The young riders of Methow Valley Riding Unlimited (MVRU) may be in social distance from the horses they work with, but the horses are certainly keeping busy with escapades of their own. At least, this is MVRU horse care specialist, trainer, and riding instructor Christa Culbert’s interpretation of the horses’ time without their little riders. Christa shares her version of the horses’ experience of the “stay at home” order in an illustrated story series she is creating called “Pony Tails.”
“Pony Tails” is a web-based story, with Christa’s original artwork and narrative detailing the adventures the MVRU horses undertake during their pandemic-inspired unstructured time, beginning with an escape from Moccasin Lake Ranch. The project combines two of Christa’s greatest loves: horses and art.
Christa grew up in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of a lighting and set designing father and a set painting mother. The visual aspects of live theater loomed large in Christa’s childhood. “My mom would carry me in a backpack while she painted sets,” Christa says. “I was always on the set, and always encouraged to do art.”
Christa’s mother and sister both took riding lessons at a nearby stable, and Christa begged to be allowed to join them. “Finally they let me,” she says, “when I was 4 or 5 years old. And then when I was 10 my mom got a horse that we all shared.”
Christa says she was always painting horses as a kid. “At Christmas, I would paint everyone at the stable a picture of their horse,” she says, “and then give it to them as a gift.” She later earned her BFA in painting and drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
If it weren’t for travel restrictions, Christa would have been attending a horse training workshop out of the state right now. She’s disappointed to have lost the training opportunity, but she is making the most of her free time by entertaining the MVRU kids with the weekly stories. Her project even inspired one of the young riders, Nevaeh Yoakum, to write a chapter of her own, enhanced with original drawings.
As for how “Pony Tails” ends, well, that is as much of a mystery as to how the pandemic for the two-legged creatures will be resolved. But in Chapter 4, Christa writes that there is “truth in make-believe,” which, in its logic-defying way, could be a bit of a tagline for all of us in these strange times.
You can learn more about Christa and see more of her art here: http://www.christaculbert.wixsite.com/artwork/gallery. “Pony Tails” can be found here: http://www.mvriding.blogspot.com.