"Be strong enough to stand alone.
Be yourself enough to stand apart.
But be wise enough to stand together when the time comes."
I do not know who wrote these words, but their veracity is without doubt. At times, life requires us to demonstrate all three—the individual strength to weather the storms that are ours to navigate; the fortitude to resist the siren’s call to stray from our own principles and values; and the emotional and mental maturity to recognize when circumstances demand that we set aside our selfish interests and unite with others in a common cause. The Coronavirus pandemic dictates that now is the time for community unity and strength. It will, indeed, take the entire village working as one to conquer this invisible and insidious foe.
Our inherent need to be with others of our own kind, to find safety, solace, and strength from belonging to a group that can work together with common purpose, is a characteristic we share with horses. It is, in fact, the anvil upon which the human and horse bond is forged. Our shared desire for companionship transcends our differences. Our interactions carry emotional weight that lead to meaningful relationships. We find comfort in one another’s company.
It is fitting, then, that Dunrovin Ranch’s 2020 Equine Art Extravaganza should reflect the condition of the human world at this point in time as we fight the pandemic and center on the theme of “It Takes a Herd.” Since 2015, Dunrovin has been building this annual art celebration, in which we “adorn that which we adore,” by inviting professional artists to paint and decorate our beloved horses during an event designed to raise money for nonprofit causes that promote human, animal, community, and environmental wellbeing. Funds are raised through an online contest in which the public votes for the best adorned horse by making a $5 donation for each vote cast.
The coronavirus pandemic not only inspired the theme of this year’s Equine Art Extravaganza, it also completely changed its format. We adapted the format to ensure health safety by avoiding crowds and allowing onsite participates to work independently while physically separated. In short, the Equine Art Extravaganza had to “go virtual” like so many other events across the world. Two professional artists decorated two horses that were then added to our herd of unpainted horses for six photographers to use as their subject to capture the theme of “It Takes a Herd.” In so doing, we changed the contest from one focused on six painted horses, to one focused on photos submitted by six photographers.
The results of the day were remarkable. It far exceeded our expectations. Something magical happened. In ways that we had not foreseen, the small group of artists, photographers, and horse handlers not only depicted the theme, but became it. The common purpose was infectious; participants started to share and care. They formed a herd. They supported one another. They moved in unison. They came together as horses and humans dancing with one another and the landscape and the light. They went away fulfilled by their individual efforts, their interactions with the horses, and the sense of community they had created.
Red Scarf Equestrian (RSE) had no small hand in guiding Dunrovin Ranch in this endeavor this year. Through Dunrovin’s affiliation with RSE, we became acquainted with the Canadian Paralympic Dressage Team and their work of bringing people with disabilities into the world of horses to partake of the healing of spirit and body that horses can affect. We had the opportunity to meet Jeffrey Beausoleil and to hear of his ambitions to start down a horsemanship training trail in hopes of winning a seat on the Canadian Paralympic team. We gained a glimpse of the challenges he has faced his entire life as he adapted to the lack of a right hand and right foot. We learned of the pivotal role that the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal has played in his journey to not just overcome his limitations, but to thrive, give back, and build a ladder for others to follow him in his aspirations.
We are deeply grateful that Jeffrey invited the DaysAtDunrovin virtual village to share his equestrian journey when he issued his request of Come Ride with Me. His courage to welcome us into the sanctity of the training facility with live web cameras to show the real-time reality of the long hours of training, the self-discipline, the triumphs and failures that are an inevitable part of such a journey, opens the door to levels of understanding and love among people of all levels of physical abilities. It is an enormous gift.
All of this has been resonating within the Dunrovin community. So, when the time came to make plans for the 2020 Equine Art Extravaganza, the theme of “It Takes a Village” was already in our minds. The leap to “It Takes a Herd” was natural in shining the light on the human and horse bond. Selecting the Shriners Hospitals for Children as the recipient for our fundraising efforts naturally grew from Jeffrey’s story. The Shriners support of families coping with disabilities clearly makes an enormous difference in the lives of many from across the North American continent. They too have been economically hit by the pandemic and whatever financial help we can extend will no doubt be well used.
Dunrovin Ranch and Red Scarf Equestrian invite you to contribute towards the 2020 Equine Art Extravaganza in support of the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Please go to Equine Art Extravaganza to see and meet the artists, enjoy their beautiful artwork and hear the photographers tell their stories of what it meant to them to be part of the herd working together to raise funds and awareness for Shriners. Please vote for your favorite photographic portfolio – and please spread the word on your social media to encourage others to participate. A little donation from thousands of people across the internet can add up to a big difference to the families served by the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Let us, too, come together as a herd with the common purpose of providing the Shriners with some of the resources they need to perform their magic.
Here Follows the Six Contesting Photographs in Alphabetical Order:
WHO IS SUZANNE MILLER?
SuzAnne M. Miller, a native of Butte, Montana, has over 35 years of experience in biometric, biological, social science, and economic research. She has an extensive background in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her career focus was integrating socioeconomic information into public policies for natural resource management and development.
SuzAnne’s work and life passions have taken her to the back country and wild lands of some the world’s most beautiful places: Alaska, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. But no place captures her heart quite like Montana. Her love of animals – especially horses, dogs and birds – and of her great state prompted her to open Dunrovin Ranch as a full-service guest ranch and equestrian club offering unique back country adventures on smooth-gaited Tennessee Walking Horses. The installation of a web camera at Dunrovin for a joint science project with the University of Montana eventually lead SuzAnne to staking out a special space in cyber space with the world’s first cyber ranch at www.DaysAtDunrovin.com.