Sunday, November 20, 2016

Forget A Village, It Takes An Army!


Welcome home, Peaker. Photo from Renee Fukumoto.

Peaker has been home four weeks now, and I've been meaning to write this update post with The Whole Story since she got here, safe and sound, because it's been quite an adventure. Firstly, thanks to everyone involved, from those who were hands-on, right down to those who just thought, "I hope she gets back safe!" In the midst of everything that happened, I did think it takes an army. Several friends helped in the outcome in various ways, LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement provided moral and financial support, many of my very loyal art collectors contributed to the funds raised, Ecclestone Horse Transport saved the day and brought her home in style, and so on! So grateful to everyone.

For those who don't know who Peaker is, I foaled her at my farm on February 10, 2007, on a very cold morning. She was the first foal of the mare Too Clever, who had been purchased by my client, UnStable, and also their first homebred. Officially named Clever Peaks, she became the first of their homebreds to win a race, and was always trying, always competitive. Unfortunately one winter she was claimed from them, at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Her new connections took her back to Minnesota after the winter.

She did well for her new connections. They were good people, and when she injured herself in a race, they retired her. I was actually trying to get her back at that point, but they ended up selling her to a local man with the agreement that she was not to be raced. This was written on her foal papers, though not formally sent back to the Jockey Club, which is quite an involved process. This man intended to breed her, so I just had to hope that in a few years we'd be watching her babies on the track.

The morning after she arrived - not the robust mare I remembered.
Jump forward to this February, two years later, when I was shocked to get a work notification for Peaker, at a track I'd never heard of, in Iowa. The owner who had sold her to this man contacted me and updated me on what she knew. She asked, if she were able to talk him into giving her up, would I still be prepared to take her, and naturally, I said yes. He had apparently tried to breed her, not gotten her in foal, and put her back in training!

That middle owner went to the track and explained that the papers were marked as not for racing, and the track agreed not to let her run. However, this man (who I'll now refer to as "trainer") hired a lawyer to contest that, and as the papers had not been sent to the Jockey Club through the official process, they had to let her run. All of us who knew this mare, and the story, were horrified.

Her first race back was June 23/16, and I watched online and cheered backwards, you might say. "Go slow, Peaker! You don't have to run, you don't have to do this." Maybe she heard me, but either way, she clearly did not have what was needed to be a racehorse anymore, and finished last, beaten over twenty lengths. On the one hand it was hard to watch, as she was always such a trier, but given the injury she was racing on, I was still glad. I hoped after this he would retire her. But no. A month later, she showed up with another work, and then August 28/16, she was entered to race again. This time, she was beaten more than 30 lengths. I was angry and frustrated and heartbroken all at once.

Not long after than, I saw her photo on the Canter Minnesota Facebook page – and was relieved that at least he was sort of doing the right thing and not just shipping her to an unspeakable fate. He was asking a ridiculous sum of money for her, and the post was full of untruths about her physical and breeding soundness, but I wasn't prepared to have some unsuspecting person take her, only to discover the truth and discard her. I contacted him, and we agreed on a price, which I resigned myself to pay, just because she needed to come home safe. He was, at this point, quite cooperative, and took care of her health papers and kept her while I worked on transport back to Ontario.
A glimpse of the Shield Maiden within.
Just so you know - getting a horse from Minnesota is not such an easy thing. LongRun was helping me with the transport, and first option was to get her to Winnipeg, where one of the big local companies could pick her up on the way back from out west. I began to try to arrange transport from Minnesota to Winnipeg – with absolutely no luck.

I was given the name of a professional US shipper, who I contacted about doing that trip. They came back immediately and said they could bring her right to me in Ontario. Yay! The price was reasonable, so I started putting that together. I paid the broker they wanted me to use, and then waited...and waited...and waited...for them to give me a date. One excuse after another. The health papers are good for 30 days, and time was running out, as was the trainer's patience. Finally, they gave me a date, October 25, after a month of erratic communication. I paid the deposit, and then...I waited, again. I emailed for an update...got no response. I emailed again...still no response. I called...and the phone kept cutting out, so that I could not hear what was being said. I emailed again...and was now told it would be another 2-3 weeks. I was back to being angry, and frustrated and bordering on distraught – and more than a little worried about Peaker, as I didn't entirely trust the trainer to take care of her properly.

