Bringing Joy, Healing, and Support to The Community
by Kim Roe
The magnificent Friesian horse with his long mane and tail, all-black coat, arching neck, and feathered feet brings a sense of awe and wonder to anyone who sees him. When you put a group of Friesians together, with costumed riders and detailed choreography, you create living art that moves the hearts of many.
In Ridgefield, Washington there is a group of avid and talented riders with artistic focus and generous natures who’ve created and participate in the BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe.
It began when a few riders were recruited by Susan Dyer, the founder of Featherdance equine entertainment. This group then formed the BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe and got their 501(c)(3) status a few years later (July 2012). Several of those core members are still very active in the group including Meg Brinton DVM, Rachel Lusby, Lauren Burrell, Mystie Munsey, Jessica Wisdom, Deb Hunt, and Tyler Castle. Another core member, Susan McIntosh, was also instrumental in the formation of the group. Susan’s magnificent Friesian stallion, Ruben, has been a crowd favorite for years. Another member is Lukas Bardue, a trick trainer. Bardue rode with the Arabian Nights in Florida in his youth.
The members are a strong and diverse group of professional women (and a few men). Meg Brinton is a veterinarian, Karen Ringquist is a CPA, Rachel Lusby is a fish tank expert, Erica Hurley is a police lieutenant, and Rebekah Larimer and Jessica Wisdom are horse trainers.
The BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe performs at the NW Horse Fair and Expo and the Washington State Horse Expo almost every year. This year they performed at the Washington County Fair in Hillsboro as well.
The mission of BlackPearl is to serve the community, bringing warmth, healing, and joy to people and horses through equine performance art, and to use their talents to contribute to local charities.
They have benefited a diverse group of charities including other equine groups with fundraisers. “We love to perform at charity events that benefit horse-related missions,” says Dr. Brinton.
Some of the charities they’ve supported include Forward Stride, HART, Silver Buckle, National Night Out, and veteran’s events. They donate fantasy photo shoots to Clark County Executive Horse Council, Adopt-a-Horse, and the Southwest Washington Humane Society as fundraisers. People are treated to full costuming, makeup and photos with the horses. The troupe has a great relationship with photographers Dotty Weber, Karen McClymonds, Mary Furness and Dee Dee Murry.
Meg Brinton DVM is one of the original performing members and is also the president of the board. Dr. Brinton’s Friesian gelding, Jupiter, is a cornerstone of the troupe and is known for his gentle nature as well as his impressive good looks.
“Friesians are not always the easiest horses to ride but they have a unique ability to reach out and touch people deeply, even non-horse people,” says Brinton. “This is where a big part of our joy is found — sharing these amazing horses with the public and seeing those shining eyes filled with wonder. People often find themselves crying during a performance and I think it’s because of this almost primal connection we feel to the horse.”
“The horses come first, of course, and horsemanship is always at the top of our priority list,” Dr. Brinton stressed.
Dr. Brinton’s Ridgefield Equine Clinic is home to the majority of the BlackPearl’s practices. The horses are all individually owned except for Doekle, who is a Friesian gelding that was generously donated by Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Sturbaum.
BlackPearl is always bringing along new horses and riders; in the last year, they’ve had a wonderful infusion of new, young blood. Most of these newbies have ground-crew roles as they learn the ropes, but their goal is to eventually become performers.
One of the members who exemplifies not only their mission but the healing power of horses is Peyton Burnett. Peyton is a “Mini-Pearl” and associate member. Peyton was born with a disability that freezes her joints at odd angles. She walks with braces or uses a wheelchair.
Peyton met the members of the BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe in March of 2012, meeting the horses after the performance. When she met Jupiter, he put his head in her lap and they’ve been good friends ever since. This is what it’s all about.