Portrait of health

When Chaps was taken to the Equamore Foundation horse sanctuary in 2005, he was near death from a rotting, untreated wound on his side.

Now the handsome Morgan-Arabian cross gelding's portrait is being featured in a March exhibit at the Ashland Art Center to raise awareness for abused, neglected, starving and unwanted horses.

In 2005, Chaps had to have dead tissue near his flank cut away and his wound stitched and bandaged after his owner surrendered him to the horse sanctuary, located along Highway 66 between Ashland and Emigrant Lake.

"He had a wound the size of a dinner plate," said Dana Feagin, an Ashland artist who has painted seven colorful portraits of Equamore residents for the Ashland Art Center exhibit.

After months of diligent care, Chaps' wound healed and only a scar remains, she said.

Visitors to the Ashland Art Center can see Feagin's paintings, learn more about the horses, hear from Equamore representatives and enjoy cheese and wine from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday during Ashland's First Friday Art Walk.

First Friday coincides with National Horse Protection Day.

The art center is downtown at 357 E. Main St. The exhibit will continue through March 31.

Feagin, who left a fast-paced job as a drug and medical device development consultant to move to Ashland in 2006, has devoted herself to painting animals and finding ways to help creatures in need.

She and her husband walk shelter dogs each Saturday, and Feagin has created paintings to benefit Sanctuary One, a Jacksonville sanctuary for farm animals.

She donates 10 percent of sales to animal causes.

Feagin said she wasn't planning to get involved with the Equamore Foundation when she visited the horse sanctuary with a friend to take photos of horses to use in her paintings.

She hadn't heard about the horse sanctuary before and was surprised to learn it provides care for more than 40 rescued horses plus several boarded horses.

"More people need to know about Equamore," Feagin said.

Painting Equamore horses was a natural step for Feagin, who often paints shelter dogs and rescued farm animals.

She will donate 10 percent of sales from the horse paintings to support horse rescue and care at Equamore.

Feagin said she learned about the personalities of the horses at the sanctuary and heard their often-troubling rescue stories.

Kizzy, a quarter horse mare whose portrait will be in the art center exhibit, was seen as useless because her bowed legs could not support the weight of a rider and saddle.

She arrived at the sanctuary malnourished and in need of serious dental care, but is now fully retired and enjoying the company of her pasture-mates, Feagin said.

Bojingles, an Arabian cross mare, was suffering from laminitis and was lonely in her field after her horse companion was rescued by Equamore. She was later reunited with her companion when she came to live at the sanctuary, Feagin said.

"She just looked stunning when I took her picture. I had to paint her," Feagin said of the white mare, which she painted against a sky blue background.

Feagin, who also does commissioned pet portraits, is known for her close-cropped paintings of animal faces. She often includes bright background colors or patterns, such as polka dots, and chooses unusual angles from which to view her subjects.

While the Equamore Foundation may have a serious mission, Feagin said she gets joy out of being with animals, learning about their quirks and capturing their personalities in paintings.

"Animals make me laugh," she said. "I hope people smile when they see them."

For more information about Feagin and her art, visit inspiredpetportraits.com.

For more information about the Equamore Foundation, including details about its Buy-A-Bale donation program, visit www.equamore.org/equamore-horse-sanctuary/.

The Ashland Art Center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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