Then I heard about a new, local company, who travelled to that area. I contacted them – they told me they had a van coming back from Minnesota that Friday, and could certainly bring her back. They assured me that while the health papers would have just expired, they were used to dealing with that and it wouldn't be a problem. Their rate was competitive, and they took off the brokerage fees which were include in their quote, saying they could use the company I had already paid. And, Peaker would travel in a box stall, rather than the 1.5 standing stall I had booked with the other company. They also strongly suggested that company, whose reputation they knew (wish I had!) SHOULD give me back the deposit, given what had gone on. On the one hand, I didn't care about the deposit, because Peaker's health wasn't worth waiting for whenever they got themselves sorted out enough to get her, but on the other, considering the cost of this whole adventure, it would be nice to have.

Definitely not the shiny, muscled horse from the CANTER photos. Photo from Su Schmerheim.
The driver for Ecclestone Horse Transport picked her up on Friday, October 19, Peaker the only horse on this huge,  posh, air-ride transport van. The driver, Su, gave me updates, and talked about how sweet Peaker was, what a good passenger she was. She said she thought Peaker looked a bit thin, and sent me a photo. More heartbreak. I can only assume the trainer stopped feeding her as soon as I paid for her, so I was all the more grateful that EHT had been able to step up and pluck her out of there so promptly.
Travelling in style! - Photo from Su Schmerheim.


They arrived at 9pm on Saturday, October 20. My good friend Renee came out to lend me a hand, as I had to walk her back from the road because there's no way a semi is getting down my lane – which is about half a mile (0.6km). She practically dragged me down the lane, back to the barn, and into her waiting stall. Ribby, undernourished, dull coat, still with Minnesota mud that had been on her a while...but she was home. I groomed her and put a blanket on her, because it was a cold night, and she settled right in.

Even in a few days, she was looking better. Now, she's regained a lot of muscle mass, and has her energy back. She's not fat, but her coat has a nice glow, her eye has that spirited look again, and so much of that tension in her body is gone. Her injured ankle is pretty ugly, though she's sound per se, and I will be getting it looked at so I can know what she might or might not be able to do.
Even a few days made a big difference! Our official "before" photo.

That transport company that let me down so badly? Refused to give me my deposit back. They finally conceded a credit, so if anyone in the midwest US/western Canada needs to move a horse, let me know. I'm sure they think I'll never use it, so I'd really like to see that proven wrong! Not that I in any way recommend them. They out and out said, after I contacted them about refunding the deposit, that they don't like coming to the Toronto area. Why they strung me along and said they'd do the job, I don't know. So...please, if you're looking for horse transport, be aware that Elliot Equine Transport is rather horrible to deal with! On the other hand, I can't say enough good about Ecclestone.
Mud therapy!

So...there you have it. Last week Peaker had her teeth done, which will help her continue to gain weight. She's got a lovely turnout buddy, another hard-knocking mare with a happily less dramatic history, who has just been retired sound. Between them they have 65 starts, eight wins, and $290,000 in earnings. I call them the Shield Maidens, as I've started watching Vikings, and been intrigued by the culture where some of the women fought alongside the men.  So here's to the Shield Maidens, and the War Horses:  tough, hard-knocking Thoroughbreds who are a testament to the breed.

The Shield Maidens welcome visitors...especially those bearing carrots!







Monday, October 03, 2016

A Chance to Own a Painting; A Chance to Help a Horse



Baby Peaker



It seems every time we turn around, someone is asking for donations. We go to the grocery story, and get asked for a few dollars extra for one cause or another; we log into Facebook and someone is raising funds for a worthwhile cause. We all pick our spots...I know I've made a number of private donations to help out friends and friends-of-friends this year. On the flip side, I absolutely hate asking for help. As I kid I was the one who couldn't sell a box of Girl Guide cookies to save my life, or ask for pledges for various charitable events. Not my forté!

I have often, however, donated artwork for fundraisers, usually relating to animals. I've been working with LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement for a number of years now, helping raise money to help retired racehorses in Ontario. In the last couple of years, I've been on the receiving end of their aftercare efforts, as they've helped out with a couple of our retirees.

This year, I had a big one to ask them - our very first homebred, Peaker, who has been in her fair share of paintings, surfaced in Minnesota. I have been carefully watching out for her since she was claimed from my client three years ago. When she came back on my radar, I waited and hoped I might have the chance to bring her home and ensure her safety. When that opportunity arose, LongRun agreed to help.

