Can you tell us a little bit about your artwork?
Let’s see what can I say about my artwork. . .I try to make it as realistic as I possibly can as well as trying to draw the viewer into the piece. I do a little bit of everything – horses, wildlife, dogs and cats, people, still life and more. I’m a self-taught artist. I began using graphite years ago and now, for the most part, I’m using pastels on velour paper. I love the vibrant, luminous colors pastels offer and depth I can achieve with them. I do originals, commissions and offer prints of my work.
When did you first become intrigued with horses?
I’ve always loved watching horses, however I never had any firsthand experience with horses until later in life.
What is the history of your love of horses?
When my daughter was in high school she had saved her money and wanted to buy a horse. That is where my true love of horses really began. We both learned so much with that first horse and he generated a love that would last a lifetime. She competed in play days and I was in the bleachers cheering them on or helping her take care of him. At one point when she decided to sell him I decided it was time for me to learn how to ride – I was 40. I then bought my own horse, began to participate in play days and went to horse shows myself.
Is there one specific horse that you have had a deep connection with at some point in your life?
Yes and his name is Billy Bob Stinger, a bay Appaloosa. I was learning how to ride reining horses at the time and my trainer found the “perfect” horse for me. I had told him my “requirements” but made it clear I didn’t want an Appaloosa. Then he shows up with this Appaloosa and convinced me he knew what was best for me and this horse was perfect. He was four years old at the time, broke to ride with a little cow training on him. That was the most exciting, emotional, and rewarding time of my life. I learned so much about horses, training, and myself during that time and I will admit my trainer was right he was the perfect horse for me.
One of the most touching stories I can tell you of our connection is when Billy Bob bowed a tendon when my trainer was going to show him inOklahomaone year. I kept him at a friend’s place for about 6 months to recuperate. I hadn’t seen him for several months and drove out to see how he was doing. It was November and cold. As I drove up the long driveway, I saw Billy Bob out in the pasture. He was all wild and wooly looking. Unlike many Apps he has a huge, thick mane and tail and with it being winter he had his winter coat. I remember thinking he looked like a wild mustang. His head came up and he stopped and just watched as I got out of my car. I climbed over the fence and started walking towards him. He started walking towards me and then picked up speed to almost a full gallop. It was like one of those commercials – two people running toward each other. Anyway, I was running towards him and stopped about half way while Billy Bob continue running towards me. I just stood there smiling so happy to see him. When he got about 15 feet away from me he tucked his butt and slid and ended up right in front of me, put his head and neck over my shoulder and for no other way to describe it, he hugged me, bringing me into his chest. My arms were around his neck immediately and I was crying my eyes out in his mane. I think we stood there like that for about 10 minutes. It was a moment in my life I will never forget.
I still have Billy Bob, he is 26 now and retired. He lives with me on a couple of acres inCentral Texas.
It is important to you that you connect with them?
Yes it is very important to connect with horses not only in training but as well in everyday life. I believe horses want to please you and that they enjoying doing what they have been taught to do no matter if it is reining, or racing, or just going out for a leisurely ride. Horses are very aware of how you are feeling and react to it. Their entire body is sensitive to your hands and body when you ride and even your stance on the ground. I believe it is hardwired in them to read you since they are a flight animal they need to know what your intent is – their life may depend on it.
When you have that perfect connection and trust between you and your horse there is nothing like it – it is almost indescribable. When you are riding it is like being one together in thought and action. It’s an awesome experience. When you are alone in the stall with him a knicker, a look, all mean something and knowing your horse and his reactions is in my book a necessity and one of the little pleasures in life.
What about horses inspires you?
Almost everything about horses inspires me. Their beauty, their heart – they are simply magnificent creatures. They are God’s study in power and grace at the same time.
What specific features of the horse do you like to see come alive in your pieces?
Of course I want to describe through my art the power and beauty of horses whether it is standing still or moving. I want you to feel as if you are looking at that live animal and have it touch your heart. When doing portraits, whether it is a horse, dog, cat, or other animal, or a person, the most important part for me to get right, to come alive, are the eyes. If you get the eyes right you capture what makes them what they are and that is what I strive to do.
Do you have a particularly favorite piece?
I do have a current favorite piece and it is, yes, you guessed it, of Billy Bob. It is entitled “The Beauty of Power and Grace.” I took a photo of him as he was coming across the pasture and cropped it to use as a reference for my pastel. I believe even cropped you can see his power and grace, hence the title of the piece.
If you could meet any horse (dead or alive) in person, which one would you want to meet?
Oh my, I don’t know that I could name just one. Secretariat, Leo, Hollywood Gold, Colonel Freckles, and Hollywood Dun It are just a few. They are all fabulous horses with lots of heart.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Before you go can you let The Equine Bulletin readers know where they can purchase your artwork?
You are very welcome, it is my pleasure. Thank you for featuring my art in The Equine Bulletin. For those who may be interested in purchasing my art, or commissioning me, please visit my website at http://www.KarenHargettFineArt.com.