Cinch- A Story of Survival by Carley Ingram

Reno, Nevada

I was told over the course of my life and my career with equines I would meet a lot of horses, but one of those horses would be special. A horse that wouldn’t necessarily be the most talented, or the best mover, one who may have quirks or even come with a warning label. This special horse would be one I would see something in that no one else would, and unlock parts of myself I didn’t even know existed. A horse who would change my life by simply being in it. Many people in our industry are familiar with the term “heart horse.” God may only grace you with an animal this special once in your lifetime. I was graced with mine when I was 14 years old; he was a gangly, clumsy long yearling who wasn’t making the strides in the cutting pen and reaching the bar that was set for him. He was quirky, broncy and constantly getting into trouble. He was as plain as the day is long; sorrel with a blaze and a small white sock. There wasn’t a damn thing that was flashy about him, hell he didn’t even fit into his legs. I didn’t even pick him… he picked me. He stepped up to the plate when my good mare was injured and quickly picked up the pattern a few short years later. This sorrel carried me on to accomplish every goal I set for us from local races to pro rodeos. He filled our permit at the first rodeo he was ever entered in and went on to earn over $68,000, multiple arena records, a dozen plus buckles, 8 saddles and a lifetime of memories and gratitude.

Here’s something I learned, you either say how you feel and mess something up or you say nothing and let it mess you up instead. I want to share Cinch’s story despite the hesitation of my own heart and recommendation of authorities. This selfless animal never recognized the winner he was, he didn’t know he was running at the top or winning anything. He doesn’t have a concept of what a dollar is worth, or the miles down the road, or the time being a competitor took, but he does possess the consciousness of what having heart is. He didn’t comprehend we were racing the clock, or competing against others the horse just loved his job with every ounce of being that made him whole. He has always been a “yes ma’am” horse, a get the job done at the very best of my ability despite the odds or despite the limitations. Cinch literally thrives off defying all odds in every sense of any challenge he was ever presented with. He was diagnosed with kissing spine, asthma and he’s even allergic to his own sweat. He never let any of those challenges stop him from clocking at the top.

Our biggest challenge we faced together was no different. On March 5th 2022 I woke up to feed after running the previous night at a race and found Cinch in the worst condition I had ever seen an animal in. He appeared to have been colicky through the night and was rapidly deteriorating into a neurological state. We medicated him and had an on-site vet evaluate him. It was determined he needed immediate emergency surgery but we were 3 hours from the nearest surgery center. We were also in well over a foot of snow that was continuing to fall. Cinch quickly became unable to stand on his own legs and even tried to hang himself on the panels. We had no choice but to sedate him and a group of friends banded together and carried him to the trailer. The vet warned us to drive careful and not to be alarmed if we felt him fall. I couldn’t breathe and the tears wouldn’t stop as we made our way to the surgery center praying he didn’t leave this world as we made our way through the storm. As we pulled into the clinic I held my breath opening the trailer door. He was still standing. He had held into the trailer bars with his teeth the entire ride knowing if he went down, he was not going to get up. As they took him into surgery I was warned he would likely not make it past the first few minutes of sedation or to the first cut. I agreed to still proceed knowing that he wouldn’t be in pain any longer if that were the case. Four and a half hours later we were notified he was still here with us and that the surgery indicated foul play and not colic. His battle was only starting as he began to wake from sedation he had completely tipped the scales and began battling a white blood cell count of 76,000 (yes that extra zero is correct) and a completely neurological state. He tested negative for everything we tested him for – West Nile, EPM, etc. He was then given a 3% chance to live – not recover. At one point on the surgery floor I was told to go in and say my goodbyes. As I went in to do so, my best friend was cold and lying on the floor with no fight left. I pulled his head into my lap and told him it was okay and that he could go join Bull, another incredible gelding I had the pleasure of having in my barn, and I thanked him for everything he had done for me. This is when this horse’s heart comes into play – that whole defying all odds he seems to love so much. He stood up. He couldn’t feel his legs, he was literally being held up by pulleys from two incredible vet techs. Cinch stood up to tell us he wasn’t finished here and he wasn’t going anywhere. The incredible surgeon asked if he could ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at him and that he had never met one who refused to give up like him. He spent 11 days in ICU, had a trachea tube placed as he could not breathe on his own and all we could do was hold our breath, pray and watch the vets work magic. When I was told he could come home I had never felt so much gratitude in my heart. His future was uncertain but he was able to recover out of his neurological state and come home. That was all that mattered. My best friend was coming home.

