How a fox hunter, working professional, and mother of three navigates life in
Virginia's rural territory
Story and photography by Jennifer Gray
I recently watched the season four finale of Yellowstone with my husband. I cannot get enough of the characters, mountain views, and clothing. My husband is not a big TV fan, so it's rare when we get to snuggle up and watch something together. It was quite literally the perfect storm (pun intended) when we got hit with nearly 8 inches of snow, and I was inspired to plan a Yellowstone photoshoot. After raiding my closet and packing my camera gear, I met up with a local fox hunter and her horse on a nearby farm in Middleburg, Virginia, to capture the vision.
Shannon Venezia was a natural subject for my Yellowstone-inspired concept as her life evokes a familiar strength and independence seen from the show's leading female characters, Beth and Monika. Venezia's soft-spoken demeanor and delicate frame seem like a rare juxtaposition as this mother of three can often be found loading and hauling her rescued thoroughbreds to a fox hunt where she races across the rugged terrain for hours in dodgy weather conditions. I find her courage captivating.
Venezia grew up in NOVA and moved to the heart of Virginia's hunt country in Middleburg about eight years ago to pursue a professional career. When I asked her if she found it hard living on her own in such a remote area, she explained,
"Yes, it's a challenge, but I love being out here. I'm a country girl at heart. I love the small-town quirks and how beautiful it is, with all the gorgeous farms and stone walls."
Venezia works full-time in marketing for Attwood Equestrian Surfaces, a builder of riding arenas with high-performance footing. When she's not busy with Attwood, she's usually training an off-the-track thoroughbred. "Thoroughbreds are my favorite. They are special," she tells me. Maggie, the grey horse I was photographing her with, is a thoroughbred who ran her last race in June of 2021.
When she was only five years old, Venezia asked her non-horsey parents for lessons and became hooked.
"I was one of those horse-crazy girls that lived, breathed, and slept thinking about horses. I opened my first riding school at 18yrs old," she exclaims.
She got her start in the hunter/jumper world, showing ponies but says, "I love training and working with young horses, so I leaned that way over competing. Now I primarily fox hunt and have my colors with Middleburg Hunt. Fingers crossed, I get the chance to compete more in the future."
I asked her how she managed to find time for her equestrian pursuits while working and caring for three children, and she told me, "It's tough. There are never enough hours in the day. I always say I'm great at juggling but dropping the ball feels like the world might end. My parents are amazing too. I couldn't do it without them."
Also, a fan of the Yellowstone show, Venezia says, "I think I'm with the majority, and Beth is my favorite. I love how she can be a total vulnerable mess and incredibly strong. She's bold and unapologetic, and of course, the relationship between Beth and Rip is the best thing ever."
As we said our goodbyes, Venezia left me with this piece of advice to pass on
"stay true to yourself and don't rush things."
Cardigan by Mumu
Necklace by Jennifer Gray
Cowgirl Boots Idyllwind Fueled by Miranda Lambert
Keep on scrolling for the second look with Shannon and Maggie....
Hat fastener handmade by Airynee Damewood
Skirt by Maxwell
Boots by Steve Madden circa 90s