Many little girls go through a phase of being obsessed with horses. They play with My Little Ponies, gallop around the house neighing and snorting, and think up the perfect names for their imaginary equine partners. Many of these same girls grow up and out of this period, moving on to school sports, sleepovers, and tween heartthrobs. But some of us never lose that connection to horses and the freedom they represent. I may not run around the house neighing anymore, but horses are still a huge part of my life.
It all began when my mother shipped my twin sister and I off to horse camp when we were 11 years old. I'm sure she was looking for a break and we needed something to keep us busy over the summer. I still remember sitting in the bus as it rumbled down a long dirt driveway, past pastures, a pond, and up to the barn. There were so many horses. Horses of every size, shape, and color. Our days consisted of cleaning up the barn, grooming the horses, a riding lesson, then lunch, arts and crafts or a game, and then riding again in the afternoon. We would go on trail rides, jump obstacles, or even swim on the horses. I was hooked.
After many years of leasing horses (basically renting long term) and riding any way I could, I ended up at a barn after moving back to Maine in 2008. I was looking for a new community of horse lovers, and asked if I could come by and just photograph the horses. There were about 15 at the farm and I wandered about the pastures, saying hello to them all and taking a few shots. When I came home and edited my take I realized that I had a lot of images of this one 4 year old Thoroughbred who had come off the racetrack. He hadn't come to say hello to me, seemingly quite wary of me and keeping his distance. I had shot after shot of this shy guy, and realized I might be in trouble. He just grabbed a hold of my heart that day and still has it now. Henry is the first horse I have ever owned, and he is a true joy to me.
Henryman and I have been through a lot together, including him suffering with Lyme Disease, wild adolescent behavior, and some boarding barns that just weren't the right fit, but we have finally found a place where we are both happy and he is feeling healthy. I constantly learn lessons from him about life in general, and actually about photography as well. I know that might seem funny, but many of the principles in horsemanship apply to shooting, too. Horses live in the moment, they don't worry about the future. In order to photograph a fleeting moment between people you have to be focused on that nanosecond in time. Horses teach you patience, they aren't on a time schedule. Often to shoot that important moment you have to wait, watch, and be patient until it unfolds. Horses also are prey animals so they are constantly reading behavior of other horses and the people they come into contact with. Photographing people well certainly requires a keen eye for body language and subtle cues.
I am so grateful to these amazing creatures that have taught me so much. We plan on moving to a home soon where we can have Henry (and a couple more, sssh) right in the backyard. For now, he's at a wonderful barn close by and I was lucky enough to have Megan come out to photograph us together on a recent evening. Thank you a million times, Megan, I treasure these images!