Alice Billings is a Colorado original.
The Ridgway-based "Horse Lady" is an artist, a teacher, a longtime associate of the late Hollywood cowboy (and Ridgway resident) Dennis Weaver and the matriarch of Thunder Heart Haven ranch — a woman who adores the horses, mules and donkeys for whom she served as far more than a caretaker.
Last month, in a Facebook post, she wrote, "How grateful and blessed I feel to be Mom to a family of equines."
Her deep feelings for her herd only makes what happened last night that much more startling. She was reportedly trampled by some of her mules and is currently hospitalized in unknown condition.
Billings' website, HorseLady.us, features the following home page photos and graphics....
...as well as plenty of looks at her horse-centric paintings. Here's one example....
...and one more:
Also spotlighted is a program dubbed ELLA: Equine Life Lessons and Artwork. Here's how ELLA is characterized on the site:
ELLA, Equine Life Lessons and Artwork combines equine art and experience. While “hanging out with the horses at my ranch, Thunder Heart Haven,” kids can participate in their care, learn to ride if they so desire, and paint and draw the horses in a “plein air” natural environment. It’s an “up close and personal” experience with these gentle animals. Many children simply enjoy being in the equine presence.A 2011 profile of Billings in the San Juan Silver Stage provides more details.
Horses are intelligent animals that can form strong bonds with humans. They can be soothing, comfortable companions. And they have lots to say to us — if we would just listen.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
Alice grew up in Queens, the daughter of a Bohemian artist and cartoonist who was also an art teacher. She made her first drawings and paintings working alongside him in his studio. “I was four years old,” she says. “It was from my father that I learned the importance of drawing and of understanding color.” She mastered them both. Just look at one of her paintings. To abstract a subject, you must first understand the reality of it, be able to portray it with a nearly photographic eye before you can believably distort it. “To be a good abstractionist, you have to be a good draftsman,” says Alice.
She followed in her father’s footsteps studying art (and music — Alice has a degree in both). “He was a true Gemini,” she says of her dad, conservative in some things, way out there in others.” She also emulated her mother, a school secretary, (and her principal’s right hand); for 32 years Alice served as the assistant of actor Dennis Weaver. Who made westerns and rode horses. Another equine connection. Her newest project is ELLA (stands for Equine Life Lessons and Artwork. "I teach riding to young people and incorporate drawing the horses," she explans. "Sometimes they don't ride....just 'be with the horses.' If they do ride, they learn to catch their horse, brush it and prepare it for riding.....no "Beverly Hills" bring my horse up to me, please. They do it all...and in the process learn about themselves and life."
Through it all though, teaching school, making music (Alice can play just about any kind of stringed instrument), doing photography (which she was doing when she met Dennis), then working for him so many years, Alice love affair with horses never diminished. And as time permitted, she painted. The horse remained her favorite artistic subject, although over time, her work, at first representational, became more abstract and at the same time, more emotionally connected to her subjects. “Although I think I’m coming around full circle,” she notes. “My work seems to be getting more representational.”
As for what happened yesterday, the scoop comes courtesy of 9News, Shortly after 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 13, Ridgway Marshall's Officer Lance Fitzgerald told the station, Billings was feeding her mules when "her dog suddenly jumped out of a nearby truck's back window" and started chasing them.
Billings was knocked over and stepped on several times by the spooked animals. A friend quickly gave her aid and she was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Her condition at this writing is unknown.
Look below for a video offering more information about the Horse Lady.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.