Minnesota Winters offer me many challenges as a photographer - how long can I endure the freezing temperatures? Will my camera last as long as I do? How can I use the early sunset to my advantage? The list goes on and on but you get the idea.
Finding people who are willing to work in below freezing temperatures like I do is not an easy task. Lucky for me, I met Tara and Voodoo. Tara is a strong willed woman that loves working hard just as much as she loves her horse. Voodoo is a Shire and is built for winter. This beautiful horse has had a long journey to get to where she is now. Tara and Voodoo's life together started just a few months ago, but after hearing their story, I knew others would love to hear it as well. Please enjoy Tara and Voodoo's story, told in her own words.
Voodoo came from the biggest Shire breeding farm in the United States - Fox Valley Farm in Aurora, Illinois. The owner Thomas Smart had come into a lot of money by inventing the upside down aerosol spray can.
With the millions he made, he then decided to take his love for horses and start a farm for breeding the rare Shire horse. At that time in the early 1980s, Shires were more endangered even than panda bears, with only 500 or fewer in existence, most of them in England.
Thomas Smart even opened an amusement park on the property called Shireland. Shireland had a train ride for the people taking them through the forest of mechanical dragons. Knights rode beautiful Shire horses and ran out to fight the dragons to entertain the spectators. No one really knows why Shireland was shut down after only a year and a half. In the past 10 years or so, Fox Valley began to go downhill as Thomas Smart grew older. He passed away about 3 years ago and his kids inherited the farm.
About two years ago the farm was auctioned off. The last of the 20 shire horses from the farm were just auctioned off this last September. They were mostly elderly, about 15-20 years old and in pretty poor shape. They did not seem to have been cared for very well by the Thomas Smart's children.
This brings us to beautiful Voodoo. She was one of the last 20 shires from the farm. I purchased her sight unseen from a horse dealer that had bought all 20 Shires to save them from being slaughtered.
When I picked up Voodoo on October 1st, she was in sad shape. Voodoo was basically wild - skittish and untouchable. She was VERY skinny and not eating or drinking. Voodoo had such bad teeth that she couldn't even chew her food. It was a long first two weeks with her. We had to give her IV fluids every day just to keep her hydrated. I was worried that my dream Shire horse wasn't going to live. She really seemed like she had given up on life, and I know she missed her herd that she probably lived with her whole life. There was a lot of sitting and just talking to Voodoo to try to gain her trust without being able to even touch her. She was very reluctant to trust me.
But I didn't give up on her and after many days of vet visits and lots of help from my close barn friends, Voodoo seemed to be slowly turning the corner. Eventually, she went from being a scared, sad horse to enjoying the gentle touch and talk that the people around her were giving. I don't believe that Voodoo had been ridden before. But after just three months, she is letting me trail ride her. This alone is a huge example of the trust she gained with me. She still has a little ways to go with her health and trust, but we make small improvements each day.
The moral to this story is that one should never give up on an animal no matter how bad things may seem. If they have a will to survive and are given the love they deserve, they will give you their whole heart.
Voodoo has proven this to me ten fold!! She reminds me of this every day when I see the perfect heart-shaped marking that she wears on her front leg. That is probably one of my favorite things about her.
Now that I have owned a Shire horse, I will always want to own one. Shires have the most gentle, loving dispositions of any horse I've ever known. Truly gentle giants. To this day there are still fewer than 1,500 Shires in the world. They are still endangered. Most are still found in England but thanks to some wonderful breeding farms here in the U.S., the population is slowly on the rise. These horses are truly a beautiful and majestic specimen to see.