Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Adoptions Mora's Story Part 1 Challenge Painting #159

Mora’s Story Part 1 
By Beth Cook

5 by 5 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

I first saw Mora, then named Shawnee, when I moved my horse Dusty to Surprise, Arizona, as I had started a new teaching job.  Mora was in a big corral with another boarder’s horses.  Of course with her coloring she caught my eye.  However, she was a touch-me-not, so even when the other horses would come to the fence to get pets, she stayed behind them.  She had a sweet face though and her eyes were kind.  It might have something to do with her right eye being one-third blue.

In the middle of December 2008, Dusty and I tore his suspensory ligament, so he was going to be laid up for three months and then another three months of rehab.  I knew Mora’s owner had too many horses and wasn’t working with her, so I asked “Lisa” if I could work on getting Mora’s ground manners back in place.  This is what Lisa told me about Mora’s past.

Lisa had bought her to use as a dressage prospect from a man who had owned her twice.  The man had sold her once before, but Mora was returned to him because she had issues the new owner couldn’t deal with.  When the people entered Mora’s stall she would turn her butt to them.  They took this as a sign of aggression and started smacking her on her butt to make her turn away from them.  However, with Mora this just meant in her mind they were going to beat her front, so she got even more insistent that she wasn’t going to let them near her head.  Eventually they gave up and returned her.

                I don’t know if the man did anything with Mora, but eventually Lisa came along and wanted Mora for a dressage prospect.  Lisa had been told Mora had been broke to ride at one point, but no one had ridden her for quite a while.  However, Lisa had also rescued four other horses from various places plus one she already owned, so Mora made horse number six for Lisa.  Lisa unfortunately left Mora alone for about a year and a half before I ever saw her.  At this point of her story, Mora was twelve or thirteen Lisa thought.  The only other thing Lisa knew was that Mora had come off the range when she was two.  No one had called BLM to get her papers transferred in who knows how long.

Mora had pretty well gone back to wild mentality before I started working with her in December of 2009.  In the middle of January 2009, Lisa stressed out too much and took two of the horses and moved back East leaving Mora and the remaining horses for the stable owner to do with as she thought best, but Lisa didn’t let Julie, the stable owner, know this until February. 

On February 15th, Julie told me I could buy Mora for the cost of her back board and as Julie knew I really couldn’t afford two horses, I could work off Mora’s board by cleaning stalls after school.  I jumped on the chance and when my tax return came in March I bought Mora. 

Now, I don’t believe in changing an animal’s name, but in this case I had to, as my best friend’s name is Shawn and she categorically told me I had to.  After much thought and searching, Mora was christened Morheleg, which means Black Ice in Elvish.  It fits because, she is black and white, I’m from Alaska, so I drove on ‘black ice’ all the time in winter, and one of my favorite bands, AC/DC, had just released their Black Ice album.  Of course I shortened that to Mora and call her “mi amore” an awful lot too.

The first time I tried to catch Mora in December took forty five minutes.  I had taken the other horses out of the large 20’ x 20’ stall they were in so it was just me and her.  She definitely knew how to hide behind other horses and stay away from people.   After using my limited knowledge of horse training (I’d only owned Dusty for just over two years) I finally remembered how Clinton Anderson had said to be “big” and got Mora to stand still long enough to get a halter on her.  Once her halter was on she walked next to me pretty well in the stall.  We stayed in the stall for the next week or so before we moved to grooming.

Mora wasn’t fond of grooming in the beginning.  The smallest movement scared the living daylights out of her, like she was going to be hit.  I knew she was going to take a lot of desensitizing, which we still have to work on even today.  Picking up her feet was something she really did not want to do.  After a week I could get her front feet up.  Her left back came up next eventually.  But her right rear she still doesn’t like to pick up.  While I can get them all up and clean them, she won’t let the farrier touch her back feet yet.  We’re working on that.

Catching Mora in her stall was pretty easy once I switched her to a smaller 10x 20 stall.  She did turn her butt to me the first couple of times I went in to clean or halter her, but all I did was shove her off balance and she turned right around to face me.  I actually took this as a good sign.  She never lifted a leg to strike at me, so I really have no clue why the other owners thought they had to beat her.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know Mora liked to roll in her stall.  She turned up a bit lame twice and I asked Julie if I could move her to a wider stall.  I thought she might be casting herself in the less wide stall.  And apparently she was casting herself as she didn’t come up lame after she was moved.

Saddling . . . where to start.  Mora hated/hates it.  The first three hundred times I saddled her she ducked out from under the saddle.  So off and on the saddle went without even tightening the girth.  She still tenses up when I swing her saddle up, but she stands now without quite jumping out of her skin.

You would think that bridling would be a problem with how bad Mora was with the saddle, but she opened her mouth and accepted the bit without any questions.  Yay!  I was using Dusty’s copper snaffle bit and she didn’t seem to hate it at all. 

