Who wouldn’t like to go to a convention and come home with a horse?
In 2016 Grace Rushing did exactly that...more or less.
As a member of the Colorado Arabian Horse Club, Grace attended the 2016 AHA Convention in Denver. At the convention, the AHA Marketing and Promotion Committee introduced Goldie, the first of the Arabian Horses for Humanity.
“I Want One.”
As fellow delegate Kathy Scott recalls, “Grace turned to me and said ‘I want one’.” As lightening quick as she made the decision to purchase a Humanity horse, Grace also knew her horse, who she christened, Saber, would champion: 1) The Wounded Warrior Project and 2) the Arabian Horseman’s Distress Fund (AHDF) — two important and worthy causes that both strike a very personal chord with Grace.
The Wounded Warrior Program (WWP) is a charity and veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following September 11, 2001. Grace and her husband, Mack, are Army veterans with 44 years of combined service, so finding a way to support soldiers in need was an instinctive response honed through a lifetime of service to our country.
Grace’s familiarity and appreciation for the Horseman’s Distress Fund is more recent, but no less intense. Why? Because Grace lives in Black Forest, Colorado.
In 2013, one of the most destructive fires in Colorado history ravaged the Black Forest area northeast of Colorado Springs. Over a nine-day period, over fourteen thousand acres burned, 509 houses were destroyed, and two people lost their lives. Grace, Mack and their three Arabian horses were forced to evacuate. Fleeing from a raging fire is stressful under any circumstances, but evacuating life stock adds another layer of complexity and anxiety. It’s not as simple as throwing the dog or cat in the car. The logistics are on a different scale. Says Grace, “The AHDF was the first to reach out and offer financial assistance.” The AHDF provides assistance in a variety of ways—from helping out an individual, to providing funds to help out horses and horseman facing disasters of epic proportions. Using Saber to help raise awareness of AHDF is Grace’s way of giving back and paying it forward.
Photo used by permission of BlackForestFire2013
From Idea to Execution
After being the first person to hear the words “I want one,” Kathy Scott’s role in this journey multiplied when she told Grace she wanted to be the artist to paint Saber. It’s a measure of Kathy’s sense of adventure and creativity that she volunteered for this undertaking. Kathy—having had two successful careers as a nurse and Bridal shop owner—had never so much as painted a Breyer horse, much less a full scale model! Aside from recent forays into oil painting, nothing had prepared her for this particular endeavor. Fortunately, Kathy’s husband John had recently finished building and painting a glider, and had the equipment and practical experience to get her started.
Kathy Scott and the future Saber for Humanity
As it happens, the journey of a Humanity horse—going from raw potential to ready-for-display — is a lot like training a real horse. The process takes longer than most people imagine and is rife with details the eventual audience may not notice but that have to be done to make the final horse a masterpiece.
Grace purchased the unfinished horse sculpture in 2017. These life-size fiberglass statues are made on demand by Cowpainters, a company that designs and creates fiberglass animal sculptures with community awareness specifically in mind. After a five-week wait for production time, Kathy took delivery of the nascent Saber in February of 2018 and began the multi-step, painstaking preparatory steps to get Saver ready for painting. After fifteen hours of sanding and two coats of gesso, it was finally time to turn Saber into the silvery gray monument Grace had always envisioned.
A Different Journey Ahead
While some of the Arabian Horses for Humanity have generated huge sums as a result of high profile auctions, Grace has a different journey in mind for Saber. She imagines Saber, like the real life Arabian breed he represents, to serve through his endurance and stamina as a long term ambassador of the causes he champions. Saber’s journey is also reflective of the times we live in and will be both a physical and virtual journey. His team of handlers plan to take him to high profile venues to garner support, as well as leverage online technology to raise awareness… and encourage donors to open their wallets and support the Wounded Warrior Project and the Arabian Horseman’s Distress Fund!