Nearly 500 days have passed since that dark day, and two surgeries in total, this incredible animal isn’t a winner. He’s a warrior. He has recovered beyond any expectation and has been released to be back under saddle. He can only walk for 20 minutes a day but that’s 20 minutes a day I never thought we would see again and every minute is a gift. We can only hope his continued recovery is just as bright, I wouldn’t put it past his determination to enter the rodeo arena again. This horse did not come into my life and become so incredibly special because he won. It was his heart, his patience and encouragement to get through dark times in my life, and to let me ride the high of the best days of my life. “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul has been left unawakened.” He awakened my soul and is the greatest friend a girl could ask him for. He has always given me 110% and a dear friend told me, “you don’t ever have to explain yourself, there are just some horses you’ll go to the ends of the earth for and Cinch is that horse for you.” With that being said Cinch, thank you for everything you’ve given me, taught me and let me reach for the stars. You taught me to always love the horse first, and for that I owe you the world. We aren’t done with our adventures yet.

“A warrior learns something from every battle that is fought.

They are here to show the world that you can be both light and dark, gentle and fierce, warrior and a healer.

That balance is essential and it is powerful.

Warriors are here to show us courage.

With each battle they are reborn with more divine wisdom and strength.

With each battle they learn to honor the dark, yet embrace the light.

Their light then shines bright enough to help others.

To encourage.

And inspire others out of their darkness.”

-Author Unknown

To plan your dream session of the animals you love most in this world, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Sue Halliburton- Sierra Elegance Equine Photography 775.745.0445

One Response to “Cinch- A Story of Survival by Carley Ingram”

  1. Cyndie Heinrich

    The pictures are beautiful beyond words. Sue you did an amazing job capturing their love story in pictures. Carly what you two have been through together is a beautiful journey with many twists, turns, hard hard times to endure such pain together but thank God you both were blessed with more time together to live and love one another. What a heart horse indeed. Blessings to both of you.

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Equine Steampunk Nurse in Washoe Valley | Reno Equine Photographer

Rene is known for her bubbly personality and gigantic smile! She is the critical care nurse with the bright hair and will make anyone’s day with her positivity!

One of my favorite subjects to photograph are women and horses, especially ones they adore and have a great relationship with. That definitely describes Rene and her Thoroughbred, Donks!

We thought we had found a pretty nice April day! It was sunny and fairly warm, in the fifties, and we met up at Washoe Lake State Park. Well, the wind was whipping and made it feel like it was 30! My wonderful stylist, Kristina, can make any situation work and she did Rene’s hair and makeup in a chair positioned outside her car, and used a generator in the back of my car for hair tools.

Donks had tons of energy and didn’t want to wait around for his time in front of the camera, he was ready to goooo!!!!!

Rene rode him in and out of the water and he was loving it!

I had actually hoped to do a full boudoir session on horseback and on the ground with the horse, but it was just too dang cold! We pushed through the wind the best we could, but we were all freezing. So we went with this steampunk inspired outfit, and the next outfit was Rene’s wedding gown and very unique cape. She did get married at this same place, and arrived at the ceremony on Donks! She also celebrated her second wedding anniversary right after the session, so it was fun to dress up again and relive that special day, and her husband was helping her that night as an assistant as well.

I’ll share the wedding gown photos in a future blog post!

To start planning and creating your vision for your equine session, contact me at 775-745-0445 or Looking forward to creating amazing art for you, just like I did for Rene!

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Las Vegas Desert Horse and Rider | Reno and Nevada Equine Portraiture


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Miss Rodeo Nevada 2022- Gabby Szachara | Reno Photographer

I had the pleasure of photographing the lovely Gabby, Miss Rodeo Nevada 2022 multiple times during her reign. We did some headshot sessions in the studio and then a location session at Moon Rocks. I was so eager to photograph her with a horse but we were never able to work it out.

Here are a couple of her beautiful headshots that she used for the Miss Rodeo America competition in December of 2022

Gabby traveled across the country to rodeos and made other appearances throughout 2022, as well as working as an ER nurse in a Reno hospital! She was such an inspiration as she served our community and represented Nevada throughout America.

