Picture Painting Horse, Mini-Ponies Spread Equine’s Positive Impact As Anxieties Remain
By Frank J. Buchman
Cowboy artists bring horses to life on canvas. Now, Duni the Painting Horse takes acrylics into action portraying most colorful paintings as well.
“My brother said if elephants can paint pictures, surely horses can, too. I thought about it, and decided he was right. I’m going to see if I can teach a horse to paint,” remembered Careen Cain at Wakarusa.
“I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I decided to work with my own personal horse, Duni, a registered Appaloosa. It was a long process, and I did use intermittent treats, while getting Duni to hold the brush, and learn how to paint, first make brush strokes with water, before turning him lose with the paint,” Cain said.
Now, Duni’s paintings are in demand by art collectors. As well, an attraction is the 18-year-old equine painter himself.
“Duni has demonstrated his Original Horse Splash Painting abilities, a modernistic, artistic, one-of-a-kind array of acrylic color on canvas at EquiFest for several years, and does paint for the public at another dozen or so community events around annually,” Cain said.
He painted Sunday during the Shooting Star Equine Rescue Open House at Wakarusa, and Duni will be painting this Saturday morning, May 2, at Bluestem Farm & Ranch Supply in Emporia.
The demanded “Duni Original” Horse Splash Paintings can be framed and displayed. Duni’s canvas art pieces are available for a donation following completion, and include photographs of Duni completing the painting, along with Duni’s hoof stamp on each on them.
“Duni is a talented horse who loves using a variety of brushing techniques to paint unique designs. He will paint on canvas of choice and in preferred colors,” Cain added.
While the attraction is Cain’s Duni the Painting Horse, his owner uses the occasions to expand public awareness of the Shooting Star Equine Rescue, horse abuse, starvation, equine slaughter issues, and increase knowledge about vast therapeutic benefits of horses.
“Shooting Star Equine Rescue is committed to caring for equines that come to us due to abuse, neglect or abandonment as well as for those at risk of imminent slaughter,” Cain said.
“Loving care is given to meet each equine’s need for proper medical treatment, individual nutritional needs and daily handling in an effort to provide the rehabilitation necessary in order to eventually place them in an approved placement home,” Cain continued.
Several current residents that are quite elderly or who have come in with extensive needs now call Shooting Star their “forever home” as sanctuary residents.
Shooting Star also works with other Midwest rescues, providing rescue to rescue transfers when necessary in order to respond to the needs of equines in need of immediate placement.
“By advocating on behalf of all equines that have passed through our gates as well as for those innocent lives that were lost before we could save them in time, Shooting Star strives to be involved in community education and awareness programs,” Cain reiterated.
The equine rescue cooperates with other professionals and rescues in an effort to provide pamphlets, literature, and training regarding equine needs and standards for appropriate care and owner responsibility.
“We network with key individuals to better define and enforce policies and procedures regarding equine abuse and neglect as it relates to state statutes on animal cruelty,” Cain said.
“While there are those who want to deny it, or just overlook horse slaughter issues, we provide facts and statistics on the harsh realities of our equines being abused in handling, transporting and brutally slaughtered in Mexico or Canada to be shipped for human consumption in Europe and Japan,” Cain stated emphatically.
Overall positive influence of horses is a supplementary, complementary effort underway by Cain, a certified equine therapist in the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).
“We have three mini-ponies, “people ponies” that we take out to communities, to schools, nursing homes, hospice groups, even into the homeless populations, and others with a wide range of various disabilities to show the magic that comes from horses,” Cain said.
Her threesome includes Pistol Pete, a 17-year-old sorrel and white Pinto gelding; Lulu, a 21-year-old black and white mare; and Little Buff, a three-year-old brown gelding that was rescued from abandonment and has semblance to a Buffalo, thus his name.
“People get to touch the ponies, talk to them, pet and brush them, sometimes lead them around, even dress them up. It’s truly magical seeing the positive and healing impact having contact with horses has on all people,” Cain insisted.
“EAGALA is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals using horse therapy to address mental health and human development needs. EAGALA’s vision is that every person worldwide will have access to these therapy services,” Cain explained.
“The group provides services helping change the lives of people with a diverse range of struggles such as street children in Mexico and South Africa, those suffering from addictions, depression and trauma, and improving relationships in families and groups,” Cain said.
Additionally, Cain is certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP).
“EAP incorporates horses experientially for mental and behavioral health therapy and personal development. It is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional working with the clients and horses to address treatment goals. Because of the intensity and effectiveness, it is considered a short-term or ‘brief’ approach,” said Cain, who clarified that she is actually certified both as a therapist and equine specialist.
However, EAP is experiential in nature. “This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing or discussing feelings, behaviors, and patterns. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, treatment facilities, and human development courses around the world,” she said.
“But, EAP has the added advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic and powerful living beings,” Cain insisted.
“Since becoming involved in horse rescue efforts about 15 years ago, there has been considerably more awareness, especially in networking among horse groups, and marvelous positive support,” Cain credited.
“Horse breed organizations have become involved, and are more aware of over breeding. Some breeds, such as Thoroughbreds are being retrained for lifelong worthwhile careers after race careers have finished,” she noted.
“However, much more work remains through education and change,” Cain emphasized.
Additional plans for the Shooting Star Equine Rescue include:
Continue to develop the Volunteer Program with the volunteer coordinator.
Become a community resource for connecting horses to people, including placement, rescue, education and training.
Provide temporary support that enables horse owners to maintain the needs of their animals through financial setbacks.
To create a steady source of donation support from community groups and individuals, from fundraising events, by application for equine related grants, by offering ”Duni Original” Horse Splash Paintings, logo items, and by undertaking other fundraising efforts to help financially support the rescue.
Grow the Sponsorship Program for sanctuary horses with the goal that every “forever horse” has a group of Angel Sponsors for the lifetime of the horse.
“Sponsors will be provided the history of the horse as well as receive pictures and updates so you’ll know how ‘your’ horse is doing. Sponsors are encouraged to visit the rescue when possible to develop a relationship with their angel horse and should feel comfortable providing personal items such as treats, a blanket or other horse related items as desired,” Cain said.
“Angel sponsors care also needed to help with care such as farrier, vaccinations, teeth floating, or special supplements,” she noted.
“All services provided by Shooting Star are funded entirely by gifts and donations. As an IRS-designated 501c3 public charity, all contributions are tax deductible,” Cain informed.