Born in San Diego, California, Deborah Butterfield has had two passions throughout her life – horses and art. As a student at University of California, Davis, she planned to become a veterinarian but soon abandoned medicine for sculpture. She and her husband moved to Montana, where she could raise horses and have the space she needed to create art. Moving in the direction of realistic art in a period that valued abstraction and conceptual work took passion and courage. This direction was soon rewarded with grants and exhibitions in major museums and the path became clear: the art world embraced and celebrated the young artist's equine forms.
Since the 1970s, Butterfield has experimented with a variety of materials to create her horses, including wood, metal, mud, straw, and most recently branches and twigs, which she sends to a foundry in Walla Walla, Washington to be cast in bronze.