Some of Jeri Thorpe’s oldest memories involve horses.

At age 3, the Marana artist sat on a two-wheel jog cart behind a horse and tried to catch its tail as her grandfather, seated next to her, trained the animal.

Back then, she had no way of knowing that one day an equestrian center of international fame would bear her mark.

Last week, Thorpe’s painting “Forever Free” was unveiled at the Spruce Meadows Equestrian Center in Calgary, Alberta, just in time for the BP Festival of Nations, which featured Canada’s Olympic show jumping team.

The painting is part of a 22.5-foot-high mural, “Le Cadeau Du Cheval,” which means gift horse. The mural comprises 238 original paintings that, when pieced together correctly, create the impression of a gigantic horse. Thorpe’s art piece sits on the bottom row, second from the left.

This mural is not the first designed by Canadian artist Lewis Lavoie. In 1997, the artist created his first — the face of Michelangelo’s David — from panels he painted himself. Seven years later, the Canadian included 69 other artists in another mural. Since then, his mural projects have raised money for entities including The Military Museums in Calgary and Canadian Parks and Wilderness.

Thorpe heard about Lavoie’s latest effort, the gift horse mural, through membership in the Equine Art Guild. She sent off her portfolio, and Lavoie’s people invited her to paint a piece. Little by little, 16-by-16-inch squares of the giant master image came her way. Each had colors and shapes to use as guidelines. Thorpe chose a simple one.

“I elected to get more of a monotone so I would have more freedom to paint what I wanted,” she said.

The next step was to fill the square with equestrian art. This was no problem for Thorpe, who had owned and painted horses much of her life. In fact, her Web site is

Thorpe devoted her square to the American mustang, which she loves because of its toughness and tenacity.

The artist couldn’t attend the unveiling of her painting, because it took place in Canada. She hopes that the upcoming tour of “Le Cadeau Du Cheval” will bring the mural close to Marana, but its destinations have yet to be announced. She looks forward to seeing the mural’s coffee table book that is in the works.

She also looks forward to starting new painting projects.

“I enjoy bringing out the life, color and beauty of the horse,” she said. “It’s very satisfying when you can get that out and hope somebody else will see what you saw in it.”

See the work

Jeri Thorpe’s contribution to “Le Cadeau Du Cheval” is available online at, as is the whole mural. Click on her portion of the mural to see it enlarged.

Other work by Thorpe is viewable at

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