A Passion for Horses

Allison Pareis is admittedly “nuts about horses.” She collects toy model versions of equines, attends major races, and rides whenever she can. But a turning point in her life may have occurred in 2006 when Barbaro thundered by her at Churchill Downs as the colt handily won the Kentucky Derby.

“I was shooting video at Churchill the first time when he roared down the track—I was instantly in love with that horse,” says Pareis, MA ’10 telecommunications (digital storytelling) “When he walked by me after winning, he wasn’t even breathing hard. It was all so easy for him. At that point, I thought to myself, ‘He is going to win the Triple Crown.’”

Unfortunately, Barbaro never got the chance. The ill-fated horse shattered his right rear leg two weeks later at the 2006 Preakness Stakes, ending his racing career and eventually leading to his death early the next year.

That tragedy set in motion a series of events that eventually led Pareis to producing Sculpting the Wind, a documentary on the racehorse. Within months of Barbaro’s death, his owners commissioned artist Alexa King, who attended Ball State in the 1970s, to sculpt a 1,500-pound bronze statue.

Sculpting the Wind, which received two regional Emmys, provides viewers with an inside look at how King created the sculpture now on display at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky. An urn containing Barbaro’s ashes is buried under the statue.

“It was an enjoyable experience to work with Alexa for nearly a year to tell the story from her perspective. I spoke with a number of people to shed light on how she built this work of art that brings Barbaro to life. I think it has the impact on a lot of people because it feels as though Barbaro is going to run right through the gate.”

Pareis incorporates interviews with King along with still photographs of various phases of the sculpture and video of the foundry in Colorado where the bronze statue was forged. The documentary also features the song “I Love to Run (A Song for Barbaro)” by country music singer Templeton Thompson.

The documentary is a result of a brainstorm Pareis had one day when she was thinking about a final project for her graduate program. A 2005 Ball State telecommunications graduate who spent several years at Fort Wayne’s PBS affiliate WFWA-TV, she was wondering how she combine her love for horses and video skills with a desire to work in the horse racing industry.

The 30-minute film debuted in April during the 2010 Kentucky Derby celebration. Pareis received a scholarship from the National Turf Writers Association and Youbet.com through the Race for Education as well as grants from Ball State and WIPB-TV in Muncie to produce the documentary.

Nancy Carlson, a Ball State telecommunications professor, has been Pareis’ sounding board since the project began in 2009 and serves as the chair of the student’s graduate school committee.

“Allison's documentary on the Barbaro statue and its sculptor has been widely praised by folks at both Churchill Downs and in the horse racing world. The film's professionalism reflects Allison's earlier career in public television, in the years before she returned for a master’s degree. Although she's young, she's hardly a beginner. A horsewoman herself, Allison has high standards and a real knack for storytelling. But loving horses is the foundation for both the sculptor and the filmmaker.”