America’s Horse – Cover, Writing, Photos & Video

Sometimes I get this wild idea I can do it all. 

Pushing boundaries is part of how I stay interested in my work and grow both personally and professionally. It sounds good when I write it, but the actual pushing of the boundaries is usually quite uncomfortable.

This was my first time writing an article for America’s Horse, which in itself made me nervous. Add in that I was planning to not only write the story but also take photos AND make a video while covering a live event and I thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

I spent weeks thinking about what gear to bring. Video complicates this process because, in addition to cameras, I needed audio gear so I could capture good sound for the interview. I ended up bringing my two main cameras (Canon 5D Mk IV and 1Dx Mk II) and my Fuji mirrorless (which I didn’t need, but thankfully it didn’t take up much space). I brought my Canon 70-200 2.8 IS L II, Tamron 24-70 G2, and 35mm 1.4 lenses. The 35mm could have stayed home, as I didn’t end up using that one either. When switching between photos and video on the fly without a tripod or monopod, having lenses that stabilize motion is critical and the 35mm doesn’t do that.

The story is about Lenna Peterson, a young Minnesota barrel racer who was competing at the 2018 Junior NFR in Las Vegas. How she got there was full of juicy ups and downs and life lessons learned. I won’t give the story away here, because the full article is available to read online

I have to admit, I’m really proud of this article. I struggle a bit with feeling “Imposter Syndrome” when it comes to writing, but this article makes me feel like the real deal. 😊

After completing the article, it was time to put together a video about Lenna’s journey to the Junior NFR. I am grateful that the company who filmed the competition was able to provide footage of her runs so you can see how amazing this girl is in the saddle!

Finding out Lenna was going to be on the cover of the magazine was just icing on the cake! Even though this project pushed me to my limits at times, I’m glad I did it and I’m pleased about how it all turned out. 

Another bonus of the experience was getting to spend time with the Peterson family. They were so gracious to share their experience with me and treated me like part of the family while we were in Vegas. Here’s a photo of Lenna and me at the Triple Crown Feed booth, where she signed autographs. 

I can’t wait to see how Lenna grows as a rider and a competitor in the coming years as she gets bigger and stronger and gains even more experience. Her mom Teresa sent me this sweet photo of Lenna reading the article. It completely melted my heart. 💕

I’ll finish up this blog post with some of my favorite images from this project. This was the part I loved the most, using my documentary photography skills to tell a story. I can’t wait to do more of this in 2019 with my 12 Stories Project (which has gotten a slow start due to our harsh winter, but it’s still happening!). 


In the rush of Vegas, I forgot to get some portraits of the Peterson family, so on a cold January morning, I dropped by their farm and created some pretty sweet photos, including the one that ended up on the cover.


  1. Caryn P.

    March 20, 2019

    I love everything about this. Congrats on your article! The photographs are beautiful and the video made me cry! A beautiful bond they share, and for her to understand that she needed that time apart to grow together with her partner is so amazing. I hope they go far in their journey! <3

    • Shelley Paulson

      March 20, 2019

      Thank you Caryn! I love that it touched your heart! ❤️

  2. Jean M

    March 21, 2019

    You know what a big fan I am of you and your work. The writing has added another dimension and shows another of your talents. For this project you produced a fabulous article, video and photos. You should be so proud and happy. Again, I am loving your work. I miss seeing your photos on fb. But this blog today filled the void…for a while.

    • Shelley Paulson

      March 22, 2019

      Thank you so much for all your kind words. This project was a challenge, but it also probably pushed me to do the best I could! I miss connecting with you on social media! We should have coffee one of these days and catch up. 🙂

  3. Catherine Tawney

    March 23, 2019

    Great work, Shelley! It’s a treat every time I see one of your emails in my inbox. I look forward to opening it to see what’s inside every time!

    Your book is great too. It’s in our living room…it’s beautiful and has me dreaming of having a horse someday.

    Catherine Tawney

    • Shelley Paulson

      March 25, 2019

      Thank you so much Catherine! I love that you have my book in your living room. I hope your dream comes true someday soon! 😀

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