He knows full well that photographs will be taken today. And as chief of one of Cincinnati's largest public relations firms, Dan Pinger is keenly aware of the importance of looking good. Still, he has chosen to wear his customary weekend work duds "” worn jeans, a ball cap, nondescript black knit shirt, and sturdy footwear, waffle soles crusted with clean farm dirt. A bedraggled gray-and-white kitten, recently rescued from a ditch, does figure eights around his dusty shoes until he reaches down to smooth its scruff. A gentle man. A farmer. But not a gentleman farmer.

There is a difference.

He is not dabbling. He does not delegate the scut work. At least not all of it. He bounces along on his tractor, bush hogging the pastures, churning sand training rings. As we talk, he absently scoops up debris with a pitchfork. He approaches a young mare with a 2-week-old foal at her side. A first-time mama. A little skittish. He rubs her muscular arched neck, talking softly. She is calmed, a connection that cannot be manufactured for the camera.

That said, Pinger's 50-acre breeding and training horse farm, northeast of Georgetown, Ohio, is relentlessly picturesque. The main barn is a massive white structure with a green roof, flanked by a clear-water pond. Behind the pond is a new, white house. Dan and his wife, Deb, could have hauled a trailer to the spot. Instead, they built a good house for visiting trainers. Sleek mares and leggy babies graze behind oak fencing, better than it absolutely has to be. Four rails, not three. Three rails will confine a horse. But the fourth rail, among horse people, signals attention to detail and quality. Strength and permanence. Serious purpose.

Deb, who left her job two years ago as CEO of a training organization for educators, drives every day to the farm from the couple's 1842-vintage house in Ripley. Dan commutes between Brown County and his office at Dan Pinger Public Relations Inc. in downtown Cincinnati. The Wyoming High School graduate studied philosophy at Rollins College in Florida, then came home to work at the Enquirer and the University of Cincinnati. He worked at a large public relations firm before going out on his own. His Cincinnati business catering to two-legged clients has been thriving for more than two decades.

The one revolving around a four-legged product is just beginning to break even. "At first," he says, laughing, "we bought retail and sold wholesale." This year, they sold 10 horses, ranging in price from $4,000 to $25,000. Retail. They have another 20 horses they will keep to breed, to show, to train. They've learned plenty since 1993, when Dan bought his first horse for charmingly unbusinesslike reasons. "Before that, the only horses I'd ridden were the ones on a merry-go-round." But he was courting Deb, whose passion has been horses since she was a child. "It gave us content for our conversation," he says. And helped span their 23-year age difference, showing greater imagination and decidedly more commitment than roses or candy.

The Pingers are easily more alike than different. Small in stature. Quick and bright. Sweet-natured. These are the same words used by experts to describe the breed of horses the Pingers raise at their West Fork Farm, home to "world-class Paso Finos." These horses, bred in Latin America since the days of the conquistadors, came north in the late 1940s. Now, they're used for everything from working cattle to the formal show ring. A popular demonstration is one in which the rider holds a full flute of champagne as the horse races around the ring, spilling not a drop, a testament to the extravagantly smooth ride characteristic of the Paso Fino, Spanish for "fine gait."

Dan's favorite mount, Festiva, is his original brood mare. Although she has a few years on her and has borne several babies, she's still quick and fiery and can carry a rider easily for miles at the Paso Corto, a four-beat lateral gait comparable in speed to a trot. Lots of action. Very little bounce. Detroit automakers should investigate the Paso Fino shock absorbers. And if Festiva is the Cadillac of rides, Deb's elegant mare is the Rolls Royce. Glossy black Cumbia, headed for the show ring, will burnish the reputation of the Pingers' horses. Their training center already is established. This winter, top trainers will converge on the little "” the Pingers prefer the term "boutique" "” farm for sessions with some of the most brilliant young Paso Fino horses in North America, including four or five owned by the Pingers. The professionals are drawn from all over the country by West Fork Farm's indoor arena, carefully laid gravel and sand surfaces, spacious box stalls, and, most important, the reputation of the owners.

"The Paso Fino world is geographically large, but a small community of people. You learn who to trust," Dan Pinger says. "It takes awhile." They started out on an 11-acre farm in Batavia. "But when you start seeing vet bills and the cost of a farrier and feed," he says, shrugging, "we figured we might as well be spending all that money on good horses." And maybe out of lifelong habit, Deb, the educator, and Dan, the entrepreneur, became fully engaged.

Good horses. Videotapes of better ones. Imported semen. Selective breeding. Then a breathtaking colt born on their own farm. Better than expected. Maybe better than he absolutely needed to be. Hiring professionals. Hours of training, convincing these proud little horses to do their bidding. Listening. Learning. Patience. Consistency.

The horse business and the public relations business are very different, but the "principles are the same. And I like moving between the two different worlds," Pinger says. "I think it makes me more flexible, less likely to get in a rut. And it's good for me physically." Suffering a "slight heart attack" eight years ago, he says today he's strong, "ready to live life to the fullest." That includes his weekday business and his weekend one.

No doubt Dan Pinger will arrive at his next client meeting in a well-tailored suit and polished shoes, exchanging his ball cap for a necktie. Moving between his two worlds. Changing his clothes. But not his attitude.