By Lauren R. Giannini
For Shya Beth, who turns 15 next May, life on the farm in Sussex County, New Jersey, is just about perfect. She has ducks, chickens, geese, alpacas, cats, one donkey, a pony and two horses. Best of all, Shya and her mother, Mary Beth, share their passion for art and horses.
“I have a huge sculpture project going on right now — my “Blue Jean Horse Project.” I’m planning to make a dozen of them, life-sized: “Jumper,” “Mustang,” “Polo,” “Racehorse,” “Reining,” “Dressage,” various breeds and mythological horses as well,” said Shya. “I’ve been collecting denim, sewing pieces together, making the frames out of chicken wire and wood. I want to have them signed by riders and trainers. My goal, after they’re displayed at various shows across the country, is to have them displayed together. That’s in the future.”
Shya’s plans include setting up a special website for the “Blue Jean Horse Project.” “I’m going to raise funds for going to the shows by selling small and large versions of the Blue Jean horses as well as horse heads,” she said. “I plan to make a documentary film about each horse in the ‘Blue Jean Horse Project.’ After the horses have been on display at as many shows as possible, I want to auction them off to benefit horse-related charities.”
She’s enterprising — full of energy, ideas and doing. On May 30, 2014, she launched a blog, The Flying Shetlands, to showcase equine art and artists around the world. In May 2015, she created #EquineArtHour, a Twitter group for equine artists and horse art enthusiasts. To focus on Blue Jean horses, Shya put #EquineArtHour on ‘holiday’; when it starts up again, it will meet as usual on Sunday, 4 to 5 p.m. EST.
Horses & Art in Her Genes
Shya began riding before she could walk. She drives her Shetland Pony, Patchie, and trail rides Belle, her Haflinger. Matt Dillon, the off-the-track Thoroughbred she acquired a year ago, is in training with Shya and her mom to be a jumper.
Shya can’t remember a time when she didn’t love to draw and sculpt. She also loves to do calligraphy. Her passion for art is understandable, given that her mother’s an equine stained glass artist. Shya loves going to museums and admits she’s extremely partial to the works of contemporary French sculptor Saône de Stalh, and paintings by two British legends, George Stubbs and Sir Alfred Munnings. “My favorite medium is sculpture — the bigger, the better,” said Shya. Several years ago, she fashioned a decorated carousel horse from a spring-mounted ride-on toy. In 2014, she created “Fleur,” a three-dimensional jumping horse, 6 feet 10 inches by 8 feet 10 inches, inspired by her young OTTB, made with hundreds of flowers crafted by hand, recycled printing paper, bamboo, wood and chicken wire. “Fleur” went on display at the Centenary College Equestrian Center.
Next on Her List
“I’d love Scott Brash to sign my ‘Blue Jean Jumper,’” said Shya. “We watched him win the Rolex Grand Slam at Spruce Meadows. Some day I’d love to go to Spruce Meadows. I’d like to have my ‘Blue Jean Jumper’ documentary film finished in time for the Equus Film Festival in New York City in November 2016.”
Busy doesn’t worry Shya one bit. Homeschooled by her mother, this young artist-equestrian shares lessons that spill over from riding and training into art and life.
“Try and try again, keep going and see what works,” said Shya, “and learn from whatever doesn’t work!”
For more information, visit TheFlyingShetlands.wordpress.com