I once wrote something like 'I've never impressed horses', back in the years when I wrote poetry, though I cannot remember on account of what experience. I've never been a horsey person, but then I've not really been around them much. In fact I've always had a mild but tangible fear of large beasts, that is animals whose spines stand higher than my waist. I have always kept a respectful (or fearful) distance & rarely summoned the confidence to actually reach out & touch, either with an inquisitive or affectionate gesture. Somewhere in the distant past that fear must have developed within me, possibly through various negative inputs, but now it was about to begin to dissolve.
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And so it was that few days ago, the doubt & fear I had always felt when in the presence of large animals was eroded somewhat by my experience photographing some friends horse riding. Not just horse riding though; I was introduced to the horses in their living space, watched them fed, shoed & saddled, ridden & showered. It was a complete (though observatory) experience & I felt that having learned more about their behaviour & earthly habits I could interact with them with more confidence & affection.
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Our day began with a car drive from Barcelona to Montseny, a mountainous region & national park about 70km north east of the city. We were to meet with other friends at their home near the Santa Fe Riera. The day was bright & sunny, typical Catalunyan summer weather, perfecte!
As soon as we arrived we were lead to feed some horses (caballs) & a donkey (burro) who I had been warned could be quite annoying with his pushy, over friendliness. Actually I found his behaviour of unexpectedly pushing into me quite affectionate, quite like a cat when it brushes against your legs, but more brutal. The horses & donkey here ate hay; hot, dry fibrous stalks. Not at all appetising on a hot, dry, fibrous day.
But these were not the beasts that would be ridden. After leaving these cavalls (& burro) munching on their dry feast, we ascended to a paddock with two horses & one pony. The horses had recently been de-hooved & were getting accustomed to wearing shoes more suitable for the mountainous terrain of the local area. They were saddled & shoed in preparation for the ride, the pony was to be free to trail behind.
To get the horses used to the rocky terrain they are taken out on short rides for between 30 minutes & one hour. For this ride I was sat in the open back of a four-by-four truck where I had to run the camera at 1/4000th of a second shutter speed in an attempt to compensate for the combination of bright light & crazy camera shake from the movement of the vehicle along the rocky tracks.
After the ride along the hot & dusty mountain tracks the horses were treated to a cold shower.
This was soon followed, on re-entering their paddock, by a frenetic display of rolling in ones own faeces (the horses, not the riders!).
Next time I will have the opprotunity to ride also.
Watch this space!
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I am a freelance photographer specialising in performance arts.
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