I have been honored to photograph many of the Miss Rodeo Nevada queens for over 20 years! Rodeo Queens are always so much fun to work with- they come with tons of outfits, hats, boots, and jewelry! We narrow down to the very best choices and decide which background or setting will work best.

I am thrilled to photograph pageant queens from any system, whether it’s headshots, banner photos, for autograph sheets, or program photos. Contact me for a planning consultation and we can create fabulous photos that will rival anything you see online from photographers around the country. You don’t need to travel a long distance to find quality portraits!

Sierra Elegance Photography website

Miss Rodeo Nevada website

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Kristina and Her Great Danes | Barks & Beauty Reno | Reno Glamour Photography

Kristina is my fabulous go-to makeup artist! She creates most of the wonderful transformations my clients experience when they have a session with me.

I invited Kristina to be in front of my camera with her Great Danes that she absolutely adores, they are a big part of her family and very attached to her.

We are kicking off the Barks & Beauty Experience, and she was a perfect representative of the type of client who suits this perfectly!

Kristina says “My husband always wanted a Great Dane, so I surprised him for his 40th birthday with a unique Harlequin puppy we named Ginormica. She will be 7 in May and shows no signs of slowing down, even though Danes have a lifespan of around 8-10 years.

We loved having a Great Dane so much, we decided to add a second one to the mix. We bought Finn from a local breeder, and he just celebrated his fifth birthday.

Fun fact- when he was 6 months old he broke my ring finger accidentally, and I now have a plate and 2 screws just under my wedding ring!”

“Ginormica, you are as unique and clever as your name and answer to it with sweet gentle grace. I love your hugs; and I mean real, head on your shoulder, pressing in with your eyes closed – hugs. You always know when someone needs it and you’re never stingy with your love. You give me all the sweet puppy love I could ever want.”

“Finn, you love with your entire body. There’s no gentle nudge or soft puppy kiss. You barge in and make sure I know you love me just as much as I love you. From plopping your 160lbs in my lap to pushing your head into my hand with enough force to break a finger (which you’ve done), you love with your whole being. You’re a big goofball and I love everything about you.”

Would you like to create a love story with your dogs to preserve those memories forever? We’d love to welcome you to be a part of the “Barks & Beauty Experience”.

You will have so much fun with professional hair and makeup artistry, outfit planning assistance, use of our amazing studio wardrobe, fully guided posing coaching, same-day ordering, and gorgeous art products.

Then we will create a coffee table book with special love letters written to your dog combined with the beautiful portraits.

We will host a gallery art showing of all of the participants and unveil the book at my Reno studio!

All of the information is on my special website- Barks & Beauty

Or give me a call- 775-745-0445

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Diana- Fabulous in her Fifties |Reno Boudoir Photography

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Rylee’s Senior Portraits At Sand Mountain: Class Of 2022

High-spirited students, their fun poses, and the lively energy they bring to the scene – there’s a lot to love at a senior portrait session as a photographer. Usually longer in duration, these sessions always get me excited. And I absolutely love creating these portraits! The best part? Interacting with so many incredible young minds and getting a glimpse of their dreams, lives, and aspirations! Every individual has a unique persona, and I try my best to make their portraits match the vivacious spirit these young souls bring to the session.

Meet Rylee!

I’ve known Rylee, now a senior year student of the class of 2022, since she was just 9! Her mom and I used to work out at the same gym around the same time every day and got to know each other. And our shared interests made the portrait session all the more fun and exhilarating. Now, are you wondering what I, a photographer, and Rylee, a high school senior, have in common? It turns out, plenty! To begin with, her love for horses! It was a delight to learn that this bright student shared my fondness for these captivating animals. So much so that she wanted these equine beauties to be a part of her senior portraits. Since she didn’t have her own horse to bring to the session, she requested to use mine. And I gladly obliged.

What’s more? Rylee shared that she and her family have a great liking for camping, especially, at Sand Mountain. Also known as the Singing Mountain, the Sand Mountain in west-central Nevada is a recreation area eyed by many adventure lovers and even makes for a great spot for photography. That’s also one of the reasons why even I love frequenting the place. While conversing with Rylee, I also learned that she enjoys riding various vehicles on the dunes on most weekends. And I was happy that I would get to photograph those moments as well, but more on that later!