And off to the round pen we went.  In all truth I had only been working with her for just over a month at this time.  Someone had done a pretty good job teaching Mora how to lunge and how to go around the round pen, so I figured I would let her get reacquainted with weight on her back and just let her move with saddle on her back.  After a couple of days of that, I started putting my weight in the stirrups without throwing my leg over.  She stood rock still for this.  I was quite impressed.  After a week, I asked Julie to come out, just in case, and hold Mora’s head so I could throw my leg over.  Mora was great, she just stood there.  And this started our next set of issues.  That was all she would do, stand there.  Getting her to walk all the way around the round pen without stopping took another week.  There was no way in her mind she was going to trot with me on her back in there though.

After another week of walking in the arena I finally asked her to trot.  Once she finally trotted once around the arena without stopping, and she stops on a dime by the way, I reached down to pat her neck and tell her she was a good girl.  And the next thing I knew, I was flying through the air to slam into the gravel of the arena.  The only thing that went through my mind was, “Who doesn’t teach a horse that petting is a good thing!? 
Part 2 of MORA's Story on Monday  Aug 1st : The terrible discovery of Mora's Past and how She And Beth overcame it. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Adoptions Bo Challenge Painting #158

5 by 5 Inches Watercolor
by LindaLMartingArtist
Bo is a mustang originally from Wyoming. Today he and his adopter, Kimball Foord, ride trails through out British Colombia and Canada. Bo has proven himself in all sorts of weather, all terrain and is the sort of horse that gives confidence to other horses.  He is a trustworthy mount and gentle friend.  His is a wonderful success story of a positive adoption that led to a powerful working partnership between horse and man.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Adoptions Isis Challenge Painting #157

5 by 5 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist
Isis is a 3yr old Warm Springs HMA (Oregon) mare. She is an appaloosa. She came home  to Washingon on Fri July 1st and foaled a beautiful sorrel snowflake filly on July 4th

Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover Horse Penny Lane: Challenge Painting #156

Penny Lane: Learning to be Bold
"Penny Learns To Be Bold"
Penny Lane and Madeleine LeClerc
8 by 10 Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist
 Penny is one of two horses being trained by Madeleine LeClerc for the Supreme Extreme Makeover in September. The event will be held in Ft. Wort, Texas. Madeleine has 100 days to train each horse for the competition. Part of  the training is to learn to  approach and over come obstacles that they might see on the trail or cross country course.  By making the activity a game for the horse and rider the mustang also learns to trust the rider and approach each obstacle boldly.

Reference photo for  Penny Learning to be Bold by Amy Spivey of
Lightning Bug Cree Photography Used by permission.
You can follow the progress of all three of the R&M Mustang Program horses by going to their facebook page:!/rmmustangprogram 
To read more about the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover  go to
To see more of Amy Spivey's awesome photography you can like her page on Facebook too:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Happy Adoptions Magic Challenge Painting #155

Bobby Strawbridge’s  Magic .
5  by 5 Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist
Magic is one of the Onaqui mares that were adopted by Bobby and Karen Strawbridge of Tennessee.  Magic has a colt that is identical to her ,  minus the little star she has in the middle of her forehead. According to Karen, Magic is Bobby's baby girl.  She talks with him when he is able to get out on the front porch.  Bobby has been ill this past spring and summer and misses being able to take care of her. Magic  hasn't forgotten her ” Daddy” and always puts in an appearance when he is around.
Bobby named  her Magic because she looks like Pat Parelli's Magic and she just as sweet.
When Bobby and Karen first brought their Onaqui Mustangs home, Magic was  the first one who accepted their touch.  At first Bobby did a lot of butt scratching until she finally figured out that the head scratch feels good too.  It takes a lot of time and patience to win the trust and heart of a wild horse.  But to Bobby and Karen Strawbridge it is a rewarding labor of love.
The Strawbridges have 5 mustangs they adopted right off the range. They also have several off spring of their mustangs and a wild donkey they adopted from the BLM as well.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Adoptions Bubbles Challenge Painting #154

Deb Moore McGuire recently obtained a new  2 year old Mustang Filly.  
Here is what Deb Says about her:
"Bubbles is a 2yr old Warm Springs Ore filly. "WS Champagne Bubbles".

I saw her in May when I went to Burns, came home with about 2 dozen photos of a shaggy pony that you could see a few spots on, that had a strange marked face. At that time she didn't have a number tag on (had been taken it off somehow). I contacted Patti Wilson, at BLM about her. Found out she was just a 2yr old and that she was very friendly and was going to be put on the internet adoption. Since I had inquired about adopting her before the internet adoption horses were finalized I was able to adopt her.

When Lynn Ciavanni was in Burns she took pictures of the horses at the corrals and got some photos of her all shed out, you could then see all of her little "bubble" spots.
The 1st of July Bubbles came to Washington to live. I plan to make her into  a trailhorse.  Bubbles has come along so quickly I hope to be riding her before summer is over. "

Friday, July 22, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Chincoteague Ponies BeachCombers Challenge Painting #153

The management of wild horses has always been a bit of a challenge to agencies charged with the task. The National Sea Shore National Park has become a microcosm of sorts to the management issues facing all of the Wild Horse Management Areas in the United States. The two herds represent two successful management styles and options that of course have their problems.
5 by 5 inches Watercolor
by LindaLMartin Artist
The ponies are of the same main breed makeup, which upon separation have actually are becoming two distinct types of horses. Each herd breaks up into family bands just like wild Mustangs out in the west. Each band has a range territory that they graze and common water sources at which they congregate.  The difference comes with who manages each herd.

