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Karen Brenner Paintings: Carr Ranch Mustangs


By Nancy Brannon
Equine artist Karen Brenner traveled through eleven states, including Tennessee, throughout the summer of 2015 photographing horses, which she uses as models for her oil paintings. The results of her work have been compiled into a collection, “Beautiful Horses of Tennessee.” Part of that collection, the Carr Ranch Mustangs were featured in her January 2016 Horse Paintings newsletter.
Brenner’s paintings are done using translucent layers of oil paint on gessoed masonite boards. Karen enjoys traveling to horse farms and equine events to photograph horses of every breed, capturing horses at work, play, and rest – and grazing. Her goal is to travel to every state in the USA to photograph horses. Karen chooses a new state every year for her "Beautiful Horses of..." series of paintings. See more of her paintings, Beautiful Horses of Tennessee, here: Read Brenner’s January 2016 newsletter here: 
On her travels, one of the places she visited was the Carr Ranch Wild Mustang and Burro Adoption Center at Cross Plains, Tennessee, north of Nashville. Owned by Randall and Paula Carr, the 1,000-acre ranch has become one of Robertson County’s best known tourist attractions and “foster” home for Mustangs. 

It all started in August 1979, when the Carrs responded to a BLM request for bids on starting a Mustang Center in the east. “Along with 700 other folks through the U.S., we bid on it,” said Paula Carr. “My husband was just a farmer,” but lo and behold, they won the bid. “Senator Sasser’s office called us to say we had won,” Paula recalled. “When they came to inspect the property, we had to create the idea of what the [Mustang] facility would look like. Then we had only 30-60 days to build it. All our neighbors came and helped us.” 

Since 1979, the Carr’s facility has processed over 28,000 animals – not only adopting them, but also holding, sorting, vetting, hoof trimming, and giving medical attention. The Carrs have trained a lot of the Mustangs, and a number of them have been trained by others or the new owners. Paula specializes in the burros, while her husband works with the horses. 

The ranch has been the site for the Wild Horse and Burro Days celebration, held annually for 15 years. This coming June 10-11, the Carr Ranch will host an Extreme Mustang Makeover Adoption event. 
In 2005 the Carrs were inducted into the Wild Horse and Burro Hall of Fame, and in December 2006, Paula was nominated as President of the Mustang Heritage Foundation Trustees. For 2010, she was a board member for the National Adoption Day events. Paula has also been active in the Robertson County Farm Bureau and in 2007 she was named #1 Farm Bureau Woman in Tennessee.

“About 3 or 4 years ago we decided to retire,” Paula said. “Then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called and asked us to help find homes for the horses at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. As of last year, we have found homes for all but five of the Sheldon horses. We have five who are still awaiting adoptive homes. They’re special horses. They have their own property, and they’re free.”

Find more information about Carr Ranch at: and about the Mustang Heritage Foundation at: Information about the Sheldon Horse and Burro management plan is available at: 

“My horses are delightful!” – Paula Carr

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