by Lesley Aine McKeown
Every little girl wants a horse. There is just something magical about the beauty and grace of a horse that plays on the heartstrings of almost every girl. Connie Foss was no exception.
Raised in rural Iowa with three older brothers, she asked for a horse but was told that girls don’t do that. Her brother got one instead. But Connie clung to that passion. After being denied entrance to veterinary school because of her gender, she accepted a music scholarship to Iowa’s Teachers College, and transferred to Iowa State. It was there she met Robert Foss, majoring in animal husbandry. They married, and Connie finally got her horse.
The couple moved to Memphis, Missouri and bought a farm, where they raised cattle. Farming is very hard work, and often not financially rewarding. Realizing this, the young Foss family bought a grain business. This proved a good decision, and soon they could afford to raise, train and show horses under the name Foss Farm Arabians. Connie’s dream came true.
Robb and Connie raised four sons. Becoming a Den Mother to her son’s Cub Scout troop led her back to the arts, teaching the Cubs to whittle bear claws for merit badges. Her boys naturally began showing horses, and Connie turned her talents to stall decorations, carved wooden stall signs with the horses’ names, bas-relief horse heads and other images. These proved very popular, and soon she was accepting commissions to do it for others. Connie’s art career had begun.
An inquisitive mind and a suggestion from her husband led Connie to look to functional art. She began carving furniture and exploring sculpture as part of her work. She welded steel, carved wood, and eventually focused her talents on casting bronze. Combining a skilled eye for the equine form with functional art is a unique signature of Connie’s work.
Like so many creatives, Connie’s talent touched other aspects of her life, and raising four children in rural Missouri was akin to living a Mark Twain book. Inspired by her childhood and a love of nature led her to begin to teach swimming to local kids, and eventually to a Red Cross certification. Always an avid reader, it was her love of swimming and sharing that led her to expand her talents to writing. “Nothing is truly good unless it is shared,” she says.
Her first book, Let’s Swim with Mr. Water, opened a whole new world for expressing her creativity and giving back. Connie has written over 26 books, finishing her latest just this year.
Connie's work encompasses many media, including wood, bronze and steel, and can be found in the personal collections of the former king of Saudi Arabia, country music star Mel Tillis, and actor Patrick Duffy. A collection of Connie's larger works is on exhibit at the Prescott Art Market through November.
Connie filled her life with horses and looks back now with gratitude and fondness. There is a deep connection that develops between a horse and its owner, and only those who have lived as Connie has will truly understand.
A beautiful line in the Quran reads, “When God created the horse, he said to the magnificent creature: I have made thee as no other. All the treasures of the earth lie between thy eyes. Thou shalt carry my friends upon thy back. Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me. And thou shalt fly without wings, and conquer without any sword.”
Connie’s life and art are tributes to this magnificent creature.
Look for books by Connie Foss on Amazon.com.
Lesley Aine McKeown is a jeweler and lifelong horse girl.