The North Herd is managed by the National Park Service. The National Park Services has been managing the herds on the North Island of Assateague also known as the Maryland Side without round ups for over 30 years. They do not adopt out the young. With the use of PZP a fertility drug that prevents horses and deer from conceiving; only certain mares are allowed to foal. Because of the limited contact initiative the horses are administered the drug from a distance using a dart gun.

The Northern herd also called Assateague Ponies has complete freedom to roam any place they want on the Maryland side of the Island. Here in is where the problem lays.  There is continuous interaction with humans that is compromising the safety of the herd. The first issue is that even with over 20 miles of habitat to roam in the horses have discovered that there is a source of food in those big shiny Cars and Recreational Vehicles. And their unwitting accomplices are people who for some reason can’t believe the warnings they read about not feeding the horses.

Thus we have whole family groups who take on the beggar roll and stand around in prominent areas of the camp grounds , usually the parking lots  and  the road waiting for a hand out. The problem is compounded by the calm demeanor of the animals because they are desensitized to humans so when they people make an attempt to pet the horses or feed them the horses being untrained and wild  do more then tread on feet: they bite, kick, and on more than one occasion have knocked a few people down when  trying to move out of the way.

As if this couldn’t get any worse people go in search of the horses and basically chase them down and try to corner them for photos and to give them treats. The horses are supposed to have the right away. But this behavior by humans puts the entire herd in jeopardy.  Each time there is an aggressive action by a horse its not the person who pays it’s the horses. The horses are just doing what horses do but people by pushing the limits and not acting with wisdom to protect them can cause them to be removed and even put down as a result of aggressive behavior. Since the space Is limited on the island the horses don’t have much room to get away. This is a problem for all of the wild herds of Colonial Mustangs all up and down the east coast.

And because visitors to the islands encourage this type of friendly behavior in the horses there are repercussions of another type.  The horses can become ill from being fed food that is not suitable to their diets and sometimes they will have reactions or colic that kill them.   The other danger is that because the horses have no fear of Cars, the encouragement of tourists to come and get a treat from a vehicle can lead to horses being killed by cars who didn’t see them. On average one horse is killed a year  in the Maryland herd by a car.
Most of these small herds are limited to 100 to 150 in size, the minimum to keep their genetic diversity. These herds can ill afford to lose one horse and have its genetic uniqueness removed from the gene pool.

To help with the problem of humans and wild horses interacting and getting in trouble the National Park Services has a volunteer service that enlists the help of private citizens that patrol the  islands main roads and  Camp grounds .  Their job is to move offending ponies to prevent accidents and interactions with people. Anyone who wants to be an active part of the solution can contact the National Park Service and receive the training then get on the schedule for the Pony Patrol.

The herd of Chincoteague ponies that roam the south island are handled a bit differently. They are able to keep their wild yet gentle demeanor while having limited contact with humans and roaming great areas of the Southern Assateague Island for the most part without being molested and compromised by humans. This is done by established grazing and sheltered areas that are fenced off to keep people out while allowing the ponies to go where their natural migration will take them. There are trails and over look areas of the National Seashore that allow visitors to view the horses but for the most part the herd is seen but not touched, so to speak, by visitors. 
Chincoteague Ponies graze pacefully behind protective fences along
the Nature Trail at Assateague Island. There are bike rentals for a longer self tour
and walking tours as well as car visits.

The management difference may have more to do with the fact that the Chincoteague Ponies are owned by the Chincoteague Fire Department. As such The Fire Department leases the land from the  National Park Service.  There are also areas of land that are designatete a Wild Life Refuge or Preserve. The CVFD maintains the fences and privately manage the health and well being of the ponies. From what I have seen they are better maintained, in some cases, than some back yard horses. There are plenty of occasions to see the Chincoteague Ponies up close on Assateague. However, you will probably want to bring your long lenses with you to take really good photos if you are shooting on the south end of Assateague Island and entering the park and preserves through Chincoteague.

If you decide to visit the Maryland Side of the National Sea Shore remember that there is a $100 fine for each count of being closer than 10 feet from a wild pony or chasing and otherwise harassing the ponies or feeding them. If you will be visiting the area for a considerable time and would like to be a part of the pony patrol you can find out how to become a part of the Volunteers   here: 
For more information on Chincoteague and  Virginia Side of  Assateague Island the  Natural Wild Life Preserve and the Assateague Island National Sea Shore you can contact the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce

If you have the opportunity visit both ends of the Island. Do the walking and boat tours and  yes camp out on Assateague North. Its worth the sunshine and the photo ops with the ponies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Chincoteague Ponies The "Misty Factor"Challenge Painting #152

With an estimated $70,000 raised around the pony penning each year on Chincoteague toward the maintenance of the ponies and the Volunteer Fire Department on Chicoteague,  Chincoteague Ponies are well marketed and very well known. The real reason  I think for the fame of the ponies is the Book Misty of Chincoteague. Misty's life story captured the hearts and minds of every generations of North American children since the 1940s. As Providence would have it the Chincoteague Ponies became one of the driving forces behind the preservation of the Island Sea Shore, that was facilitated when the hurricane hit the larger island of Assateague in 1962.

