For Columbus Monthly's fall fashion spread, we recruited some unusual models.

Fashion shoots are always a logistical challenge, but we might have set a new standard with this issue’s fall fashion feature ("2019 Fall Fashion: A Cowboy Disruption"). For a full day in July, our crack crew—led by style editor Sherry Beck Paprocki and photo editor Tim Johnson—took over the Ohio Theatre. Befitting the old movie-house setting, the operation felt a bit like a Hollywood picture on location, with multiple costume changes, an on-site lunch and, of course, camera-friendly talent: eight charming, polite and well-groomed models. All were a joy to work with, even though two didn’t fit in the clothes.

Those gentle giants, a pair of horses named Joy and Maddie, were the scene-stealing bit players of the shoot. This year’s fall fashion feature explores the rise of a more inclusive cowboy culture—as exemplified by rapper Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” the record-setting hit of the summer—and during a meeting in July, our design team floated the idea of including horses in our shoot. Most of us considered it a long shot (or a half-serious idea), but Sherry, our project manager extraordinaire, somehow managed to pull it off.

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Joy, a Friesian light draft, and Maddie, a Belgian heavy draft, are both part of the Columbus police force’s mounted horse unit. Since 1984, this group of seven officers and 11 horses has patrolled large public events such as Red, White & Boom, assisted law enforcement agencies in other cities and served as equine ambassadors for the division. Sherry’s sister, a New Albany resident and a horse owner, recommended the mounted unit for our job. “As it turns out, the mounted unit horses love to get their pictures taken,” Sherry says. “They are often in crowds and urban settings so they easily adapted to the setting on the street with models involved.”

We included the horses in two exterior shots, one in front of the Ohio Theatre marquee and another in the adjacent breezeway. Sure, Joy and Maddie pooped in the breezeway (they’re horses—give them a break), but they were true pros other than that, as were their handlers, officers Shannon David and Ron Zaleski. The horses also had plenty of star power. As the four-legged portion of the shoot wrapped up after about an hour, Downtown passersby congregated around Joy and Maddie, hoping to pet them. “The horses were great with that,” Tim says.

I have to confess I was a bit nervous when Sherry told me she wanted to include two horses in the shoot, but I really shouldn’t have doubted her and Tim, our faithful fashion field generals. “We’ve got it down to a science—maybe not a science but an imperfect science,” Tim says.

Now that he’s pulled off horses, I asked Tim what he might try next. “Elephants and skydivers,” he says with a laugh. I hope Sherry doesn’t read this.