A soft muzzle and big cheeks, a wrinkly mouth and doe eyes. These are the things artist Liz Weyer notices about her equine models.
Based in Lexington, Kentucky, 47-year-old Weyer was born into the horse life. With a father who worked for the Racing Commission and her mother positioned at the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association of New Jersey, Weyer grew up surrounded by the old storied horse farms of Colts Neck, New Jersey.
“It was just stunning. Very similar to the Kentucky scenery I was later drawn to,” Weyer tells. “I couldn’t ever get enough of the horses.”
When a little Welsh pony greeted Weyer on Christmas morning when she was 7, her riding began in earnest. “My dad taught me to ride – he made sure I knew all the basics. And, of course, with the influence of the track, he would bring home horses that needed to rest. I was being thrown up on the Thoroughbreds by the time I was 8 or 9,” she describes.
The degree of Weyer’s simpatico with horses was evident early on. A free spirit with a devil-may-care attitude, she could often be found jumping anything that could be jumped, and sometimes bareback. These early memories shaping her other gift – art.
A Family Tradition
As she began to grow to understand her equine subjects, Weyer’s artistic vein emerged.
With a grandmother and a father who were both artistic, it came almost naturally. Her first oil painting was a portrait of a dog when she was only 12. “My father really encouraged me in my art, and I kept at it. Every horse I meet, I’m in awe of. Even the beat up and broken down – every single one has a story, and I can see that story when I study them,” she attests.
Weyer has donned many hats. She’s been a business owner, consultant, night watchman, groom, and hot walker – just to name a few. But the one constant has always been the horses. For Weyer, life behind the track was hard, but also inspiring. “I hot walked some amazing Thoroughbreds, and was able to experience a facet of the racing industry most do not see. The pre dawn sky, the moon, the stars, all the dialects from the other track workers– it was surreal,” she tells.
After owning her own picture framing business for 20 years and painting when time allowed, Weyer decided she wanted to truly focus on her art instead of just doing commissions on the side.
My (New) Kentucky Home
“I thought to myself, ‘I want to go somewhere where I can be surrounded by horses and this is the place,’” Weyer states of Lexington. But, the trip down south wasn’t without a few mishaps.
With her whole life packed in a U-Haul truck, Weyer made the bold step to change her life’s direction. “My horses had shipped down first, and I had the truck packed perfectly in order – business, home, and barn.” Except, her truck wouldn’t go in gear, and panicking as she coasted out of control “All I could think was that I’d got the dang thing overloaded!” With her belongings spread out in a parking lot, her trip certainly wasn’t without a few bumps, but Weyer was finally greeted with the rolling Kentucky hills and fields of horses; and she’s since become part of the culture.
“I had a list of things I wanted to do when I arrived in horse country: deliver a foal, drive a tractor, watch as many horse shows as I could, and I’ve been able to do it,” she says. A triumphant spirit with a warm smile, Weyer answers when opportunities beckon.
It’s the Little Things
Three years ago and after just getting settled into her new life in Kentucky, Weyer received the unexpected news that she had cancer. “It was completely a shock. I was mucking out stalls a day before, the next day hospitalized,” she describes. Now, one year in remission, Weyer hopes to use art to encourage and comfort others with the disease.
Drawing inspiration from the gleam in a pony’s eye or the tucked knees of a jumper, Weyer loves to watch people and their horses. The tiny girl in her that fell in love with horses comes out whenever she attends a show. “For me, my favorite part is definitely the little girls and their ponies. To see those braided pigtails and ribbons – oh it’s just the best,” she says with a sigh and a smile. For Weyer, horses certainly haven’t lost their magic. With pencil and paper, sketches come to life.
And just as Weyer is able to capture the essence of her subject matter, she, in turn, is captivated by the symbiosis of the horse and rider.
When she watches the rounds, she can feel the motion. “My final frontier is to jump 4’ again. It’s my dream. I feel like it would all come back,” she says with almost a whisper.
Weyer has definitely taken the path less traveled. A journey that has always been about horses, it’s a trip she cherishes, laughs at, and sometimes second-guesses. But with a gift for spotting the innate beauty in all facets of life, her work revels in the discovery.
-By Katie Shoultz