I have always had the feeling that horses rather like me but, owing to a lack of horses among my friends, I have never had the opportunity to test the theory.
When I was out for a walk the other day I met three very handsome horses in a field not far from my home. Spotting the opportunity to add to my unplanned portraits, I tried to attract their attention. I called, waved and whistled – and the horses stayed exactly where they were.
One of them flicked an ear, muttered “oh, people”, and continued to groom her friend. It was a revelation because I never knew that horses groom each other. I could tell that the little off-white one was curious but she decided that it was safer to hide behind one of her bigger friends. Until, that is, I blew my lips with an interesting and very authentic horse sound effect. I was rather pleased with myself. I know nothing about horse language but my hastily carried out research suggests that this may be an expression of insecurity. Whatever it was that I had said, they strolled up to me and gave me a friendly whinny as if to reassure and greet me.
“Hello, stranger”, they all whinnied, except the little one, who was still hiding, grinning sheepishly and becoming ever more curious.
“We are quite friendly, really. Did you bring anything nice?” I searched my pockets.
“Try polo mints or carrots”, the mare suggested. I had to admit ashamedly that I did not have any of the desirable items on me.
“That’s quite alright”, said the mare. “Tickle my nostrils then”. So I did and we became good friends.
Meanwhile, her friend, the stallion, unrolled his manhood and looked at me with one eye closed.
“Bet you can’t do that”, he said. I put on a regretful expression, shook my head and concentrated on my duties as a photographer. A good policy in many situations.
After the pre-session ritual – a chat and nostril rub instead of the usual coffee – we decided to go for the natural look, without any makeup or extra grooming. They posed beautifully for me and were not embarrassed by the camera at all. On the contrary: They found the whirring of the focus mechanism of the lens and the shutter click intriguing. The tricky task was to keep their noses off my lens, which they thought looked like a mightily interesting toy.
After twenty-odd frames I announced “I think I have got what I wanted” and thanked them for posing so patiently. They understood that the photo session was over, whinnied at me one last time to say ‘good bye’ and trotted off. Clever animals, horses, and very civilised.
Click on the photographs to see them bigger.
To avoid any misunderstandings, these photographs were the result of a stroll and a chance meeting. The horses’ owner did not commission me to photograph her horses. In fact, she hates the photographs because they are “not flattering to an equestrian mind”.
This is probably the very reason why I like them. They may not be flattering to everybody’s taste but they show character.