Rylee is a longtime volleyball player in school and in club volleyball, but she decided she didn’t want volleyball to be the the focus of her senior portraits. Rylee will be graduating from Spanish Springs High School in Sparks.

Senior Equine Portraits at my Home Studio Barn!!!

I just finished my new barn at my home in Spanish Springs, and so I used it as a studio along with my horse, Pancho, as a model (a great addition to the shoot because of Rylee’s love for horses – like I already told you). Even though Pancho was around Rylee for the first time, they got along great and Pancho stood nicely for most of the session. After she was mounted on the horse and struck a cool equestrian pose in a dress on a chilly evening, he decided to take off trotting! She only had a halter with a lead on one side but was able to take hold of him. Kudos to her spirit, I say!

Senior Portrait Photography at Sand Mountain

On the day of the session at Sand Mountain, Rylee was accompanied by her parents Kasey and Siobhan. And guess what? It was the weekend of Rylee’s 18th birthday party (talk about great timing!) while they were camping with their family, and they invited me to stay for a wonderful grilled tri-tip dinner. And I am so very thankful for their generosity! Rylee sure has a cheerful aura. I could make that out from her exuberant energy and the multiple outfits she planned to wear for the shoot! And there’s absolutely no doubt that all of them were on point!

Circling back to Rylee and her love for riding OHVs. She has driven these vehicles for years and loves playing in the sand! Unfortunately, the vehicle actually broke down at the spot before we started, and they had to tow it back after the session, a bit of bad timing! However, I still managed to make the most of it by directing her to pose around it. The images turned out great, and need I say – “Rylee, you are such a natural when it comes to posing!” And a thoughtful planner as well – the tie-dye T-shirt she wore said “brunette and boujee”, and guess what, she recently dyed her hair dark. Coincidence? I beg to differ! 🙂

As much as I enjoyed the entire photo session, as a photographer, the sunset hour was my personal favorite! Just as the sky turns crimson, that’s when the true magic unfolds! And quite a planner that Rylee is, she had just the perfect attire (a gorgeous tangerine gown) to blend with the mood and tone. This ravishingly pretty lady looked nothing short of a desert rose amid the ripples of sand dunes, for sure! Even though behind the scenes, she was totally freezing, you could hardly see any of those shivers spoil her pose or expression before the camera. Rylee, you go, girl! Your senior portraits were as unique as you are. And I loved every moment I spent creating these lovely images of you.

A Luxurious & Custom Portrait Experience With Sierra Elegance Photography

Kasey and Siobhan (Rylee’s parents), thanks for trusting me with photographing Rylee’s senior portraits. And Rylee, you are such a vibrant soul and a delight to photograph. Just continue to be your natural self. I hope I did justice to your expectations and could match your energy! Here’s wishing all the best for the years to come!

Hey, you! Hope you enjoyed reading this blog! If you wish to plan your next photo session, feel free to contact me or call me at (775)745-0445 for a complimentary consultation and plan further. Let’s discuss your vision! I am all ears. To learn more about my photography style and services, check out my Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages.

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Breast Cancer 2 Bikini

I had the honor to celebrate breast cancer THRIVERS who trained six straight months to get more fit and compete in a bikini fitness competition!

These ladies each told me their story over the phone and it was so meaningful to relive those experiences with them. They all have overcome so much and gone on to do more than survive, they thrive!

Each of them lives life to the fullest and they are definitely inspirational!

I photographed them over the course of two days in my studio. The organizer asked for black and white and minimal makeup and hairstyling to have the true beauty and raw feeling of this experience come through, other than that she gave me free reign for styling.

I decided to do a simple look and a glam look, so I asked them to wear black bodysuits and then let them choose from my studio wardrobe to make it a little fancier! I also used my blush angel wings with all of them and they loved them! For the group photo I let them each pick a tulle skirt, and I have a LOT of them!

It was up to me to choose the best one of each participant and I wanted them to be cohesive so it was a bit challenging but they were unveiled at the Nevada Museum of Art for the first time and all of the ladies were in awe! They had large black and white portraits on display to honor Breast Cancer Awareness month, and when they walked in it was totally silent. Such a humbling experience! Everyone loved their portraits and I was truly thankful to give them a fun and empowering day in front of my camera!

