Annalies Blackford had a bad experience with a horse while trail riding. And she never really got over it.

“I would have these meltdowns, freakouts,” she said.

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But her mother Marlies Blackford didn’t want her to always fear horses. “Riding is so enjoyable. I didn’t want her to miss out on that,” she said.

So, she encouraged her 17-year-old daughter to take a trail ride at Happy on Hooves, a horse farm in Hampstead. “It was a very personal experience,” Marlies said. “Just her and the horse.”

The horse’s name is Marco, and the two have created quite the bond — a bond that was taken one step further when Annalies and her mother attended the Canvas in Motion event at Happy on Hooves on a recent Sunday.

Annalies Blackford of Westminster paints an abstract design on the side of her "canvas", the gentle "Marco", at Happy on Hooves stables in Hampstead.
Annalies Blackford of Westminster paints an abstract design on the side of her "canvas", the gentle "Marco", at Happy on Hooves stables in Hampstead. (Phil Grout-for Carroll County Ti/Carroll County Times)

The class is led by Stacy Farson of Finksburg, an artist and horse lover. The sessions, which use non-toxic paint, enable participants to paint on the horses in an experience that is described as therapeutic for both horses and people.

It certainly was for Annalies, who happily painted a rainbow and a sun on Marco with gentle, loving strokes, and even sneaking him a kiss as she did so. As for Marco, a rescue horse, once the painting began, he soon dropped his head, his eyes became heavy and he slipped into a peaceful doze.

By the end of the painting session Annalies and Marco are best friends?as well as equine painting partners.
By the end of the painting session Annalies and Marco are best friends?as well as equine painting partners. (Phil Grout-for Carroll County Ti/Carroll County Times)

“I rode him. Now, I am painting him,” Annalies said, looking lovingly at Marco. “He is the one that has helped me get over my fear.”

And as for her anxiety? “I’m not even a little bit anxious,” she said. “I’m super comfortable.”

“I felt this was a great way for people to form a bond with the horse while relaxing and being creative,” Amanda Medvetz, owner of Happy on Hooves, said of the art sessions. “And the horses love the attention.”

Happy on Hooves is offering the class for the first time. Two additional sessions have been scheduled, for Sept. 22 and Oct. 6. Each session runs from 10 a.m. to 1 pm. For more information on the event, visit the Happy on Hooves website at https://www.happyonhooves.com/.

As the instructor, Farson is delighted to combine her two passions: art and horses. “You’re just creating and enjoying the moment,” Farson said. “It takes you into a whole other world.”

In preparing to teach the classes, Farson selected horses from Happy on Hooves who were best suited for the one-on-one interaction. Marco, of course, was an obvious choice with his laidback attitude, as was Sophie, who became so relaxed during the process that she leaned up against a nearby wooden rail and if horses could sigh in contentment she surely would have.

Sadie, who was previously a “Western” show horse before coming to Happy on Hooves, was the living canvas for Taniya Flanagan, 12, and her mother Chenoa, both from Columbia. Taniya and Chenoa are frequent visitors to Happy on Hooves.

“As soon as I saw this event, I told Taniya we have got to do this,” Chenoa said of the painting sessions.

Taniya Flanagan adds the finishing paint to her design on Sophie.
Taniya Flanagan adds the finishing paint to her design on Sophie. (Phil Grout-for Carroll County Ti/Carroll County Times)

It was a natural choice for Taniya and Chenoa to participate in the art session. Chenoa’s grandmother is a professional calligrapher and her mother studied art. Both Chenoa and Taniya are art lovers, having visited the National Gallery of Art and tried their hands at various art projects. That, along with Chenoa’s mother’s ownership of a horse in Texas, which Taniya loves to ride when she visits, sealed the deal.

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And they were not disappointed. “I love this. She loves this,” Chenoa said.

Taniya happily painted abstract designs on Sadie. “I paint whatever pops into my head,” said Taniya, who hopes to grow up to be either a “veterinarian or basketball player.” She finished up her painting session with a big red heart on the other side of the horse. Her mother dabbled a bit with a paint brush but left most of the work to her daughter, looking on proudly.

With Marco, Annalies took one side of the horse while her mother painted on the other side. Marlies was initially focused on a Henna tattoo-like look, although, she said, “I’m really just going with the flow."

“Seeing the mothers and daughters here together you realize what a good bonding experience this can be,” said Farson, who was there to guide and answer questions, but left the participants to their own creative visions.

At the end of the session photos were taken of the completed works, which were then washed away, removing any trace of paint from the horses. But it wasn’t so much about the finished project as the process. And for Annalies that was huge.

“It’s just another way for me to interact with a horse,” said Annalies, who actually began riding at the age of 5 and had loved it. However, when she was 11 that all changed while trail riding.

“It was this massive horse,” Marlies recalled. “No one asked about her prior experience and no one was leading the horse. She felt vulnerable.”

And for the young girl who loved horses her riding days were over.

“I would tell her you are the girl that sits in the front seat of the rollercoaster,” Marlies said. “But she said to me, ‘A roller coaster doesn’t have a mind of its own.’ ”

But, “The painting is definitely helping,” Annalies said. “And, I have gotten so attached to Marco.”

This is obvious. Between strokes of the paint brush Annalies gently strokes Marco’s coat, speaking to him softly. “Horses love kind hands,” Farson said as she watched the two, horse and young woman, interact.

Including with hands holding paint brushes.

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