What’s a Heck?

For those wanting to take a “walk on the wild side” and feel what it would be like to walk amongst some ancient horses, look no further than our own backyard. Shalom Wildlife Zoo in West Bend, WI is home to three Heck (tarpan) horses. The Heck horse is a “modern ancient” horse that closely resembles the ancient breeds of horses.

In researching the breed for our article, I took a ride up to Shalom to photograph and meet these horses. David Fechter, co-owner of Shalom met me there and introduced me to the herd, Princess, Prince, and Duke.  As we walked into their area, the herd peeked from between the trees and curiously walked towards us.They greeted us with a gentle kindness and welcomed us into their herd. It was very tranquil and Zen-like.


Princess, the first Heck to arrive at Shalom Wildlife Zoo

Like the breeds interesting history, these three have had an interesting journey of their own.  Princess was born in February 2001 and was sold to a petting zoo in Florida, the petting zoo went bankrupt and a lady from Wisconsin bought her at auction. She eventually ended up at Shalom in 2012.  


Prince, a former stallion and father of Duke

Fechter was intrigued with the breed, did his research, and contacted Helen Dixon from Dixie Meadows Farm. Turns out Dixie Meadows Farm was looking for Princess. She was the last Heck horse they were unable to locate.  Dixon then donated Prince, a stallion, to Shalom in 2013.  The two were bred and  had four foals, three of which live here in Wisconsin. 


The last foal, Duke, was born in 2019 and currently resides at Shalom. Duke and Prince are gelded. All three have their forever home, as a herd, at Shalom.

Fechter, “These horses make me want to love them.”

Take Care,


Full article on the Heck horse can be found in our Fall/Winter 2020 issue https://themidwestequestrian.com/fall-winter2020/

Shalom Wildlife is situated on 100 acres and home to more than 750 animals, which live in a natural type of environment. There are four miles of trails, so make it a day and walk around and meet the other animals For more information https://www.shalomwildlife.com

More information on the breed https://thcponline.org


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Fall/Winter 2020 Cover Artist

Meet the Artist

Rachel Femminella was kind enough to design and paint a cover for our Fall/Winter 2020 issue.  The final watercolor is a compilation of some of her photos.  Her whimsical composition paired with warm tones and colors is a true reflection of Rachels’s endearing personality.


In Her Own Words

I’ve always had a passion for art and horses. I grew up drawing and painting horse images. While growing up, people used to tell me I either need to do something with animals/horses or I need to take my art to the next level and do something with it.  Hah! 

I’ve been at Bravehearts a little over a year and it’s probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was in a very unhappy spot in my life and desperately needed a change. Out of the blue I found out about Bravehearts and things have just been great since. I started as a volunteer and am now full time.

I love spending quality time with these amazing horses, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing.  I love working hard to give them the best life they could have and always enjoy helping people out as much as I possibly can.  Hopefully, someday I can take all the knowledge I’ve learned here and have my own farm!

I haven’t done much with my art professionally, but I do it for fun. I was asked by The Midwest Equestrian to design their Fall/Winter cover and was honored.  I take a lot of photos and thought I would do a compilation of several images for the cover.

That’s pretty much a summery of who I am. I have a very simple life, ha, but a passion for art, animals, and love working hard. I’m exactly where I want to be as it makes me happy.

Rachel’s Process



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