"Misty Factor"
5 by 5 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

Those islands were doing their jobs of protecting the in land across the bay from the storm and serge. Where I lived at the time as a child, in the Fishing Village of Glouschester Point, Virginia we waited with a water filled bathtub, the mandatory hurricane lamp in the picture window in our living room and many candles and lots of food and ice should the need arise. We had transistor raidos and mom's storys of our parents growing up in Hampton and Portsmouth and riding out the big storms.

 We had rain.  As Providence would have it the storm missed us, only the high stormy tides came into the Chessapeake Bay and the driving rains left a sweet smell like a fresh sea breeze  all across the tidal lands.

To the north in Accomack county, on the Atlantic coast things were not so good. The  Islands had a direct hit from the storms. Reports were that Chincoteague was under water for days, much like when the storm surge breached the levees in Louisiana in 2007. As the Drama played out my friends and I waited in some fear wondering what had happened to Misty and her offspring that lived on the island.  Its amazing how these things affected us. We didn't know Marguerite Henry, nor even Misty or the Beebees but we were part of them and they were part of us because we were horse loving girls who had ponies and were the daughters or nieces of watermen.

Misty has long since left the employ of Marguerite Henry and moved back to the Beebee Ranch where scores of children and there parents could see her  and her current offspring each year when they came to visit for pony penning. A few of my friends actually tried to talk their parents into going to the auctions. 

We waited by transistor radios through the days and nights  of the Hurricane, trying to hear word from the coast. What happened to Misty.  What happened to the BeeBees. Ok they were pretty much all grown up by then. and married.. hey but children have a bit of a time warp when they read a lot and have vivid imaginations. I think that the children of  Glouchester Point were not the only ones worried about the pony. Eventually my dad called me in to the kitchen a few days later, to hear the announcement that Misty was safe and sound. She had spent the entire storm in Grandma BeeBee's Kitchen.  It was the highest room in the house. And for several weeks couldn't be reached  except by a small boat.

Because my parents put such high value in Education we always had the latest issue of National Geographic in our home. The reality of the event came home to me when one afternoon  I opened the latest edition to find the story they had done on the Hurricane and how it had pretty much leveled all the homes on  the North part of Assateague and flooded out Chincoteague. There in the midst of it was the photo of Grandma BeeBee and Misty peering out the kitchen door togehter smiling for the photogrphers. I kept that editon for many years like a reassurance. 

 I think there were two miracles that happened  During that storm.  

The first was that any ponies or other wildlife survived at all on Assateague.. but they did. They knew where to go to hide from the driving winds, they knew how to stand in the laurel groves to be protected from the driving rains and they knew where to stay that was high on the island. They knew from generations passed down the best place to go so the storm serge didn't wash them out to sea. 

The other miracle was the stopping dead in its tracks of the huge development plan that was slated to begin on the  Maryland side of Assateague Island later that year.  It was on the Maryland side of the island where people lived near Ocean City.  Just like the waves that washed away most of the island coastal towns near Galveston recently, very little was left of homes or  buildings on the north end of Assateague after the hurricane of 1962. The choice was made in some quick moving decisions to preserve the island for the nation and to protect the ponies and the wildlife. It was an epic decision that I and millions of horse and bird lovers will  thankfully pass on to our grand children for generations to come.

In doing the research for this part of the Mustang A Day Challenge I realized that my perception as a child was probably quite different than I would have remembered as an adult. Our parents protected us from  as much as they could in those days, mostly I think so we could have happy memories of childhood.  

There are things I found out about Misty, as an adult that I didn't realize as a child. I was influenced by the movie and the books of course. Even the way I thought Misty appeared was flawed. The photographs Ive seen of her  these last few weeks look decidedly different than they way  I remembered Westley Dennis painting her. I wasn't able to find a photo in public domain for her but I did find another nice Chicoteague pony for tonight's  painting that has the Palomino Pinto coloring that she is famous for. I call it the "Misty Factor"  Its a big legacy for such a little, yet well loved horse.

Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover Horse Desert First: Challenge Painting #151 Fun with Desi

Fun With Desi

"Fun With Desi"
8 by 10 inch watercolor
by Linda L Martin Artist
Desert First( Desi) is one of Madeleine LeClerc's Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover horses. One of the cool things about this little mare is that she has a bit of a mischievous sense of humor. Like all Mustangs when left to her own devices she will find a way to amuse herself. While standing tied to a tree as part of one of her lessons, she very shortly began to sample the leaves. Amy Spivey of  Lightning Bug Creek Photography captured these amusing shots of  Desi amusing herself.

You can follow the progress of all three of the R&M Mustang Program horses by going to their facebook page:!/rmmustangprogram 
They will be competing in The Fort Worth Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover  in September after 100 days of training. To read more about the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover  go to
To see more of Amy Spivey's awesome photography you can like her page on Facebook too:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Chincoteague Ponies Swimming Challenge Painting #150

The fascinating thing about the horses of Assateague Island and I'm sure all the wild horses of the barrier islands is that the Ocean and inland waterways are their play ground.

