2024 Calendar Cover Photo Story

2024 Calendar Cover Photo Story

Samantha Dawn, a passionate equestrian and dedicated equine photographer, spends most of her year traversing the United States in pursuit of capturing the beauty of horses. When she’s not on the road, she enjoys precious moments with her husband, dogs, and horses.

Samantha’s love for horses has been a lifelong affair, dating back to her earliest memories. From riding her family’s horses and engaging in barrel racing, breed shows, and working with cattle, to taking roping lessons, she has accumulated a deep understanding of horses, both on and off the saddle. This profound connection with horses grants her a unique advantage in photographing them, allowing her to capture their essence and movement with precision.

Samantha’s journey as an equine photographer began when she stumbled upon a photo of the illustrious “RA Santiago” by the talented Suzanne, who was associated with Rothrock Andalusians. This encounter ignited her passion for Iberian horses and drove her ambition to become an equine photographer.

Born and raised in Central Missouri, Samantha initially focused on photographing quarter horses, barrel races, rodeos, weddings, and couples. However, she faced challenges in her quest to connect with Iberian and Friesian horses, which she held in great affection. Undeterred, she started at the grassroots level and worked her way up, with Gypsy Vanner horses becoming an early subject of her lens.

Her attraction to Iberian horses lies in their fire, boldness, and unwavering loyalty to their human companions, characteristics that inspire her and fill her with a sense of wonder. Samantha considers herself fortunate to be in the company of these “horses of kings” and to have the opportunity to capture their souls through her photographs. Her mission is to shine a light on the power, strength, heart, and soul of these extraordinary creatures, bearing witness to the enchantment horses have held over humanity throughout history. Samantha aims to convey the profound connection between horses and various art forms, including photography, drawing from her deep-rooted love for these majestic animals.

Samantha’s work has been prominently featured in both national and international magazines. Her images have graced the covers and pages of publications such as “The Vanner” (USA), “Kentaur” (Sweden), “The Sidelines Magazine” (USA), “RidSport” (Sweden), “Snap’d Magazine” (USA), “The Gypsy Breed Connection” (USA), “The Welsh Review” (USA), and “TGCA” (UK), among others.

For Samantha, realizing her dream of collaborating with an association has been a goal she’s pursued for several years. Becoming a photography partner with the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA) has fulfilled her aspirations. Breeders and owners of these remarkable horses have come to appreciate Samantha’s dedication to showcasing horses as both art and valuable promotional subjects for their stock. Samantha has dedicated years to working closely with Spanish and Portuguese horses and is thrilled to contribute her expertise to an association that passionately supports them.

Samantha’s journey takes her across the United States year-round, often booking appointments three to six months in advance. She also embraces international opportunities and welcomes new clients from around the world. Visit her website at www.samanthadawnequinephoto.com.

El Picaron, the horse featured in the cover image is owned by Gina LaMontana.

“Meeting Gina and her horses in the fall of 2022 was probably one of the things in my career that I am most grateful for. It’s always a pleasure when I meet clients who value my art and who truly love their horses. Picaron is a solid black Andalusian stallion and he knows the camera is on him. Any chance I get to photograph Gina’s horses is an opportunity that I never take for granted. Her horses serve as a huge inspiration for me.” 

– Samantha Dawn

Since the age of 5, Gina’s profound love for horses has been a driving force in her life, leading her to care for and own various breeds over the years. Her childhood on a farm in Monee, Illinois exposed her to a wide array of horse breeds. For some time, her heart belonged to Arabians until November 2020, when a chance visit to Grant Park, Illinois, introduced her to a remarkable horse training facility, Rancho La Curva.

At the ranch, Gina’s attention was captured by a black Andalusian named El Picaron, a breed she had never seen before. It was an unexpected discovery, as black Andalusians make up less than 5% of the population. What struck her most was Picaron’s calm and gentle demeanor, particularly for a young stallion, and his eyes, which conveyed a profound sense of melancholy. Gina knew that Picaron had to become a part of her life, and after a few weeks of negotiation, he became her beloved “heart horse.”

Picaron, born at Rancho El Mezquite in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in June 2016, was originally owned by Rod Sos. His sire, the ANCCE-registered PRE, Ald Dean, was imported from Spain to California in 2013 to begin his breeding career, eventually finding his way to Aguascalientes, Mexico. Ald Dean passes on his remarkable temperament and athleticism to his offspring. In April 2022, Gina purchased Ald Dean and brought him back to the United States for a well-deserved retirement.

Gina proudly shares “Picaron has been competing and performing for four years, displaying his love for what he does with grace and confidence. He is renowned for his Piaffe, Spanish walk, and passage, and continues to receive training three to four days a week to stay in optimal condition.” Gina also acknowledges the critical role of Fili Rodriguez, who has been Picaron’s trainer since she acquired him three years ago.

Picaron and Fili have formed an extraordinary partnership, illustrating that having a good horse is only half the equation; the trainer plays an equally crucial role. The trust and connection between Picaron and Fili enable them to consistently perform at their best, showcasing their exceptional synergy in the world of equestrian excellence.

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