As we were preparing to launch the EQUITANA USA 2021 program cover, I had the opportunity to scout just the right photographer to provide our cover image…and I could not be more thrilled that she was just as excited as I was to watch her work come to life as the cover image of the esteemed equestrian publication, EQUUS; publisher of our program. I’m beyond honored to introduce The eQuestrian community to Katie Mendl of Calico Pony! (link to: https://www.instagram.com/calicopony/ )
-Editor, The eQuestrian
How did you get started in equine and pastoral photography?
KM: I was born on a property in the Australian bush, surrounded by horses and cattle and farming, so I think it was a natural progression to photograph what I loved the most. Horses, of course, are my favourite animal, and I capture them how I feel they look their most beautiful, alone and interacting with the herd. Calico Pony (link to: https://calicopony.bigcartel.com/) was born from my time spent out with the horses, just sitting in the paddock with them, winding down with my camera in my hand. I was a new mother, and time with the horses brought the peace that I needed at a very stressful time of my life. I would just share the images that I had taken online, and people started to ask if they could purchase a print. Then I was approached by homewares stores, interior designers and magazines to feature my work, and it just took off. I was incredibly fortunate that somehow my images spoke to people in a way that was more than just a pretty horse photo.
Where does the name Calico Pony come from?
KM: Calico Pony comes from a Kenny Chesney song, Wild Child. My daughter is a true wild child, a free spirit and she has something about her that I never want tamed. The line in the song just resonated with me. My life certainly changed for the better after she came into our lives, and I never want her to lose the spirit that she has. So I kind of borrowed the name from Kenny!
Got a spirit that can't be tamed
She's a Calico pony on an open plain
I know I'll never be the same no more, for sure
Tell us more about Jimmy: who exactly is Charlemagne Ego Z?
KM: Ohhhh, Jimmy. James. Jim, Jim. Officially his name is Charlemagne EGO Z, and he is one of David Finch's incredible stallions based in Westbrook, Queensland. David runs a large breeding program here in Australia, creating and producing what I believe are Australia's best sport horses, so I was very fortunate when 6 years ago, Mr Finch said that I was welcome to come and work with his horses. I have at my fingertips a selection of Australia's finest warmblood stallions, showjumpers, mares and foals...every colour and all incredible types. A bit of a candy store for someone like me. Anyway, back to Jimmy. Jimmy is that horse in a million. He has become incredibly important to me because he isn't just a horse. He is my mate, my greatest muse, sensitive and strong yet gentle and so smart and intuitive. Yes, he is beautiful, but he is also funny and so well loved. He is living his best life in retirement now, filling up on liqorice and carrots, and attention from everyone that passes his yard. It's hard to express what this horse means to me without sounding corny, so I will just leave it at that.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
KM: I'm actually really excited for 2022. I am working on a major equestrian event here in June, working hard to lift the profile of showjuming in Australia to try and do it as successfully as you guys do in the US! I am planning a trip in September/October to visit a friend in California to go photograph some mustangs in northern california, then off to visit my family in Ocala, Florida. My mother is actually American, my Dad was an Aussie, so I really have had the greatest love for the USA for my whole life. It's my second home, really. I am working on a new collection, which is taking longer than it should!! However that's my 2022 in a nutshell. So much to look forward too!
Above all, what have horses taught you thus far about life?
KM: Horses have taught me to slow down, observe, be gentle and be patient. They have the most healing energy and to those that truly love them, they give so much. I often think they are so big and so strong, they could really hurt a human if they wanted to, but they put their trust in us, and they do what we ask of them, because they want to do it for us. Not because they have to. They have a second sense, and I think that the way they are used for therapy and healing says everything. I can't speak highly enough of the horse. I wouldn't be who I am, where I am or doing what I was put on this earth to do, if they didn't exist.