Chincoteague Ponies in the Ocean
5 by 5 inch watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

From the time they are foals their mothers lead them out into the surf. Like all mustangs the love of water play is natural to them. However there is a more practical aspect for those off the coast of Virginia. The mosquitoes!

Generally a roll in the mud will thwart the flies but on an island made of sand, mud is a precious commodity, usually found only at low tide on the bay side of the island. With crabs and other critters awaking out of their holes to search for food the mud might not seem the best place for a pony to roll.  And not to mention the egg like smell of  rotted vegetation and fish that also is released at low tide from the marshes and the mud flats between Chincoteague and Assateague when the tide goes out.

So the horses use their best options.. The entire herd heads for the ocean, for a swim or a stand in the waves. They get cool and the bugs are held at bay. According to one spokesman it is not unusual to look out and see nothing but noses and ears poking up from the surf as the Chicoteague ponies find relief from the bugs and heat.

I remember asking on a visit to the islands about a decade ago what about sharks. Sharks were always a bane to my ocean visits as a child because sand sharks stay close to the beach edge. For a while we heard stories weekly that this fisherman had been bitten because he stepped on a sand shark while tending their "long poles" on the beach. There was one comforting thought that I had forgotten. " if you see dolphins there will not be sharks in the water." I was reminded that there are lots of dolphins off the shores of the islands and thus not a pleasant place for sharks to habitat.  Dolphins will aggressively go after sharks. Thus rarely do the sea predators attack a pony in the ocean.

I have a feeling that the ponies have probably developed a keen sense of sea knowledge over the generations and probably know when its dangerous to head for the water or which parts of the marshes to stay away from.

The annual pony swim is not the only time the horses go into the water. And even though directed by man and somewhat of a specital its really isn't a cruel thing. In times past it hasn't been unheard of for a pony to take a liking to a horse on Chincoteague and on their own make the swim to come for a little visit or perhaps steal a mare? These days with all the development  I rather think that the horses have found their safe harbor in the fenced off areas of Assateague that keep them safe from direct contact with the thousands of tourists that visit the islands each year.

The tourist season starts in  late April and goes through October  with a number of festivals and tours around the Islands. I don't have permission to post the photos of the  Assateague Explorer Cruises & Kayaking Company of Chincoteague, Va but if you want to see some amazing photos of the ponies in one of the least invasive ways to view them  go to their facebook page to see some of their phenomenal photography. I think it would be an awesome trip out and hope eventually to take one of their guided tours one day. You can see their page here:!/AssateagueExplorer

Reference photography for tonight's paintings was provided by the US Coast Guard and is in public domaine. Thank you for all you do in keeping our shores safe and for your participation in our historic events.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Chincoteague Ponies And Pony Penning Challenge Painting #149

When I was doing research for tonight's blog I found a really cool video that could tell you everything you want to know about Chincoteague Ponies and the Annual Pony Penning. It was produced by the Thoroughbred Racing Net work and The Volunteer Fire Department in Chincoteague Virginia.  The video is about 24 minutes long and well worth the information contained in it. You can see it here:

"Biding Their Time"
Two Chincoteague pony mares heavy in foal graze with a two year old
on the sand dunes of Assagteague Island, Virginia
8 by 10 inch Waterolor
by Linda L Marin, Artist

This year the Auction will take place on Thursday July 28th. Over 50,000 people will be on the Island of Chincoteague for the week of carnival and pony penning leading up to the auction.  But don't expect to find a hotel room at the last minute. Most accommodations are booked up In January or February preceding the Summer's activities.

I think the Chicoteague ponies are some of the best managed wild horses in the country. They are fenced off from tourists on the National Sea Shore to protect the horses. Round ups are done twice a year. Horses that are old  or barren mares are gathered, given medical care as needed then released back into the wild until then next round up and are not part of the swim.  Horses that are too young to make the swim or if a mare is weak  after foaling they are treated to a trailer ride to the pony penning sight. Each "pony" is treated as though it is unique, special and highly valued. Everyone of the Animals has a name.

Horses that are old and no longer breeding sound are replaced by buy back foals and retired from the herd on Assateague Island to  live on Chincoteague in the care of the Fire Department or special pony foster care. 
 And something I didn't know is that the horses are rounded up not once a year but twice a year for routine medical care and to wean late foals.

To read more about the Chincoteague Ponies of Assateague Island  go to

Just a side note:
For those of you who keep up with such things. The auctioneer for the Chincoteague Pony Auction, Tim  Jennings, is the brother to the director of Teens Opposing If you will remember I did a special fundraising painting for that organization which is now on Tour through out the State of Virginia and will be auctioned off sometime in 2012.

Reference photos for this painting are by Artist Jean Walter who spends a few weeks on on Chincoteague each year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Chincoteague Ponies, Assateague Ponies Challenge Painting #148

The Ponies of Assateague are managed into two groups. These two groups are divided with a fence at the state line between Maryland on the North and Virginia on the South. Prior to the management of Island by the National Park service the  ponies could roam freely from north to south but generally were fenced off from homes and away from people who had settled there.