"Fresh Snow," 11 x 14 original oil on linen (framed).

So now, in return, I'm hoping to encourage donations to LongRun. There will be a draw for an original framed oil painting, called "Fresh Snow," featuring Peaker and her friend Maria, and a second draw for a reproduction on canvas of Peaker as a newborn, called "Good Morning, Sun."


"Good Morning, Sun" reproduced on canvas.

For a donation to LongRun of $20.00, your name will be entered in the draw for the reproduction, "Good Morning, Sun." If you make a donation of $50.00 or more, you get a chance to win the original painting. You can contact LongRun directly by telephone at (416) 675-3993 x 3440, or you can donate through PayPal using the email address info@longrunretirement . Be sure to indicate your donation is to help bring home Clever Peaks so we can add your name to the draw.

Of course, any amount is welcome, and if you provide an address I'll happily send you a small gift and thank you card in appreciation.

If you're still reading, thanks for your time!  And whether you're able to help or not, I hope you'll stay tuned and help welcome our girl home!

(If you're the kind of person who prefers a sure thing, I have a little promo going on, on my website. Use the coupon CLVRPKS when you purchase any study or reproducion, and receive 20% off your total. If you're interested in an original, drop me a line for a similar discount!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cinderella, Cinderella...

Turning a cool photo into a painting...

Last year, Woodbine Entertainment initiated a contest to select "The Official Queen's Plate Artist." I did enter, what I thought was a beautiful painting of 2014 winner Lexie Lou, and was disappointed when it didn't make the top five – after all, painting Canadian racehorses is what I do!  Anyway, such is the life of the artist – we have to know how to handle rejection, because we don't always fit with that the powers that be are looking for. I decided to enter again this year, and went with something much more generic – a horse in the walking ring, rider up, groom leading her. I had taken the reference photo last summer at the races, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to paint it.  When they announced the 2016 contest – late enough that I'd been convinced they weren't going to run it – I didn't have a lot of time to contemplate what I was going to paint, and picked up the reference photo, already printed. I managed to get the painting done and entry made a week before the deadline, as I was travelling to San Francisco!
One of the photos I shot that day.
The notification date for the five finalists came and went, and I figured once again my work had been bypassed – though last year they'd sent out an email passing along that information. I went to check out the Plate website, and there was the announcement. Clicked through to see the top five...and there was my painting!  That was a pleasant surprise! Now, the painful part begins - the winner is determined by a voting process, and shameless self-promotion is NOT my strong suit. Popularity contests are not things I win. I'd rather see work chosen on merit than on who has the most friends. That said, I've been humbled by the show of loyal friends who have shown their support in my Facebook posts!
Janet and "Cinderella" – that's what the halter plate says!

Now...the title of this post doesn't mean what you think it might.  The grey filly in the painting, named Letter Fly, was bred by a friend of mine. Due to unfortunate circumstances, my friend had to sell her at the yearling sales. She ended up making her first start as a three-year old in Iowa, of all places. After showing little in those early races, my friend was able to buy her back and return her to Ontario, and she was christened "Cinderella" by the trainer's granddaughter. Here, she's gone from a cheap maiden claimer in Iowa to an allowance winner. She is sound and still racing as a five-year old, but when she no longer wants to be a racehorse, she'll be safe.

So, I hate asking for votes for myself, I really do. Cinderella, on the other hand, is very deserving of them! To vote, visit Woodbine's Queen's Plate website, and scroll down to follow the link that will take you to the  voting site.  There has been a bit of confusion in the voting process – you will need to rate the options given from first to fifth. I hope you enjoy all the artwork that has made the finals!




Saturday, February 27, 2016

Warm Ups As Avoidance Behaviour

Study on Raymar archival canvas panel, first attempt, revisited.
I admit it, I started a study the other day, and I have been using it entirely as an avoidance tactic.  Big, detailed paintings are intimidating.  Little studies are easier to tackle.  If they get messed up, it seems to be easier to take.  I started this most recent study on Thursday and sure enough, I messed that up! I did something I very rarely do - I started over, on a completely different surface, abandoning the quick sketch of paint on canvas, for a new quick sketch of paint on linen.  Smaller dimensions, which, apparently, I could handle better than the first, slightly larger attempt.

