For Winston…and Other Horse Lovers

For Winston…and Other Horse Lovers

“There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.” I stumbled upon this quote when I was a kid and it sure made me a Winston Churchill fan. Until I discovered it, he was just some bald guy in my history book who seemed to have a fondness for cigars. It wasn’t until much later that I learned this cigar-smoking bald guy just happen to end Hitler’s reign and World War II. That made three reasons to like this guy!

Similar to me, Winston was a big lover of the horse. While he was a rider and competitor, I’m more of an admirer, who simply loves to photograph sport horses. My results only further prove that there truly is something about these animals, whose beauty and grace always hold my gaze.

Growing up, my older sister was the equestrian in our family. While I was on the sport’s field playing ball, she could be found at the barn, perfecting her horse’s trot in the formal discipline called dressage, which looked like a whole lot of boring to my younger eyes. Though, I do recall one exciting incident that’s best described as equestrian chaos. It’s thought her horse, with my sister on its back, confused a garden hose for a snake. The result was watching a lot of legs, both horse and human, rearing up and down in a style opposite of equestrian grace. Thankfully, the horse and my sister were unharmed. The garden hose, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well.

My youngest daughter was drawn to horses at a young age. She competes in shows that are entertaining for any horse lover, though not real barn-burners at her novice level. Thankfully, the less than rapid pace allows ample time to photograph these events. It’s especially rewarding when shooting outdoors in the beautiful, well-groomed arenas. But, the task becomes a formidable photography challenge when the event takes place in a covered arena, with its not-so-beautiful backgrounds, and lighting even less to liking. This, of course, is where the proper lens can be your best friend. But, only if you’ve chosen correctly and invested wisely as, like friends, lenses can last a lifetime if cared for properly, or fail miserably if their value is under-appreciated. The choice is yours, so if the price is right, the investment is always worth what you’ll receive in results.

They say that horses are not smart animals. Meaning, if they had high intelligence, being forced to walk, trot, and canter in a particular style would be more difficult for humans to force upon them. I beg to differ, as many of the horses I’ve met radiate an intelligence that resides deep inside a place we humans can only hope to truly touch. If you look closely, you can see it in their eyes, behind the gaze noticed only after first glance, and offered only if you’re chosen to receive it. It’s in their unique sounds, both by hoof, as they scrape the ground, and by mouth, as they communicate to one another. If you’re fortunate, you’ll even get to feel it, if they trust you enough to offer a nuzzle or a nudge. It’s for these reasons that I’m drawn to all horses, even if at a distance that’s different from what an experienced rider must feel, as I’ve mostly been an unmounted admirer.

A few years ago, I had the great fortune of meeting a woman who rescues horses. Before our introduction, I didn’t know much about how horses sometimes receive such mistreatment, that folks like this woman, must find a new placement for them. Some are found starving, and sometimes even sold to slaughter. It’s heartbreaking and an all too often occurrence. Her mission is to save as many as possible and provide a second chance. Information about her worthy mission can be found at www.horseshealingheartsinc.org.

Interestingly, Winston Churchill was also involved in rescuing horses. He led a mission to secure the safe return of thousands of war horses stranded in Europe after the First World War. Another admirable, yet lesser-known fact about a man, born into privilege, who led a life dedicated to public service.

Fast-forward to now where I remain in the space between horse and human. Where these animal’s amazing strength and power, far exceeding mine, will forever receive the respect they deserve. A space where beauty, loyalty, and partnership collide, producing nothing short of art to my eyes. Where horses need riders not rescue, and belong under the care of those privileged enough to own them, and intelligent enough to respect that honor. And most surprising, a place where dressage can be downright exciting, now that I understand more about the discipline. So, should your road ever lead to the stables, there’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of a bald man. He’s the one with the knowing grin, smoking a cigar while savoring the scenery. Tell him I sent you.

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