"Reluctant Baby Sitter"
Chincoteague Pony and White Ibis Chick
5 by 5 inches watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

One history I read was that on the mainland each sheep, cow, and horse was taxed according to value during Colonial times. As a result and to keep taxes down the mainlanders would swim their livestock over to Assateague to avoid the taxes. Each year there would be a roundup of all the unclaimed horses and sheep that were on the island.  Young horses would be marked or branded and then those who were unclaimed would be divided among those present. The ones needed for use were kept and the rest were returned to the island. Because the herds were so large, it was basically a matter of swimming them across at low tide, a much more efficient way of doing it than trying to load the mostly wild horses onto boats or barges to make the journey.

Originally these small horses (only called ponies in size due to their diet) were solids with bay, buckskin, black and chestnut being the dominant colors. From time to time stallions were introduced to increase the color options so that there are now a variety of colors from palomino to silver( a liver or chocolate color with a silvery gray mane and tail)  and of course pinto. Gray and appaloosa are not colors seen among the modern Chincoteague and Assateague ponies.

The most famous of all the Chincoteague ponies was Misty. She was a Palomino Pinto.

Although the ponies are wild; because they originated from domesticated stock during colonial times they are considered both wild and feral. In spite of that distinction, The south island ponies are managed and owned by the Chincoteague Fire Department. The fire department continues the historical act of rounding up the ponies each year and selling off most of the young stock yet saving a few for replacements of the older horses.  Unlike the  wild horses at the northern part of the island that are managed by the National Park Service the south island horses are carefully watched and maintained while still preserving their wild qualities.

This may have something to do with the fact that the Chincoteague ponies of the south island are valued so highly by many generations  due to the story written by Margaret Henry: Misty of Chincoteague. School Children through out North America read the story every year, each generation passing it down to the next.

The fact remains that the ponies of Assateague Island have been an integral part of the island habitat for over 400 years since the first  Europeans came and settled the coasts of Virginia and Maryland.
Reference photos for this painting are by Artist Jean Walter who spends a few weeks on on Chincoteague each year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Assateague Ponies Challenge Painting #147

My earliest contact with wild horses came in 1966 when my father and uncle planned a camping trip to the newly up graded Assateague National Sea Shore.  I say upgraded because The National Seashore was actually created following the 1962 hurricane that wiped out most of the island's residences.

Yearling Assateague Pony and Sea Gull
5 " by 5"
Watercolor on Acrylic Paper
by LindaL MartinArtist

The actual National Sea shore was not created until 1965 and only had amenities for daytime activities and rough camping. The idea was to protect the island from development and to preserve the natural nursery for over 350 species of migratory and year around birds and other wild life. At that time we had to drive through Ocean City, Maryland to get to Assateague. Every inch of the sand at the island where Ocean City stood was covered with store fronts and pavement except for the strip of sand that was the beach.  No one wanted that to happen to Assateague.

In 1966 they had installed a visitor center on the north island and cold water bath houses with restrooms. There was maintained a keeper house on the north island and a Light house across the inlet from Chincoteague Island on the south island.  
 I was familiar with Chincoteague ponies. All of us horse crazy girls had read Margret Henry’s book Misty of Chincoteague. So I knew these were there. But no one would listen to me until my uncle sat down with my dad and told him. He warned us not to leave any food out or even a cooler because the ponies were known to raid the camp sites. He told us stories about how a woman had left a bowl of apples on her picnic table and the next day the bowl was broken on the ground and the apples all gone.  Another story was how the ponies could come through at night and turn on all the water faucets so they could get a drink.  According to recent news reports, generations of ponies have pass├ęd that down.

The migration of the ponies was daily and there were park service escorts that cleared the way on the beach so ponies could pass through groups of people in the morning and evening and graze without molestation on protective parts of the North Island. Even in 1966 the Assateague ponies were deceptively tame.  They weren’t really tame they were wild and had been for generations long before the last settlement was removed from the island in the 1962. With literally millions of people visiting their habitat and interacting with them since the establishment of the National Sea Shore The wild life has become as desensitized to not only humans but also automobiles, bicycles, and motorcycles.  They simply ignored them and go where they want.

The ponies of Assateague have become like bears in the National Park and Skyline Drive. The danger comes when people think that the begging animals are tame and illegal interaction isn’t curtailed. There are signs posted warning folks not to pet the ponies, not to feed the ponies, not to get within 10 feet of the ponies. The fine is $100 per incident if a person is caught. For the pony who is addicted to candy bars, corn chips and soft drinks it can mean removal from the herd and loss to the gene pool.  Or worse the horse can die or require euthanasia because of their aggressive behavior and or injury due to inappropriate food when they become ill from human food.

Do a Little Dance Mustang Challenge Painting #146

Tonights painting is of Robert Carlson and his Supreme Extreme Mustang Markeover horse, Miles Fidelis.

"Do A Little Dance"
8 by 10 Watercolor
by Linda L Martin

Miles is has been a bit of a challenge as he is from an HMA in Nevada that is known for its isolation thus the horses that come from their tend to lack frequent contact with humans. Everything is different to the horse but once he over comes his fear he moves forward.
Robert is taking him slow and easy as they get ready for the Supreme EMM in Fort Worth in September.

