CHP Painted Ponies

Artist Mary Ann Welch and "Royal Tashunka," a life-sized fiberglass horse featured in the Painted Ponies Art Walk. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Horses of many different colors will be making the sidewalks of downtown Southern Pines home for the next two months in a fundraiser for the Carolina Horse Park.

Sponsored by downtown businesses, the Painted Ponies Art Walk will station a group of 10 life-size fiberglass horses around the town. They’ll remain there until they are sold by auction in early April.

Local artists have spent most of their spare time since Christmas meticulously hand-painting the sculptures.

“Some of the artists are involved with the equestrian community,” said Shannon Habenicht, the Carolina Horse Park’s development manager.

“A lot of it was just kind of getting out there into the community and finding out who had some artistic ability and reaching out to them. We had a great response and we have several artists looking forward to doing it next year.”

On Saturday, the Painted Ponies’ grand unveiling will come in a walking tour beginning at the Mews on Broad Street. The event is modeled after Hendsersonville’s annual “Bearfootin” Public Art Walk.

Located in Hoke County between Aberdeen and Raeford, the Carolina Horse Park was established in 1998 as a competition venue to complement the expansive private horse farms around Southern Pines. The park is now the area’s primary venue for equestrian events, with 315 acres hosting about 28 shows each year. Its calendar is also dotted with outdoor education and non-equestrian events like scholastic cross country meets.

Advancing the park’s aim to serve the larger community, the Painted Ponies Art Walk will bring a small part of the horse park to downtown Southern Pines.

“Part of the Carolina Horse Park’s mission is to preserve Southern Pines’ heritage as an equestrian refuge surrounded by attractive open space,” said Bryan Rosenberg, chair of the Carolina Horse Park board of directors. “The Painted Ponies Art Walk will be a visible representation of the equestrian community for visitors as they shop, dine, and stroll around downtown.”

Each artist collaborated with their pony’s host to develop a design. Several of the statues draw on Native American themes, inspired by the actual war-painted ponies that carried braves into battle.

Realizing that flashy objects have been a universal status symbol for millennia, Mary Ann Welsch ran with a jewel design in painting “Royal Tashunka” for WhitLauter by Leann Parker.

“I started to wonder what the history of adornment is. When did we start wearing things that became jewelry?” said Welsch, a retired graphic artist who lives in Pinehurst.

“Royal Tashunka,” named using a Siouan word for horse, depicts the history of jewelry from marine shells and ostrich egg fragments worn by primitive humans. The pony occupied Welsch’s dining room studio for most of January, but after 120 hours of research and painstaking work, the artist had finished painting her first full-sized horse.

“Some of the details are done with a magnifying glass and a brush that has like 10 hairs. You have to take into consideration all the points of view: does he look good this way, is there enough contrast?” she said.

“By the time you come up with the idea, and research, you can get kind of engrossed in the painting of one area. Then sometimes it doesn’t work out and you paint over it again.”

The art walk will feature nine other installations: “Between the Ears” by Darlene Ivey;” “Dream Big Says the Alicorn” by Nikki Lienhard; “Horses Connect Us All” by Shelly Turner; “Horsefeathers” by Beth Roy; “Living in the Pines” by Gene Fletcher; “Little Red Truck” by Claire Connaghan; “Love Your Local” by Ashley Van Camp; “The Chief’s Pony” by Tiffany Teeter; and “Water for Horses” by Jenay Jarvis.

Artists and sponsors will be on hand to discuss the inspiration behind each pony on Saturday. Refreshments and maps denoting the location of each pony will be available, and walking tours will depart from The Mews periodically between 1-3 p.m.

The Painted Ponies event will support free educational events at the horse park like Bats at Sunset and Learn About Coyotes, which are led by wildlife experts. Ponies are scheduled to be auctioned on April 4.

“Proceeds from the auction will support our environmental programs,” said Rosenberg. “Those events are for everyone, whether they ride horses or not, to come out to the park and learn about local wildlife and conservation.”

Ponies are sponsored by McPeake Hotels; C Cups Cupcakery; The Pilot; Audrey Wiggins/Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Lifestyle Property Partners; Opulence of Southern Pines; WhitLauter Estate Jewelry; McDevitt Town and Country Properties; Pinnock Real Estate and Relocation Services; Longevity Massage and Bodywork Therapy Center; The Country Bookshop; Ashten’s Restaurant; Moore Equine Feed and Pet Supply; English Riding Supply; Cabin Branch Tack Shop; and BB&T Bank.

For more information about the Carolina Horse Park and the Painted Ponies Art Walk, visit carolinahorsepark.com.

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