Pitching Horseshoes

Frenchie Bisiaux shows off the horseshoes she painted for her Horseshoe Fever fundraiser for the CF Equestrian Club. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

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Posted March 26, 2021 | By Lisa McGinnes, Ocala Gazette | Photography by Bruce Ackerman

CF student organizes creative fundraiser

Frenchie Bisiaux shows off the horseshoes she painted for her Horseshoe Fever fundraiser for the CF Equestrian Club. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Virginia “Frenchie” Bisiaux wears many hats: horsewoman, student, veteran, volunteer … but she doesn’t consider herself an artist.

However, when, in her role as president of the College of Central Florida (CF) Equestrian Club, she needed to raise funds for the organization, she came up with a creative solution: One-of-a-kind painted horseshoes.

“Right away, the idea popped in my head,” she said.

Bisiaux, who works part-time as the stable manager at CF Vintage Farm, is in her last semester of CF’s Equine Studies program. She used connections with friends who have horses to get nearly 200 old horseshoes donated. Then she spent about three months cleaning them.

“Some were in really bad shape,” she said. “Most of them still had nails in there.”

Bisiaux spent evenings and sleepless nights on her back porch, scrubbing horseshoes with steel wool and preparing them to be turned into works of art. Some she would paint herself, including a colorful bandanna series, an Aboriginal-style snake, and custom orders including Marine Corps and Florida Gators designs.

The first horseshoe Bisiaux painted, an American flag design, was inspired by her introduction to art.

It came during her time in the U.S. Army.

While born in France, where she lived until 17, Bisiaux enlisted in the Army in 2007 and served five tours in Afghanistan.

During her last tour, she was injured by a roadside bomb. While rehabilitating, she took art therapy.

“At the beginning, I was like, ‘Art therapy? Seriously? How is that going to help me?’” she said. “I couldn’t believe it myself. On graduation day, the one person we were all the most thankful for was the art therapist. None of us believed in it when we got in, but, somehow it had been the most helpful. I’m still not an artist, but I guess it brings out the best in me.”

Bisiaux soon enlisted friends to help paint the horseshoes.

“Some of my artistic friends that painted are from the college, from Ocala Civic Theatre, from Silver Springs State Park – all the places I volunteer, basically. Even my hairdresser. And my art therapist from the Army,” she said.

The equestrian club has about 50 different horseshoe designs available at two sponsorship levels: silver for $25 and gold for $50. Money raised will allow the student members, once pandemic restrictions are lifted, to take part in activities such as horseback riding and attend local and regional equestrian shows and events.

Although Bisiaux will graduate in May, she’s happy future students will benefit from her efforts.

“To me, it’s about giving back,” Bisiaux said. “I just love this community. It’s a great place to live, we have a very good college and a lot of good people.”

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