden wisely stated, “The greatest failure of all is the failure to act when action is needed.”

Keep your confidence bank replenished.  If you have been riding long, you have had bad rides and bad falls.  Confidence is fragile.  It is built up over many rides and the passage of time and experience, but one fall or scare can destroy that confidence in a second.  Not only do we need to protect our bodies, we need to protect our minds.  Surround yourself with people who encourage you and push you at the same time.  Give yourself credit for a good ride, an excellent lesson and a successful competition.  Just like we thank others for a good job, thank yourself!  Change your self-talk from “that is too hard for me to do” to “I am working hard to be able to do that”.  Phrase your self-talk in a positive way. 

Most importantly, Have the right mindset.  Choose courage over comfort.  Courage is nothing more than taking one step more than you think you can take.  Holding onto fear only keeps us from being the best version of ourselves.  Turning and facing any fear in life is the only way to grow and become more confident.  As General Patton said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the action taken in the midst of fear.” 

Two weeks later, I faced my fear and I am now safely past that next competition and my confidence is healing.  My goal for the competition was to ride well and not even think about where I was in the placings.  That should be my goal every time, right?!  But competing and learning your mindset in different situations and the pressures we put on ourselves, it affects our performance.  I am learning the balance between putting all my horse and I have learned together into play in the moments at a competition and at the same time slowing my brain down when I have the added adrenaline that comes with competition.  Are you struggling with fear?  It is time to take action!  Email me if I can help you figure out the next step – heather@mtnhomes4horses.com.

The adversity we face in life is the making of us.  It is a test, dig in and dig in hard. – Brian Buffini

Heather McWilliams © 2020