Lisa Miller, who has created a non-profit venture called “The Foal Project,” deserves some recognition for her painstaking efforts to document a series of Thoroughbred births in a beautiful, yet informative manner.
Miller, who didn’t know much about the Thoroughbred industry when she photographed her first Thoroughbred foaling, immersed herself in the process for months, and the result is a traveling gallery show to raise awareness and funding for Equine Assisted Therapies. In fact, The Foal Project is being displayed at Cross Gate Gallery in Lexington until October 8, so if you live in the area, you should check it out!
I have been corresponding with Miller via email, and she graciously agreed to answer some questions for me about her project. Let me know your thoughts!
EM: How did you come up with the idea for The Foal Project?
LM: It just came to me after I had photographed my first Thoroughbred foaling. I was looking at the images from the night before and there were two or three that were just so amazing…that energetic moment when the mare and foal first connect. I knew when I saw those images that this was something special that I had captured and I knew I needed to do something meaningful with it. I had no idea when that thought crossed my mind, just what energy it had and what I was about to create.
EM: What have you discovered since you launched the project and what has surprised you about your experience?
LM: The most interesting thing that I discovered was how easily the doors all opened for me. I followed my intuition, that this was something special that I had stumbled upon, and the more the idea turned in my head the more things fell into place.
Within a short period of time I had lined up a New York breeder (Dr. Bilinski of Waldorf Farm) who gave me access to his staff and foaling facilities based on my idea. He had blind faith in what I was going to create and allowed me to be present for as many foalings as I could get to. The next thing I knew, I had a non -profit, a donor advised fund, and a wonderful board of directors from the Saratoga area who have been instrumental in making connections and getting the word out about this project. Everyone just seems to embrace this with open arms and very open hearts.
EM: Why did you choose Equine Assisted Therapeutic Riding Centers as the beneficiary of this project?
LM: When this first came about, I spoke to a lot of people involved with horses, trying to determine who could benefit from the money I knew I could raise with this project. I learned about Therapeutic Riding Centers and how they help children with disabilities, as well as veterans with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, through horse-related activities and therapies. I've always been an advocate for children, but I also wanted to do something in honor of my parents, both of whom are veterans (USAF). Therapeutic Riding Centers, or any type of equine assisted therapy, seemed to be the perfect fit. So basically, anything to do with horses helping people.
EM: Tell me about your current gallery at Cross Gate Gallery in Lexington and everything it entails.
LM: I am thrilled that Cross Gate Gallery in Lexington is hosting the first Kentucky based showing of the Foal Project. All twelve of the images, infused on aluminum, will be available for the public to view (and of course purchase) from Sept. 12-Oct. 8. I will be in town on Wednesday, Oct. 5 for the artist's reception. 100% of the net proceeds from any sales will go into the donor advised fund, which will then get directed to Equine Assisted Therapies.
These prints on display are 40x60 in size and appear almost three dimensional, like you are in the stall witnessing this moment of connection. These are limited edition prints and only 10 will be produced in each of the 12 images. There is also a smaller size that will be available, 20 x 30, once again limited production of 25 per image.
After the Cross Gate Gallery show, the Foal Project will go to the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum, in Aiken, S.C. That show, opening Oct. 15, will directly benefit the STAR therapeutic riding center located in Aiken. From there, I am working on getting a display of the images set up at Churchill Downs for the Breeders Cup, and then mid November it will be on display at the PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) convention in Lexington.
EM: What are your goals for the future of this project and why do you feel like it’s so important?
LM: There will be more foalings photographed this next season (Jan-April 2012) with a new group of images coming out next year to replace the images that will be retired. The second phase of this project is the documentation through photography of the human/horse connection. That's what makes this all so special. I capture the mare/foal connection, and the proceeds go out to these centers that understand and embrace the human/horse connection and all of the benefits that go along with it.
It is amazing to see a disabled child being wheeled up to their horse and watch as that horse turns and looks at the child. Or to witness an abused child receive the benefit of just being around these magnificent creatures. I have already begun this part of the documentation, and all I can say is each time I go to one of these centers, I am reassured that I'm doing the right thing with the Foal Project. There is so much for people to learn about these types of therapies and how they are benefiting so many people of all ages with all kinds of physical and emotional disabilities. I'm not sure what will be done with these images, possibly a book, either way, I'm following my intuition that this is something that I'm supposed to do.
In the future, I would like the Foal Project to be on display at as many galleries as possible, as well as at the major Thoroughbred events. It's the perfect fit for the Breeders Cup, but also for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and other major races. The more it's out there the more people can see and feel this connection and hopefully understand the relationship and benefit of Equine Assisted Therapies.
EM: Tell me about the book and text book you are working on.
LM: Well, the book is actually on the back burner for now. But just think of the catalog of medical images I have from photographing so many foaling--images of the broodmare the hours before the foaling, the water breaking, the actual birth process, the moments of connection, and then the foal standing and nursing. I've photographed 13 foalings so far, and in another six months that number will be much higher. A book just seems inevitable, but no timeline yet.
EM: At which farms have you photographed foalings?
LM: Most were photographed at Waldorf Farms in N. Chatham, N.Y. It's an hour and a half from my home and I was driving back and forth during the worst part of the winter. I missed a lot of foalings, I had to sleep in the barn a lot, I lived out of my car... it was crazy. But it was so worth it and I would do it again (and I will). I'm actually looking for other farms that would like to be a part of this project for next year, but I'm sure I'll be back at Waldorf !
EM: Anything else to add about the project?
LM: To date, we have raised more than $40,000 in a very short period of time! We are all so very excited about having the show in Lexington, especially at the prestigious Cross Gate Gallery. It's an honor for me personally.
EM: Thanks for sharing, Lisa! I plan on heading over to Cross Gate Gallery very soon to check out your work.
For more information about The Foal Project, visit www.thefoalproject.org