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Picture perfect

Connie Steiert
Vail, CO, Colorado
EVE Salt Creek Ranch 2 DT 5-4-07
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Money is a beautiful Palomino stallion, with a wheat-colored mane and a sweet, gentle disposition.

The nine-year-old quarter horse spends his days leisurely grazing green pastures, or rollicking with his pals ” horses with names like Ricky and Sugar Bar McCue on Peggy and Mitch Brasingtons’ Salt Creek Ranch on Brush Creek.

To the Brasingtons, Money is a favorite trail and roping horse. To renowned photographic portrait artist, Pamela Mougin, he is a favorite model.

Mougin has captured a heart-stirring image of Money, mane flying, hooves kicking up dust, racing carefree and happy against a stunning backdrop of Rocky Mountain hills and Western skies. That image will soon grace the outside of the Wells Fargo Bank Building in the new, 289,000-square-foot University Park Development in Denver, at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Evans.

The 16-foot-by-18-foot image, which will be laser-etched in granite, is a fitting choice for the bank building in many ways. The property contains an old trail, where, no doubt, horses once traveled with regularity. Horses are also featured prominently in the Wells Fargo logo. It is was only a serendipitous coincidence that the horse Mougin picked for her prime model is named “Money.”

Mougin has been commissioned to complete five etchings for the four-building, commercial complex, as well as interior ceramic tiles. “Money” will be the first. All will feature horses, including Money’s companions at Salt Creek Ranch.

When Mougin, whose office is in Denver, but whose work can be found across the country and beyond, was looking for the perfect location to shoot for the Denver project, her father, a mountain-dweller himself, recommended Salt Creek Ranch. Located at the end of Salt Creek Road, the ranch is cradled in an idyllic mountain valley, overshadowed by dramatic peaks.

Mougin arrived last fall, set up a studio at the ranch. The Brasingtons’ horses became a centerpiece to her new horse series.

The Brasingtons breed, raise and sell registered horses with proven bloodlines, mostly paints and quarter horses.

“We like them colored up so they’re pretty and unique,” Peggy said.

One of their horses, Peaches, is a descendant of the legendary race horse, Seabiscuit. Mitch saved the injured horse from being put down, only later learning about her stellar ancestry. Peaches is not for sale.

Today, they have roughly 50 horses on their 200-acre property, but typically raise anywhere from 40 to 70 horses.

“We breed performances horses,” Peggy said. Horses that can jump, rope, show; horses with discipline and endurance and good temperaments. “The ultimate goal is to produce excellent all-around performance horses for family horses. Not halter horses.”

The Brasingtons send their horses to professional trainer, Daniel Harris, before they are sold. The Brasingtons also complete follow-up training, riding the horses on trails and exposing them to roping and cattle.

The horses are mostly left to roam and graze through a series of pastures. “We try to raise them in a natural environment,” Peggy said, who takes a hands-on approach to training. Her affection for her equine charges is obvious.

“We don’t feed them apples or oranges. It teaches them to bite,” she acknowledges. Instead, she and her hands give all the horses lots of attention. “Their treat is love,” she says affectionately rubbing a horse’s nose. And it is obvious by the way they trot to greet her, and do her bidding, that they adore her. Indeed, it was Peggy who was able to get her horses to cooperate for Mougin’s photo shoot.

Peggy has owned horses all her life; but husband, Mitch, is new to the horse way of life. But you’d never know it.

“My husband is the adventurous person,” Peggy said.

Mitch grew up in South Carolina, with little money left over to ride, let alone own horses. Later in life, he came to Colorado to golf and ski.

So why did Mitch delve head over heels into the horse business, if he’d never been around them before? “Because I’m madly infatuated with my wife,” he answers, “It’s her passion taking care of horses … I grew to love it.”

The Brasingtons, who have been valley residents for years, formerly lived in a townhome in Beaver Creek. It was a second home to their West Coast residence, where Peggy also had horses. They purchased the Salt Creek property in 1993, falling in love with the sheer, quiet beauty of the place. Since that time, they have built the impressive horse breeding facility, as well as two homes.

The huge barn, which Mitch designed with Ted Vaughn, features a one-acre riding arena and 30 indoor stalls, and took nearly four years to complete. The property also holds a mare barn and an outdoor arena.

“It’s fun,” Mitch said. “It gets you in touch with the indigenous charm Colorado is known for.”

When Mitch voiced a desire to learn roping, a cowboy friend, Frank Hough, helped to design a roping arena.

Mitch took up roping with a passion. A friend helped him obtain a good roping horse. When Mitch climbed on its back, he asked his friend, ‘What do I do next?” His friend replied, “I think you have to learn to ride.”

So he did. And now Mitch ropes and competes recreationally, although he admits to being an “absolute novice” compared to the friends he ropes with.

Peggy’s passion for horses shows through in many ways. When she heard about nine eastern Colorado horses who where starving to death, including a mare and her baby, Mitch ran out on immediately and bought a bale of hay for them. Peggy took them home, nursed them back to health and adopted them out to good families. One of them, “Long Shot,” now six months old, lives at 4 Eagle Ranch.

When Mougin arrived at the Brasingtons’ Salt Creek Ranch, she quickly identified her favorite models. Peggy helped point out which horses would be suitable for specific shots; but Mougin was captured by each one’s personality.

Money is from one of Colorado’s legendary Wiescamp bloodlines. His image, in a far more tranquil demeanor, also enlivens the renovated 1902 historic, 250-room West Baden Springs Hotel in Orange County, Ind. Money was chosen for that series of whimsical western pictures because his blond mane perfectly matched the hair of the little boy trying to ride him in the photos ” and because of his gentle demeanor. However, for the action etching in Denver, Mougin says she chose him because,

“Money has a really beautiful muscular tone to him, and a really good mind “

In another large panel to be etched in granite at University Park, Money’s image is captured along with four other Salt Creek horses: Panda, Maximus Dream, Hank Styled This and Dutchess. In the photograph, all five thunder toward Mougin and her camera, aspens shimmering in the background.

Panda is a black-and-white paint, with one brown eye and one blue eye, whose image ” courtesy of Mougin “is also featured on the Salt Creek Ranch website.

“Panda has this real serene face. It’s breathtaking, actually,” says Mougin. Hank is another handsome, charismatic stallion, and Max makes Mougin laugh, by playing and rolling around on the grass. Then there’s Dutchess, a 2,000-pound black percheron.

Mougin attributes the horses’ infectious personalities to the magic of Salt Creek, and the Brasingtons’ love and care. “I think the horses just live in this really peaceful environment, that gives them their wonderful character,” she said.

This story appeared first in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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