California Riding Magazine • December, 2009

Portraits By Hester
Sonoma horsewoman applies unique perspective to lovely equine art.

Lifelong horsewoman Hester Zoutendijk sustained a serious forearm injury in 2003 while handling a colt. It was bad news for Zoutendijk’s riding and training career, but good news for those who love fine
equine art.

In addition to extensive dressage and horsemanship skills, Zoutendijk is a formally trained artist whose drawings of horses and other animals had long delighted her equestrian friends. Up until the accident, Zoutendijk drew mostly for fun and to create gifts for friends. But the accident became a wake-up call regarding the hazards of handling horses and the catalyst for a professional shift toward her art. Since then, her detailed, wonderfully expressive portraits of horses, dogs and other animals have become hot properties on the horse scene and well beyond.

Hester with Dexter and Rex.

She began riding in her native Holland at 10 and pursued a serious dressage education. Her daily involvement with horses and other animals ever since provides insight into the emotions of her subjects. That aspect of her art was taken to new depths with her introduction to the Parellis’ natural horsemanship training system. Since her friend Jill Cantor-Lee introduced Zoutendijk to the Parelli system, the artist came to understand the prey animal part of a horse’s nature. “That has influenced my drawing of horses by understanding their nature better,” she comments. “It’s given me insight into what a horse’s priorities are and how success is defined in their minds. The German and Dutch training systems don’t cover that.”

In Holland Zoutendijk worked for seven-time Dutch national champion dressage rider Annemarie Sanders-Keijzer. When she moved to the States in 1990, she brought her own Arabian with her. “Why not a Dutch Warmblood? Everybody asks me,” the charismatic artist relays. “But I’m very small and I love Arabs.” She had that horse, Sandokan, for 25 years before he passed away at 30 last year.

Adventurous Youth

Zoutendijk enjoyed an adventurous youth that colors her perspective. One of eight siblings, she lived with her family in Papa New Guinea and South America for much of her childhood. It was in Surinam, South America that she began drawing at home and attended a local art school. In 1973, she returned to Holland to attend the Royal Academy of Art in Amsterdam.

Zoutendijk moved to the United States in 1990 and settled into Northern California’s Sonoma Valley, where she now lives with her husband and daughter. A USDF certified instructor, Zoutendijk no longer trains horses but she does keep boarders on her two-acre home property. “I have to have horses around me,” she says.

Portraits begin with a photo session of the subject and are completed on Strathmore 500 series 100 percent rag vellum paper. Graphite and water-soluble colored Caran d’Ache pencils are Zoutendijk’s medium of choice. Close-up animal portraits are the dominant subjects in her body of work but lately she is excited about working on full body images. A recently completed series with Patience Prine-Carr and the Arabian stallion OKW Entrigue is a particular favorite. While warming up for a Grand Prix test at a Golden Gate Arabian Horse Assn. show in June, the pair created a scene the artist found simply irresistible. Even had she not been commissioned to capture the duo in action, Zoutendijk probably would have photographed them anyway. “There are so many beautiful and inspiring images at a show,” she enthuses.

Patience Prine-Carr and OKW Entrigue (Ricky).

Another recently completed favorite is a series portraying her stable’s farrier at work. It’s an old-fashioned scene, the details of which Zoutendijk is confident will resonate with any horseman. “It shows the details of the farrier’s hands and that stance he has, etc.”

In addition to commissioned portraits, Zoutendijk offers 8.5” by 11” fine art prints and notecards of any of the many images found on her website. Commissioned portraits include a complimentary print and two notecards.

The artist welcomes commissions and is offering a discount to those who mention California Riding Magazine in their inquiry. Zoutendijk can frequently be found at horse and dog shows throughout the West. She is hoping to exhibit her art at the huge Scottsdale Arabian Show in February and will be at a January American Kennel Club event at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

For more information, visit or call Hester Zoutendijk at 707-838-7366.