This painting called Do A Little Dance shows the special roll that natural horsemanshp has in training the mustangs. It is a form of give and take that uses the horse's basic behavir to gentle the wild mustang as well as helping the trainer gain leadership and the confidence of the horse.

You can Follow Robert Carlson and Madeleine LeClerc on their facebook page as they train for the Supreme Mustang Makeover in Texas this Autumn. Go to their facebook Page for R&M Mustang Program

Reference photography by A Spivey of Lightning Bug creek Photography.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Mustang Challenge Painting #145 Dana Kesselring's Rango

Rango in Dana's own words:
Post for Monday, July 11th, 2011

"His name is Rango and he was a handful, big beautiful sorrel gelding full of power and spirit, so as not to break his spirit but just be able to ride it, I had to let him be Rango and go at his pace not mine.

His spirit was willing which made the journey ahead memorable and exciting and sometimes a bit dangerous but what a magnificent and gentle soul he turned out to be. He was the mustang that challenged me the most, therefore, I learned the most from him. His bucking spurts were off the wall and scary but when we finally overcame those bouts, he was much more willing to let me in his head and heart.

Rango was a big horse with a big heart and soul and his eyes were so soft and loving that even though I got knocked on my fanny too many times, his eyes kept telling me to get back on and keep trying to push through this step of our journey together. At one point I almost gave up, because I was so sore and beat up I thought I am gonna get killed by this mustang, but family and friends and Rango gave me the courage to keep at it and see it to the end, which was the Extreme Mustang Makeover. AND WE DID IT WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mustang A Day Challenge Guest Artist: Sonya Malecky Spaziani

In Sonya's Words:

"Brother Bonds"
by Sonya Malecky Spaziani
 The original photo for the art work is courtesy of Tamara Gooch of two young stallions making amends from a day of fighting for status, "Brother Bonds". Wild horse behavior is fascinating to me......

I’ve been a horse crazy kid since I could barely sit up on my own on a leopard appaloosa. And while many thought… perhaps even hoped I would grow out of it, I am proud to affirm that I have since grown into a full grown horse nut. Besides riding and drawing horses, my obsession are American mustangs- the more natural and wilder the better… the love of something pure. Currently, I’ve made it my mission to daily do something for the plight of our mustangs, helping to bring awareness to their acute situation. My fascination is not just with the beauty and majesty of these creatures, or the wild lands they roam, but also their tight knit social structures, and behaviors… hundreds of generations of wild born horses shaped by their ancestors and their environment for optimal survival in an unforgiving land…. I like to say “shaped by the wind“. Some question how my horse-crazy obsession came about~ as with many things, childhood wonderment.

When I was a child- I believe around 5, I was part of the Brownies of the Girl and Boy scouts. We went camping somewhere in NE California with them for two weeks... and me being the way I am... was not fond of rules and typically did my own thing. While the troops gathered for meetings- whistle, flags, horn/taps ceremony blah blah blah... there were many people and so it was easy to "get lost" and escape, I was not about listening to a bunch of words and rules. Early on, I had spied a band of horses, down a trail from the campground to an opening, perhaps a 10-minute distracted walk away. I assumed they were wild, but really didn't know... but each day at the same time I went out there, and without realizing it, learned about social order and family hierarchy of horses. I learned horses were habitual and routine and found them there the same time each late afternoon... and each afternoon during the troop gather, I took off and observed them to my 'wild child' delight.

True. It was not a safe thing, but I was five, and there's nothing anyone could tell me that would convince me to sit among a bunch of people talking about rules and such non sense.  So off down the trail to the horses I'd go.

I knew enough to not get among them, but sat off from them and just watched and got my fill and thrill of what I love more than anything else in the world- horses. Curious about me initially, but they never got too close, close enough to sniff and snort at me from different angles, but soon enough went back to foraging of very dry forage among parched sands and brush, but seemed satisfied and healthy. After a while, I became their routine, and eventually melded into their environment. At the age of five, I distinctly remember watching and learning from their behaviors and social hierarchy by body language, and routine. I learned which horse would get the rest of the horses together, and walk down their worn trail to the next food and water source- same exact time each day. I learned at that early age there was a hierarchy- the one in charge, next down, those in-between, to the one at the bottom of the totem pole, who had to learn to be humble and learn his manners and patience first before the ones above him on their particular social scale.

So I remain a full-fledged horse nut who finds watching equine social structures and behavior fascinating. Nostalgic moments, part of the things that shape us into who we are today. And the wild horses I escape to even today, and I draw….
Where the wild winds blow,

You can contact Sonya here:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mustang A Day Challenge Guest Artist: Jennifer Beers

 How Jennifer came to make Mustang Art
All paintings of the Artist presented here and copyrights of here work belong to that artist. For more information about her work please contact the links below.

Burned Wood Original
by Jennifer Beers
 About a year or so ago, after joining to sell my Folk Art and wood crafts, I discovered Linda Martin through the Christian Artists Street Team, I had joined there. I checked out her shop and really liked her artwork. When Linda began her Mustang a Day Challenge, I joined her Facebook and started following her Mustang artworks every day, and reading her blog, and also started following

The Sand Wash Basin Wild Mustangs--(, and I was hooked! I have really enjoyed and appreciate all the photographers who post the great photographs and document the Sand Wash Basin Mustangs.

