As symbols, horses represent indelible features of the countryside around Southern Pines, vehicles for our wildest imaginings, and trusted friends.
The Carolina Horse Park’s springtime celebration of the magic of horses will come to an end this week with the auction of 10-life size fiberglass ponies painted by local artists.
Sponsored by local businesses, the Painted Ponies Art Walk graced the streets of downtown in bold splashes of color in early February. They’ll be sold individually through an online auction that opens Wednesday.
Proceeds will go to support the Carolina Horse Park in Hoke County. Situated between Aberdeen and Raeford, the park has become the region’s primary equestrian venue. Its 315 acres host more than 28 competitions each year in addition to non-equestrian community events.
The ponies were originally scheduled to be auctioned in a live event on April 4. That was originally postponed when the state imposed mass gathering restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ultimately, the ponies remained in their places downtown until May 15 while the park made the call to move the sale online.
“It took us a long time to come to that final decision. We were trying to see how things might work out,” said Shannon Habenicht, the horse park’s development director. “Once the state government and health mandates started coming about, we knew we would be pushing our luck and we didn’t want to put the safety of our artists and sponsors and guests at risk.”
Up for grabs are sculpted equines ranging from a realistic pinto pony in Native American war paint to an ethereal blue-and-white alicorn complete with copper wings and horn:
“Between the Ears” painted 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; “Royal Tashunka by Mary Ann Welsch; “The Chief’s Pony” by Tiffany Teeter; and “Water for Horses” by Jenay Jarvis.
Each pony is weatherproof: sprayed with UV protectant and sealed with epoxy coating to withstand years of exposure if placed outdoors. The park can arrange delivery to winning pony bidders within 50 miles of Southern Pines.
Bidding will open at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, and closes on Saturday at 5 p.m. Anyone planning to participate is encouraged to register for an account prior to bids opening.
Bids for each of the 10 ponies will start at $1,000. Carolina Horse Park merchandise will also be available for purchase through the auction site.
Those who might not have the space for a painted pony can contribute to the “Fund A Need” component of the auction.
Participants can support the goal to convert the Lefreda Williams Dressage Complex to all-weather footing similar to the main competition arena’s in $7.50 increments.
“For every square foot ‘purchase’ through the auction, that will give us one square foot of the synthetic footing and go toward the all-weather drainage,” said Habenicht.
“There’s a huge range of opportunities for folks to donate through this Fund A Need and make a difference.”
If the park raises funds to convert 20,000 square feet, another donor has pledged to match those funds to pay for the remainder of the project.
The purchase price of the ponies, as well as Fund A Need contributions of $100 or more, are tax-deductible. To view photos of all 10 Painted Ponies and register to participate in the auction or Fund A Need, visit 32auctions.com/paintedponiesauction.