In April of 2004, I attended a photography workshop with Tony Stromberg and on a late afternoon we visited a Peruvian Paso ranch in New Mexico. There, under towering Cottonwoods, we photographed Peruvian yearlings as they flew around a grassy pasture like a flock of birds. Manes and tails waving, heads held high…their eyes dancing…I fell in love with them as they braved the space between us to bless me with their breath. While the group was eating lunch, I was drawn to a chestnut stallion standing in the barn. I loved him before I even touched him, and silently ran my hands over him and picked up a brush from a nearby tack box to trace the lines of him before he was brought out to an area for us to photograph him. I didn’t know his name, yet felt I’d known him for years. When his handler, Ginger, introduced him to us as Domecq, I realized he was the same horse I’d admired when I saw him in a Robert Vavra book many years before. I am happy to say I got to meet him again and create images of him before time took him to higher pastures.
Now I travel to the Peruvian Pasos and stay with them for days, meeting them in the magical moments before the sun crests the mountains and weaves it’s way through the trees to light the steam coming off their backs in the winter or lay golden kisses over their shoulders in the summer. When the light is “not right” in the middle of the day, I sit with them as they lay in the grass and walk with them as they graze, enjoying watching their herd dynamics and integrating into the herd itself. I tell folks sometimes that I am 99% horse and the other 1% simply allows me to walk upright and carry a camera. When the light starts to dance it’s way toward the horizon I spend several more hours photographing the horses as they graze, interact, and frolic. Why ask them to “do” anything? The beauty of them is that they “are.”
On a recent trip to La Estancia Alegre, I was able to bring my husband with me and let him get to know better this breed of horse that he has rarely met. He is a novice horseman and is just becoming comfortable with the horses as he is also starting to truly love them. On a misty afternoon right before a thunderstorm, we wandered into one of the pastures where four chestnut mares perked their ears and focused bright eyes on us as we meandered toward them. About 100 feet away from them, I asked my husband to kneel down and invite them to come to him with no speech, using only his soul as his voice. I looped around to the left and watched. One mare bobbed her head and took a step toward him. That’s all it took for the other three to join her as they started walking toward him. They were so gentle, approaching him like a foal in the grass, circling to come up behind him and to his sides. My husband looked at me a bit nervously to see if it was “ok” and I smiled, nodded, and walked out to a space in front of him to get in a good position to photograph what I saw was going to happen. Each mare touched him on the shoulder or head with her muzzle and one mare in particular was very curious about him, breathing him in and whisking her muzzle over his head. All thoughts of concern went away and I could see the smile building on my husband’s face. A transformation occured as he found the joy in the experience and I believe this small miracle, gifted by these mares, will stay with him forever.
Below are some of the images I created while with the Pasos while we were there:
On an overcast late afternoon, I photographed the lovely stallion Tesoro by a patch of flowers next to the main barn. Within moments after this image was made, the rain started to pour down.
The next morning a light mist still prevailed which saturated the colors of the horses. In this image, I’ve created a Poloroid Transfer Artistic Impression of the original photograph of this stunning mare and her young foal. Although the rain required cover for both my cameras/lenses and me, it sure helped with the otherwise ever-present mosquitos!
This brave young filly kept running off by herself in the evident joy of simply feeling the wind over her body and hearing the sound of her own hooves making music. She often darted and dashed so fast that it was a challenge just following her with the camera. Isn’t she lovely? This sepia inspired Artistic Impression was a joy to create.