Today I worked on the smaller study, and got it to the point where I'm pretty sure it's done.  Then I looked at the discarded start.  Another thing I very rarely do, is work from the same photo more than once, but as I'd let the sketch in paint dry, and ghosting isn't something I wanted to contend with, I thought I'd see what I could do with it as is.  I already had the palette set, a very limited one of four colours (and a combination of colours I hadn't used before).  So I played.  And avoided the big painting.  And now I'm writing this blog post, to further avoid the big painting.  It has, at least, made it back on my easel.  Time to pony up and get to it, I guess!  :-D
Study on unstretched linen, second attempt, ready to abandon.



Five Days In February – Days Four and Five!

"Baby Parker" 6 x 4 oil study.
Apparently I forgot to post the last two paintings on the blog!  The last two were both 6 x 4 on Raymar archival cotton canvas panel.  Day Four was a study of Parker (formerly known as Billy) as a foal, looking all sweet and innocent (yeah, right!). Day Five was a portrait of Sheldon, who celebrated his fifth birthday this week.  All five studies are now on my website in the "Studies" section, and for sale, $65.00 each including shipping in North America, until the end of the month.  After that, they'll be going to Equis Art Gallery to replenish the supply of my studies there. They seem to get snapped up there, so if you're thinking about it, don't wait too long!  ;-) 
"Sheldon," 6 x 4 oil study.



Thursday, February 18, 2016

Day Three - Works Well Under Pressure

"Rachel" 6 x 4 oil study on Raymar cotton canvas panel.
So, you get in after a busy day of horse care, riding, more horse care, finally getting registration pics done of the now-yearling, a quick trip for caffeine and sugar, followed by a visit to the tack shop to take advantage of a sale to replenish necessary supplies (honestly)....it's 7:30pm.  And you still have a painting to do.

Yes, you contemplate skipping, but the whole point of challenges is to make yourself do things, even when you'd rather just spend a mindless couple of hours before going back out for more horse care, on an increasingly cold February evening. Or, you know, maybe eat dinner.  I had, at least, prepped the panel with a light tone of yellow ochre.  Small isn't necessarily easier, but the panel that was ready was 4 x 6...or, when I settled on my reference, 6 x 4.  I did choose a head-on head study, as I find these easier.  I procrastinated a little longer because, well, this is just what I do.  Picked up a brush.  Started drawing. Then started just pushing paint around to get the form.  After bits and pieces of an hour (because that's how I work - completely ADD)....this little portrait of Rachel happened. 

Again, loose and imperfect. Today I have more time, so I'll most certainly botch it up. ;-)


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sometimes, You Just Have To Give Yourself a Kick In The...

"New Digs With Toys," 5 x 7 oil study.
Facebook.  We love it. Hate it. Love to hate it.  Every so often these "challenges" come along – we've been having some fun with a music challenge, posting different favourite songs, and recently the art challenge has resurfaced.  I did it a couple of weeks ago – but it's inevitable that one will get tagged again to do it.  When that happened, I decided to make my own challenge, to do a painting a day for five days.  Having done several thirty day challenges (see my Thirty Horses, Thirty Days blog for many of them!) I figured I could pull off five, and maybe get myself jump-started back into a better studio routine.

It's amazing how much better I feel about day two's painting than day one.  I'm hoping by Friday I'll be unstoppable!  Haha....please don't let my horses hear that, they may take on a challenge of their own to stop me!  ;-) 
"Leo ('Hey, Good-Looking!')" 6 x 6 oil study on Raymar canvas panel.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Go Lexie Lou!

Lexie Lou ~ oil on linen.
I've been working on a few smaller studies these days, on various surfaces, just to keep things going in the studio while other things still keep me from spending a more solid chunk of time painting.  I have ideas and blog posts running through my head all the time...they'll eventually get out.

I'm not sure I ever posted this completed painting, for whatever reason.  This is a painting I did of 2014 Queen's Plate winner, the filly Lexie Lou.  Lexie missed most of last season because of an eye injury, and returned to the races last month.  Today she is back in action...in tough, running against her stablemate, Breeders' Cup Mile winner, Tepin. I'll be cheering for the underdog, Ontario-bred! Just a little bit of trivia - Lexie Lou is a half-sister to the mother of our homebred, Rachel (Relocate the Bank).

Cold and sunny day here in Southern Ontario - sounds like a day to spend in the studio, after doing the stalls, of course!
Rachel...cheering for her Aunt Lexie today?