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Your Sierra Elegance Boudoir Experience- all the details here!

Step One: The Contact Form and Questionnaire

The first step after you contact me by either messaging me or filling out the contact form on my website is filling out a questionnaire. I want to find out lots of details about you and the things that mean the most to you. I know it takes a little time to fill it out, but it helps me know what additional questions to ask you and what your vision is for the session as well as your “why”. Then you schedule a call through my calendar link to find a time that’s convenient for you.

So many women don’t feel seen or heard, I want you to feel both! I will ask you a few questions but I mainly LISTEN! That is pretty rare in this day and age, but it makes my clients feel great, and to think about why they love their partner and themselves. I listen to any concerns you might have and tell you the details of the whole experience as well as pricing ranges. This call starts us off on the right foot and you will be more confident and prepared going into your session, and feel comfortable with me and the experience I want to create for you!

Step Two: The Consultation

The next step in planning your boudoir experience- the consultation! We meet in person so that we can see each other face-to-face before spending such intimate time together. It will help you feel so much more comfortable and confident! We will discuss your outfits or if you need help with planning them. I love to share the large variety of luxury products I offer, I believe that printed art products will be meaningful to you for the rest of your life and have so much more value than just digital images on your computer. I will show you all the options and pricing and talk about payment options if you need them. You will be able to view the studio and wardrobe and see what you love the most and want to make sure to use! This meeting usually takes less than an hour, but it makes a huge difference! Even my clients from out of the area usually come for this meeting and have no regrets for spending the extra time.

I didn’t mention it earlier, but when you book your session over the phone and reserve your date with a credit card I send you a custom planning guide as well as my Amazon wish list that has lots of suggestions and ideas of items that I know photograph well. You will have lots of outfit inspiration and I am happy to help you in any way that I can!

Step Three: Professional Hair and Makeup Artistry

Step three in your luxury boudoir experience is being pampered with professional hair and makeup artistry! My go-to artist is Kristina McKeegan Nierman with Kiss and Makeup. She has decades of experience and works with all kinds of hair, skin tone, ages, etc. She works magic on every client and creates the perfect look that transforms but doesn’t look so over the top that you don’t feel like yourself. She can do a range from natural to enhanced glam! My clients all enjoy her friendly manner and professionalism! You get to put on a comfy robe, sip on your favorite drink, and listen to music while you sit back and get glammed up. This is all done right at my studio, so you don’t have to go to a salon or another location, it’s so convenient and relaxing!

Step Four: Your Boudoir Session

Now we’re on to your actual boudoir session! Lots of women are nervous that they won’t know what to do or will feel awkward. Most people believe they aren’t photogenic! In front of my camera you will look your very best, I promise! I will pose you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, plus coach every expression. You won’t be wondering what to do next! You are welcome to save pictures of poses you want to try and I can figure out how to put you into those poses and look the best for your body. Everyone starts out a little fearful, but you will realize by the time you change into your next outfit you’re feeling great and having a blast! My clients leave really happy and super excited! We have multiple sets, furniture, and lots of options to create beautiful settings for every single client that works with your outfit choices and colors.

Step Five: Ordering Your Art

After your boudoir session, you can go get some lunch and relax for about 60-90 minutes (there is also a massage therapist in our building!). Come back to the studio and your previews will be ready to view and you can place your order the very same day while you’re still super excited! I will guide you through the simple ordering process– choosing your favorite poses and the artwork that you love! Then you decide which collection you would like, choose your cover materials and options as well as your wall art– or you can wait until later if you want your partner to help you choose. Then your selections are professionally retouched by our skilled female artist and designed into the artwork of your choice. You get to review and approve your album before it’s ordered to make sure everything is perfect!

Contact us today for your complimentary phone consultation to find out if we’re a good fit and we have a date available for you!


2 Responses to “Your Sierra Elegance Boudoir Experience- all the details here!”

  1. Kaily Jackson

    I would like to just look amazing and feel confident in my own body again.

    • sierraelegance

      Hi Kaily! Let’s chat and make that happen! Fill out the contact form on my other website, and we’ll talk soon!

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