Ranch horses subject of commercial art project
EAGLE COUNTY Money is a beautiful palomino stallion, with a wheat-colored mane and a sweet, gentle disposition.The 9-year-old quarter horse spends his days grazing leisurely, or rollicking with his pals – horses with names like Ricky and Sugar Bar McCue – on Peggy and Mitch Brasington’s Salt Creek Ranch on Brush Creek. To the Brasingtons, Money is a favorite trail and roping horse. To renowned photographic portrait artist Pamela Mougin, he is a favorite model.Mougin has captured a heart-stirring image of Money, mane flying, hooves kicking up dust, racing carefree and happy against a stunning backdrop of Rocky Mountain hills and Western skies. That image will soon grace the outside of the Wells Fargo Bank Building in the new, 289,000-square-foot University Park Development in Denver, at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Evans. The 16-by-18-foot image, which will be laser-etched in granite, is a fitting choice for the bank building in many ways. The property contains an old trail, where, no doubt, horses once traveled with regularity. Horses are also featured prominently in the Wells Fargo logo. It is was only a serendipitous coincidence that the horse Mougin picked for her prime model is named Money.Mougin has been commissioned to complete five etchings for the four-building, commercial complex, as well as interior ceramic tiles. Money will be the first. All will feature horses, including Money’s companions at Salt Creek Ranch.Salt Creek magic
When Mougin, whose office is in Denver, but whose work can be found across the country and beyond, was looking for the perfect location to shoot for the Denver project, her mountain-dweller father, recommended Salt Creek Ranch. The ranch at the end of Salt Creek Road is cradled in an idyllic mountain valley, overshadowed by dramatic peaks.Mougin arrived last fall, set up a studio at the ranch. The Brasingtons’ horses became a centerpiece to her new horse series.The Brasingtons breed, raise and sell registered horses with proven bloodlines, mostly paints and quarter horses.”We like them colored up so they’re pretty and unique,” Peggy says. One of their horses, Peaches, is a descendant of the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit. Mitch saved the injured horse from being put down, learning about her ancestry only later. Peaches is not for sale.Today, they have roughly 50 horses on their 200-acre property, but they typically raise anywhere from 40 to 70 horses.”We breed performances horses,” Peggy explains. Horses that can jump, rope, show; horses with discipline and endurance and good temperaments: “The ultimate goal is to produce excellent all-around performance horses for family horses. Not halter horses,” she adds.
The Brasingtons send their horses to professional trainer Daniel Harris before selling. The Brasingtons also complete follow-up training, riding the horses on trails and exposing them to roping and cattle.The horses are mostly left to roam and graze through a series of pastures. “We try to raise them in a natural environment,” says Peggy, who takes a hands-on approach to training. Her affection for her charges is obvious. “We don’t feed them apples or oranges. It teaches them to bite,” she says. Instead, she and her hands give all the horses lots of attention. “Their treat is love,” she says affectionately rubbing a horse’s nose. And it is obvious by the way they trot to greet her – and do her bidding – that they adore her. Indeed, it was Peggy who got her horses to cooperate for Mougin’s photo shoot.From Beaver Creek to Brush CreekPeggy has always owned horses; but her husband, Mitch, is new to that way of life. You’d never know it. “My husband is the adventurous person,” Peggy says. Mitch grew up in South Carolina, with little money left over to ride, let alone own, horses. He later came to Colorado to play golf and ski.
So why did Mitch delve head over heels into the horse business if he’d never been around them before? “Because I’m madly infatuated with my wife,” he answers, “It’s her passion taking care of horses. … I grew to love it.”The Brasingtons, who have been valley residents for years, used to live in a townhome in Beaver Creek. It was a second home. They purchased the Salt Creek property in 1993, falling in love with the sheer, quiet beauty of the place. Since then, they have built the breeding facility, as well as two homes.The barn, which Mitch designed with Ted Vaughn, features a one-acre riding arena and 30 indoor stalls, and took nearly four years to complete. The property also holds a mare barn and an outdoor arena.”It’s fun,” Mitch says. “It gets you in touch with the indigenous charm Colorado is known for.” When Mitch voiced a desire to learn roping, a cowboy friend, Frank Hough, helped to design a roping arena. Mitch took up roping with a passion. A friend helped him obtain a good roping horse. When Mitch climbed on, he asked his friend, ‘What do I do next?” His friend replied, “I think you have to learn to ride.”So he did. And now Mitch ropes and competes recreationally, although he admits to being an “absolute novice” compared to his friends.
Peggy’s passion for horses shows through in many ways. When she heard about nine eastern Colorado horses that were starving to death, including a mare and her baby, Mitch ran out on immediately and bought them a bale of hay. Peggy took them home, nursed them back to health and adopted them out to good families. One of them, Long Shot, now 6 months old, lives at 4 Eagle Ranch.Equine beautyWhen Mougin arrived at the Brasingtons’ Salt Creek Ranch, she quickly identified her favorite models. Peggy helped point out which horses would be suitable for specific shots; but each personality captivated Mougin.Money is from one of Colorado’s legendary Wiescamp bloodlines. His image, in a far more tranquil demeanor, also enlivens the renovated 1902 historic, 250-room West Baden Springs Hotel in Orange County, Ind. Money was chosen for a series of whimsical western pictures because his blond mane perfectly matched the hair of the little boy trying to ride him in the photos – and because of his gentle demeanor. However, for the action etching in Denver, Mougin says she chose him because, “Money has a really beautiful muscular tone to him, and a really good mind.”Another large panel to be etched in granite at University Park captures Money’s image along with four other Salt Creek horses: Panda, Maximus Dream, Hank Styled This and Dutchess. In the photograph, all five thunder toward Mougin and her camera, aspen trees shimmering in the background.Panda is a black-and-white paint, with one brown eye and one blue eye, whose image – courtesy of Mougin – also graces the Salt Creek Ranch website. “Panda has this real serene face. It’s breathtaking, actually,” Mougin says. Hank is another handsome, charismatic stallion, and Max makes Mougin laugh, by playing and rolling around on the grass. Then there’s Dutchess, a 2,000-pound black Percheron.Mougin attributes the horses’ personalities to the magic of Salt Creek, and the Brasingtons’ love and care. “I think the horses just live in this really peaceful environment, that gives them their wonderful character,” she says.
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