Oil on Canvas Board
by Jennifer Beers
  I had done some drawing and wood burnings of horses, years ago, and decided to try doing a wood burning of a horse. When I finished it I posted it at the SWB wild mustangs facebook, and Nancy Roberts, the administrator there liked it,and asked me if I could wood burn one of their mustangs. She emailed to me a photo she had taken of the band stallion named Picasso. I did the wood burning, posted it, and received a lot of nice compliments, and encouragement from Linda and Nancy and others on facebook!

Head study
Burned Wood
by Jennifer Beers
One person who liked my rendering of Picasso, and sent me a nice message was the photographer John Wagner. I had been following his photos as well, and asked him if I could use some of his photos to wood burn or paint from and he kindly granted me permission. So, I decided to try painting "Falcon", a SWB colt. I painted this in acrylics and I plan to do some more paintings of the mustangs soon, and maybe trying oils or watercolor.  Linda has also become a good friend, as well as an inspiration! Thanks Linda!

  I have been drawing and painting since childhood and started working with wood in the late 70's. I do some folk art and I make birdhouses, game boards, signs,etc.
 I sell my work at...
My Facebook...
My Blog...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mustang A Day Challenge Guest Artist: Michelle Severe

Charm by Michelle Severe
All paintings of the Artist presented here and copyrights of here work belong to that artist. For more information about her work please contact the links below.
The beautiful buskskin mare Charm
and her 2011 foal. Michelle painted
 this painting specially for
the Mustang A Day Challenge
     This beautiful buckskin paint mare has been photographed a lot over the years, and is known as “Charm”. She resides in the South Steens HMA referred to as the “Hollywood Herd” as they easy to access and photograph, and don’t mind putting on the show!
   When asked to participate in this project, I turned to Maggie Routhage’s “Oregon’s Wild side” photos. Maggie has done a wonderful job photographing our wild side horses, landscapes and wildlife, and a tremendous help to me as an artist for reference photos. I am currently working on the Stinking Water HMA with the help of Maggie’s photos. 
Horses of the South Steens. Illustraition by
Michelle Severe for the book Oregon's
Living Legends (Notice that Charm
and her palmino foal are in the center of
this painting behind the fighting stallions.
     I chose “Charm” because I liked the photo Maggie took, and I have painted her before in my depiction of the South Steens HMA for the book “Oregon’s Living Legends” written by Andi Harmon. Three years ago she had a palomino (filly, I think) at her side. This year she has a blaze faced, chestnut colt, which looks a few months old in the photos. So I used one of my own newborn foal as a model, she was similar in color and the blaze face.

Palomino Buttes HMA Wild Horses
Illustraition by Michelle Severe for the book Oregon's Living Legends.

     I am Michelle Severe, a western and wildlife artist. Andi Harmon and I combined our talents for the book “Oregon’s Living Legends” an actual accounting of Oregon’s wild horses, the ranges they roam, and people who’ve adopted them, and their accomplishments. For more information check out the following websites:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mustang A Day Challenge Guest Artist Week Today: Karen Mclain

The horse, in painted from life; studies that add life  By Karen McLain
All rights to Karen Mclain's work is copyrigted and used by permission.
Please contact her diretly for use or purchase.

"Wild Run"
by Karen Mclain
Please conctact Karen through her Email a the bttom of this story for
avilability of paintings.

"Lunch With A View"
by Karen Mclain
“How do you get them to stand still?” is the question I hear most frequently.  Since my models are horses that is understandable. The idea for painting horses from life came after I began landscape painting en Plein air.   When I realized how much more I could see and experience painting landscapes from life, I wanted to translate that into my equine paintings.

Unlike people who can be posed, or domestic horses that can at least be tied-up, painting wild horses is altogether different.  Capturing the essence of the horse before it moves or the light changes is the core challenge.  My visual and emotional attraction of wild horses interacting in desert sunlight, or the contrast of water reflections is quickly expressed in a breath of time.

"Mare Foal and Yearling"
by Karen Mclain
The quest to paint Mustangs started in 2009, with the Onaqui herd. I was profoundly touched by watching this herd interact, and knew I would paint them. Since that time, I have sought out wild horses wherever I can find them.  Along with the Onaqui herd, the Spring Creek herd, and bands on public and private land are among my models. This summer I will travel to the Sand Wash Basin HMA to paint that beloved herd.

"Sorrel Refletions"
by Karen Mclain
These studies add valuable information to the paintings I complete in the studio.  The quick oil sketches combined with photo reference add a depth of life and feel that is not available from photos alone.

Painting the horse from life is part of the powerful process of bringing life to a commissioned painting.  Painting from life, expresses life in my final work that I would not be able to get any other way.  Every horse that I paint from life, adds life to the horses I paint in the studio.

These paintings are a soul-searching quest into each horse's spirit and relationship with the herd. They are an intimate glimpse at the powerful, yet peaceful existence of wild horses in their natural environment. I hope you feel as if you have experienced the freedom of these quiet symbols from our nation’s past. 

Karen McLain lives in Arizona with her horses, dogs and cats. Between teaching and working on commissions, she can be found looking for more Mustangs to paint.

Contact information: