"I have never really known which came first: my love of art or my love
of horses. From early childhood I was completely captivated by the
beauty and grace of the horse. I was obsessed with horses as many
little girls are. I attempted to capture that passion on paper and in
sculpture whenever I had a chance. The idea of capturing the beauty,
power and spirit of each unique creature never tires for me. That is why
I enjoy doing portraits. I like the challenge to portray the spark, the
essence that makes that individual. My goal is to recreate for you
your horse as you see him and feel him. What more can any
artist strive to do."
I have ridden and drawn horses all of my life. My uncle was one of the first breeders of registered
Palominos in Texas. I remember riding his horses as a very small child and the joy it gave me.
I never got over it.
I was raised a "city kid" in Houston, Texas, but my
heart was always in the country. I never owned a horse
as a child but somehow over the years I managed to have
horses to take care of and ride.
After high school, I was fortunate enough to be accepted
to the University of Texas at Austin where I received a
Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1969.
Olva at age 1 year on her uncle's Palomino mare, Bonita Mia
being assisted by her father at the family farm in Bay City, TX
In 1970 I returned to Houston where I worked in advertising art, designing logos, brochures
and display advertising for oil companies and banks and other industrial companies
in the Houston area. My heart was always with horses. I started taking hunt seat lessons
and learning to jump, first at Edgepark Stables from Charles Zimmerman and later at
For many years I had been enamored with all things British.
In 1975, in a fit of romantic impulse I sold all my belongings (including
my precious MGB) and moved to London. (What was the real reason
Olva moved to England? Have you heard of Dorothy Dunnett?
Learn more here.)
It was the experience of a lifetime. I rode horses and got hired as
the Art Director of a Blood Stock (racing) magazine called
Stud & Stable. Their office was in Ascot and it became my job to
re-design the appearance of the magazine and later to go to
the races, take pictures and report. I learned a lot about journalism
and photography, England and the English. But I could not get a
"green card" so I finally returned to Texas inspired and tested.
STUD & STABLE MAGAZINE
Back in Texas, I started creating logos and advertising for local stables
and equine organizations, such as the Area V USCTA Adult Team (event logo),
the Houston Dressage Society (enhanced logo), the Greater Houston Horse
Council, Windy Knoll Farm show, Pine Hill Farm's original logo and more.
CLICK HERE to see more of my logo designs.
In 1977 I acquired my first registered horse, an Appendix
Quarter Horse named "Heza Splash", bred in Louisiana for
the race track. He was a 3-year-old and 3 months gelded.
We all know the story of "green horse/green rider". Splash and I
were the epitomy.
It is a long story but we finally got it together. I renamed him
"Calaveras County" after the Mark Twain story. With the help
of a number of very skilled and patient trainers (Terri Beck,
Kevin Cleveland, Keith Merifield and Teri Bludworth to name
a few) we went to a lot of shows and won a lot of ribbons.
Olva and Calaveras County, aka: "Splash"
showing in Adult Hunter Division
This was the 1970s. As I became more involved in the equine community I realized
"the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing"; there was no communication
between the activities and no way of knowing what was going on right around the corner.
(There was no Horse Gazette, no Lone Star Horse Report, no Southwest Horse Trader in Texas.)
In 1980, I took on the job of communicator and started a magazine
called The Horse Sheet. It was the last word, no the "only word", on
hunter/jumper, dressage & combined training events, shows, and
clinics in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana & New Mexico.
I published The Horse Sheet for 6 years from 1980-1986 as fulltime
editor, photographer and journalist following Texans to horse shows
from Arizona to Florida. But bad times in the "oil patch" were coming.
In 1986 I was forced to seek bankruptcy along with a number of my
advertisers and many other unfortunate Texans. (You think 2009
was bad!) It was another learning experience; I learned a lot about
photography and journalism and the horse show scene.
In 1980, I also started The Stable Farm & Trainer Directory which I later re-named the
Texas Horseman's Directory, that I still publish online. 2010 marked its 30th Anniversary.
You can find the Texas Horseman's Directory online at: www.texashorsemansdirectory.com.
I carried on for a while as a freelance photo/journalist writing articles and reporting on horse
shows and events for The Chronicle of the Horse, Dressage & CT, Horseman, HorsePlay, The Horse Digest and Horse Illustrated.
In 1986 the first titled Olympic Festival was held in Houston with the equestrian events at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center, Katy. My report was published by The Horse Digest.
In 1987 I became Assistant Editor of Horseman Magazine. It was the second largest horse
magazine in the U.S. It was published in Houston, Texas, by Scripps Howard Publishing Co.
along with a number of sport oriented publications. I reported on the top Quarter Horses in
Texas. Got to cover the Quarter Horse Congress and do three (3) really nice cover photo shoots.
When Scripps sold the magazine and a new editor took over I decided it was time to go.
After that I took a hard look at my life. I decided I had forgotten to have kids. It took a few
years but on 28 December, 1989, Alexander William Pharo was born. My beloved horse,
Calaveras County, died 6 weeks earlier. I was now horseless and in semi-retirement as a
One day in 1993, I sat down to see if I could still draw. I had been attending a few horse
shows just taking photographs. Using one photograph as inspiration, I created a pencil
drawing of an idealized Grand Prix dressage horse. Using a framed print of this drawing as
an award, I created the "Calaveras County Adult Amateur High Point Award" to be presented to
the Houston Dressage Society adult amateur member competitor at the annual Houston
Dressage Society Spring Show.
How it all began:
The following year I used a another framed print for the 1994 Calaveras County Adult
Amateur High Point Award but this time the drawing was an actual portrait of a particular horse
still in competition. A competitor walked up to the drawing and said, "Is that Adelssohn?"
They had recognized the horse from the drawing, the Trakehner Stallion, Adelssohn, owned by
Hans Jurgen Boone. Then she asked,
"Can you draw my horse?" My dear friend, Betty Chesnin Freideau spoke up, "Yes, she can!"
And that's how "Equestrian Portraits by Olva Stewart Pharo" was born. The idealized Grand
Prix horse drawing, "A Kind Eye", became my logo.
In 1997 I was asked by THJA if I would create a drawing
for the USET. The new USET President was a Texan and
a King Ranch relation to boot. They wanted me to draw a
picture of the King Ranch main house in the center with
representatives of the 5 major Olympic eauestrian events.
I became the Official Artist for the United States Equestrian
Team Texas Endowment Campaign, "A Very Special
Evening at the King Ranch," graphite pencil drawing,
18" x 24", auctioned at this gala fund raiser at the King Ranch
in Kingsville. It was purchased by a member of the King Ranch family and resides at the ranch.
It was an amazing opportunity to be inside the King Ranch main house. I was asked to set up
my art in the dining room. Around the walls were official B&W race photographs of their famous
race horse, Assault, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. In the center
of the dining table sat the Triple Crown Trophy, the most coveted trophy in all racing. Made me
proud to be a Texan.
Over 200 individual commissioned pencil portraits later, I renewed my passion for sculpture
by returning to bronze casting in 1999. (In 1968, at the University of Texas, I was one of two
students to build a foundry and cast a bronze under the guidance of Ishmael Soto. We were
the first UT@Austin students to work in bronze in over 25 years.) Today I offer sculptural
portraits of horses, dogs, cats and their owners/riders in bronze. (See examples of sculptural
portraits and limited editions in bronze and resin.)
In 2001, inspired by the "Cow Parade" I started Horses of a Different Color" giving new life
to old Breyer Horses by painting and reshaping them to new and various designs.
I have gone farther with them now creating "Exotic Horses" with Ancient Egyptian,
Assyrian and Ancient Greek themes. I even offer custom portraits on Breyer Horses.
Portraits are aways my main area of concentration. Making a portrait of a beloved pet, be it
horse, dog, or cat, is very rewarding. The pleased and happy look on the face of a client or
the kind words in an email or letter make the challenge all worth while.
In 2005 work truly took off for me. I was gratified and overwhelmed by your commissions and
your attraction to my art. So was my immune system. In May of 2006 I came down with
Shingles and have been playing "catch-up" ever since. Shingles put me flat on my back for
6 months and took my energy away.
In 2008, Melanie Pai of Canaan Ranch,
(when still in Fulshear, TX) asked me to create
a pair of trophies for her to present to
Dressage At Devon for the "Born In The USA"
program. I was to create one for the best stallion
and one for the best mare. They became the
Dr. Robert Miller Memorial Perpetual Trophies
and are awarded annually.
By the end of 2008, I was on my way to catching up. Many of you who had been waiting so
patiently were now seeing your commissions delivered. With that in mind, I returned to the
horse show scene in the fall of 2009. I managed to make it to Pin Oak and The Spring
Gathering and the National Reining Breeder Cup.
Then in the summer of 2010 it all came apart. My brother died, unexpectedly, while on safari
in South Africa. It turned my life upside down. I was unaware that he had made me Executrix
of his estate. My life became a series of lawyers, accoutants, bankers and real estate agents.
I did not make it to any 2010 fall shows.
In 2011 I thought I could get back to normal and made plans to attend the spring shows:
Pin Oak, The Spring Gathering, NRBC and the Houston Dressage Society Spring Shows.
Everything was in place to set up my booth at these shows. Then just as Pin Oak was getting
started my mother fell ill. She died March 27, 2011, at the age of 97. Never did I expect to
loose my mother and my brother in less than a year. We truly can not predict what life has
in store for us.
Early in 2012 my father-in-law died naming my husband executor of his estate. I made it to
Pin Oak and The Spring Gathering. Being completely stressed out I had to take some time off.
In 2011, Georgia Griffiths of Encino, California, commissioned a perpetual trophy
for the Del Mar National Dressage Show held each spring. The trophy is called the
Two Dancers Perpetual Trophy, commissioned by G2 Software, Ms. Griffiths' company,
to be awrded to the winner of the Grand Prix Musical Freestyle Class. The first winner
in 2011 was Steffen Peters on Ravel. But the actual bronze trophy was not be ready in time.
It would not be ready until 2012.
As a bit of a vacation, I flew out to Del Mar in April, 2012, to present the trophy for the first
time. Steffen Peters won again, this time on Legolas 92. Ravel was being saved for
the Olympics. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet some interesting people and
forget all that was going on at home for a few days.
With 3 estates to settle and 3 houses to sell, life became complicated.
2013 became a time of renewal. Pin Oak and The Spring Gathering went off to gray skies
and cool breezes. Winter just did not seem to want to go away. Met a lot of new people at
Pin Oak. Lots happening in the horse show world. Good to know there are as many fine horses
and riders coming on.
2014 found me at Pin Oak for two weeks and The Spring Gathering. It is always fun to see
everyone after a year away; catching up with what has been happening. Met the Waller's of
Beaumont, owners of the A Winter's Tale star, Listo.
Best of all, I met Jersey Boy, world champion hunter and
Jennifer Alfano, who commissioned his bronze portrait.
See Jersey Boy's bronze portrait.
I delivered a special bronze, "A Bond Beyond", to SIRE - Houston's
Therapeutic Riding Centers in May, 2014 for their Spring GALA. It was
auctioned at the Gala to benefit SIRE. Limited editions of this sculpture
are for sale now with a portion of each sale going to benefit the therapeutic
riding center of your choice.
See more about this sculpture here.
For more information about SIRE click here.
"A Bond Beyond" was my first bronze that included a human figure. It worked out so I ventured
on to "horse & rider".
Ten (10) years ago I had started a sculpture of a cowboy on a horse based on old photographs
of my uncle. In 2013 it was finally finished. I call it: "Can I Come, Too!".
"Can I Come, Too!", is a sculpture of a cowboy and his dog
about to go to work herding cattle. It is basically my uncle,
L. L. Stewart, on his Palomino mare, Bonita. She was the first
horse I ever rode (see photo at top of page) and he was the man
who put me on her.
A lovely lady in California saw my ad in Cowboys & Indians
picturing the clay model and saw the same emotion in the
sculpture that I did and wanted it.
It is now cast. #1 delivered. #2 of a limited edition of 10 is now available for sale. See Bronze.
In 2012 I read about the creation of the US Dressage Finals, the first
head-to-head championship since the creation of USDF Regional Finals.
It was a chance for dressage competitors to be recognized nationally
for their skill. I wanted to support this show in the best way I could by
creatingg a perpetual trophy. And the ultimate class, to me, is the
Adult Amateur Grand Prix Musical Freestyle.
After much correspondence with USDF the CALAVERAS COUNTY
PERPETUAL TROPHY, US Dressage Finals, Grand Prix Freestyle,
Adult Amateur Champion was born.
After two (2) years of work the trophy was presented to the USDF on
Friday, November 7, 2014 at the US Dressage Finals in Lexington, KY.
And on Saturday, November 8, 2014, the first recipient was Janne Rumbough of Palm Beach,
FL, riding her PRE gelding, Junior.
At the 2015 Pin Oak Charity Horse Show I got the
opportunity to create a bronze portrait of another
Hunter Derby Champion, Candid, owned and shown by
Jennifer Alfano. Candid was a lovely and cooperative model.
See more photos.
Shortly after I started on the US Dressage Finals trophy, I was
commissioned by Tina Wentz to create a memorial trophy for her son,
Jonathan, to honor Para-Equestrian competitors.
Work began on the Jonathan Wentz Perpetual Trophy in 2013. It was
presented to the United States Para-Equestrian Association
Nov. 29, 2015 at the US Para-Equestrian Championships in Katy, TX.
The aim is to honor the U.S. Para-Equestrians who achieve the highest
level of competition in Dressage, Driving, Reining or Vaulting.
Jonathan Wentz competed in dressage at the 2012 Para-Olympics in
London where he was the highest placed American competitor barely missing the Bronze Medal.
Sadly, Jonathan died on September 30, 2012.
I never met Jonathan but worked with Tina Wentz and photographs of Jonathan and NTEC
Richter, his mount, to create this bronze trophy. The trophy was designed to inspire others
to meet their highest challenges. See Finished Bronze
Commissions and Special Awards and Trophies Olva has been involved with:
* 1996 - Official Portrait of the Border Fiesta Grand Prix, graphite pencil portrait
(18" x 24") "Peter Pletcher and Uncle Sam", now in private collection.
* 1997 - Official Artist for the United States Equestrian Team Texas Endowment
Campaign, "A Very Special Evening at the King Ranch," graphite pencil drawing,
18" x 24", auctioned at this gala fund raiser at the King Ranch in Kingsville.
It was bought by a member of the King Ranch family and resides at the ranch.
* 1997 - "A Labor of Love", graphite pencil drawing, 18" x 24", is a special drawing
donated to SIRE Therapeutic Riding to honor the dedicated volunteers.
Sales of prints and note cards still benefit S.I.R.E.
Original drawing in private collection.
* 1997 - drawing "A Labor of Love" appeared on the cover of
"The Chronicle of the Horse"
* 1998 - commissioned to do the cover art for the 51st Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, program, colored pencil drawing of past POCHS champions, 18" x 24". The design was used for prints, posters and t-shirts. A portion of the proceeds benefited the Ronald McDonald House of Houston.
* 1999 - drawing "Ribbon Guard", appeared on the cover of "The Chronicle of the Horse" one of the few cats to ever appear on a Chronicle cover.
* 2000 - commissioned to create a trophy for the Texas Dressage Classic, held annually at Las Colinas Equestrian Center in Irving, TX. It is awarded annually to the high point amateur at the show. The first award was given April 29, 2001.
* 2000 - drawings featured on the cover of the "Lone Star Horse Report", the portrait of "Gigong, the Elite Hanoverian Stallion".
* 2000 - "Gigong's" portrait along with a portrait bronze of "Pintus, an Irish Hunter" appeared in an article on equine artists in "Horse Illustrated".
* 2002 - commissioned by Positive Step Farm to create a perpetual trophy for the Detroit Dressage Society, Detroit, MI. Awarded annually with plaques.
* 2003 - drawing called "A Colt, a Bucket and a Big Red Barn" appears on the cover of "Lone Star Horse Report".
* 2003 - "Gucci", a bronze portrait of Canaan Ranch's champion dressage gelding, was awarded the Equine Visions Choice Award for sculpture in the Equine Art Guild's Annual Show and was featured in Equine Visions Magazine (now called "Horses in Art").
* 2004 - created the "Calaveras County Lifetime Achievement Award" for the Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Association, to be awarded annually to the GHHJA member who has made a significant contribution to the club and horse showing in general
* 2004 - commissioned portrait of Jennifer Price's horses appeared in an article on equine artists in Horse Illustrated showing how such a drawing of two horses together was created.
* 2005 - created the "Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy" for the Annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. In 2005 and 2006 awarded to the winner of the $5000 Adult/Junior Gamblers Choice. Since 2007 it has been awarded to the winner of the $20,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Classic.
* 2005 - Reserve Champion Adult Division, "Tricked Out Pony Contest", 50% of proceeds to animal shelter groups, contest to make a Peter Stone model horse into a "Tricked Out Pony".
* 2005 - colored pencil drawing "Farrier's First Horse" appeared in December, 2005, EQUUS magazine as an illustration for an article on new horse owners.
* 2007 - Created Jane Queener Perpetual Trophy Best Young Horse Award to be presented annually at The Spring Gathering Hunter Jumper Show held each April, Katy, TX
* 2008 - Kickin' Cancer Out of Texas, benefiting Cancer Couceling, Inc., Boot Painter - January 10, 2008
* 2008 - RESS Bas Relief Exhibition - 2nd ("A Kind Eye") & 3rd Place ("Hunter Head") Advanced Sculpture Division
* 2008 - Mural Mosaic Project: The Cadeau de Chival - The Gift Horse
* 2008 - Dressage At Devon Born in the U.S.A. Breeders Award High Point Stallion Trophy, Dr. Robert Miller Perpetual Trophy & Dressage At Devon Born in the U.S.A. Breeders Award High Point Mare Trophy, Dr. Robert Miller Perpetual Trophy commissioned by Melanie Pai of Canaan Ranch.
* 2009 - Kickin' Cancer Out of Texas Benefitting Cancer Couceling, Inc.,
"Hardest Workin' (Most Creative) Boots
* 2009 - drawing called <"White Horse on Klimt" appears on the cover of the May issue of "Lone Star Horse Report".
* 2010 - Sandy Hager Memorial Sportsmanship Award for the Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Association
* 2010 April - cover art of "The Exhibitor", the official publication of Great Southwest Equestrian Center, portrait of Jerry Kimmel's Champion Reining Stallion, Dun Gotta Gun.
* 2010 June - SADDLE UP FOR NAM fibrglass horse project: chosen as artist to paint 2 fiberglass horses as fundraiser for the Northwest Assistance Ministries of Houston, TX. See completed "Colorado Kid" For more information on NAM see: www.namonline.org/
* 2011 - Commission: a perpetual trophy, Two Dancers Perpetual Trophyfor the Grand Prix Musical
Freestyle at the Del Mar National Dressage Show, Del Mar, CA. Presented in 2011 to Steffen Peters
* 2011 - Creation of an Adult Amateur High Point Award for the new Diamond and Platinum Dressage Show Series at Great Southwest Eq. Center, Katy, TX
* 2012 - Commission: a perpetual trophy for Potomac Valley Dressage Club
* 2013 - Commission for United States Para Equestrian Association International Achievement Award - Jonathan Wentz Memorial Trophy - fund raiser
* 2014 - SHINE BEST YOUNG HORSE PERPETUAL TROPHY, sponsored by Olde Oaks Farm, Inc. and Vickie Hunton for Texas Hunter Jumper Association
* 2014 March - received commission to create a bronze portrait of Jersey Boy, International Hunter Derby Champion for Jennifer Alfano
* 2014 - A BOND BEYOND, a bronze sculpture dedicated to SIRE Therapeutic Riding Centers of Houston, TX - donated to the 2014 SIRE GALA, Live Auction, May 3, 2014.
* 2014 - USDF Region 9 fund raiser - Limited Edition T-shirt Design
* 2014 - US Dressage Finals, Lexington, KY - delivered the new Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy for the US Dressage Finals, Grand Prix freestyle Adult Amateur Champion - one of three (3) perpetual trophies dedicated to the Finals
* 2015 - US Para-Equestrian Association, presented the Jonathan Wentz Memorial Trophy at the USPEA Championships, Nov. 29, at the Great Southwest Eqiestrian Center, Katy, TX
* 2016 - Oklahoma Dressage Society, Bee Pape Memorial Trophy for High Point Junior/Young Rider presented at the ODS Spring Dressage Show, May 7.
Olva Stewart Pharo, artist & horsewoman -
Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Texas at Austin, 1969
Houston Dressage Society (HDS), member since 1979
Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Association (GHHJA), member since 1984
Founding Board Member of the Greater Houston Horse Council, newletter editor, 1993
Equine Art Guild (EAG), 1999-2010
Realistic Equine Sculpture Society (RESS), since 2007-2010
Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA), since 2007
Texas Society of Sculptors (TSOS), since 2013
Saying "Goodbye" to a friend. . . . .
The Texas equestrian community lost a great supporter on March 18, 2011. Phil Sawin died from
non-horse related injuries at his Pine Hill Farm in Bellville, TX on Friday. Phil leaves behind a legacy of
hard work and a passion for the Olympic side of the sport. He built the first cross country course in the
Greater Houston area. He had the only field hunter course around. Phil hosted hunter/jumper shows,
dressage shows, driving events, pony club rallies and twice a year a USEA recognized event.
This has been a personal loss for me. Phil goes back to the very beginning of my involvement with
"english" riding. My first hunter trainer was a friend of Phil's and took us on riding excursions to Pine Hill
Farm in its infancy. I saw it grow from a weekend project into a way of life.
Phil became a friend and Pine Hill a constant destination for horse shows. I competed in hunter/jumper shows at Pine Hill in the 80s. I was once unceremoniously rubbed off on one of those beautiful pine tree limbs by my high spirited Calaveras County.
It was at a Houston Dressage Society show in 1994 that my career as an equine portrait artist began. The year before I had created a high point award for the Houston Dressage Society with a print of a idealized dressage horse head (now my logo) as the award. In 1994 I used a photograph of Hans Boone's stallion, Adelssohn, as the model for the first Calaveras County Adult Amateur High Point Award. The award was a framed print of my pencil portrait of Adelssohn and was displayed at my booth.
A competitor walked up and said, "Is that Adelssohn?" The likeness was strong enough that she recognized him. Then she asked, "Can you do my horse?" The rest is history. I made 6 portraits at this competitor's barn and my new career grew from there.
If I had not made the portrait from a photograph I took at a dressage show at Pine Hill and if I had not had a booth at the HDS show at Pine Hill, Equestrian Portraits may never had gotten started.
(I had my first Blizzard at the DQ in Bellville in 1985. Things we remember.)
I designed Phil's Pine Hill Farm logo using one of the large pine cones from those beautiful trees as a model. In the Fall of 2010 Phil asked me to design a new sign for Pine Hill to go on his barn. It was to be cut out of metal. You can see it on the Pine HIll website.
Pine Hill was always a fun place to go to. Phil always made everyone feel at home. He was like my second older brother, the one who loved horses. I had no idea how close that was. My brother was born on August 8, 1942 just 2-1/2 months before Phil. My brother died June 21, 2010. He never liked horses.
My life took another path and I stopped showing and did not visit Pine Hill much but whenever Phil saw me at a show at Great Southwest he was always ready with a grin and a hug. I was so happy he found Ruth to share his passion and had Ellie. He had a wonderful life and will be long remembered for what he did for the horse community and his fellow horse lovers.
A memorial fund has been set up to assist in maintaining Phil's legacy of Pine Hill Farm. To contribute send a check payable to: "Phil Sawin Memorial Trust Fund" and mail it to: Sterling Bank, Phil Sawin Memorial Trust Fund, 15000 Northwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77040. Please enclose a note with the check as to the fund you wish to contribute to.
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