I’ve had a long and frustrated love affair with horses for probably my whole life. One of my earliest memories is of an art session at playschool. The boy sitting next to me painted a beautiful black horse. I envied him so much that I vowed to be as good at painting horses as he was.
There was no one else horsey in my family, and no money for me and my siblings to indulge in such a costly pastime, but I treasured the few horse books I was given at birthdays. If I wasn’t reading about horses I was drawing or thinking about them.
Something amazing happened at secondary school. Our PE teacher arranged a pony trekking holiday in Wales and my parents agreed to let me go. I got to learn to ride in the Black Mountains on a chestnut Welsh mountain pony called Guy. I say learn to ride. I learned to stay on Guy’s back while he dragged me under blackthorn trees and cut the corners off incredibly steep downhill tracks. Bliss!
My pocket money was enough to buy sweets but not riding lessons, so my equine obsession remained arms length through most of secondary school. Then something wonderful happened. There was no GCSE for PE, so we were allowed to pursue optional sports instead. I got to go horse riding in school time for two years. Thank heavens for our horsey PE teacher.
I was the smallest person in secondary school for four years – only in my fifth year did a first year arrive who was shorter than me. I was not athletic in any way. But I was incredibly stubborn. I figured if I could not afford horses, I would work with them. Immediately after my last GCSE exam – and still only fifteen – I started my new life as a trainee stud groom on a miniature horse stud farm in deepest West Sussex. I got to live in a filthy caravan and was paid £29.50 a week, but I loved it.
My other interest has always been in understanding the behaviour of others – people and animals. Living on a stud farm I was in my element, observing and learning the behaviour and interactions of the ponies, who lived, mated and foaled au naturale. I decided I wanted to be a horse psychologist and left the stud to continue my education.
I never did become a horse psychologist, but after a three year spell as a riding instructor after college I did go to uni to study human psychology (and no, I’m not analysing you before you ask). I didn’t forget about horses though.
I can barely remember the last time I rode a horse, and I rarely get my art stuff out these days, but if you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know I’ve been playing photographer for a while. Since moving to Durham over three years ago I’ve been living in a mainly horse-free area. I may have been rural, but most of the fields were arable. Now I’ve moved and there are horses galore. I can walk for half an hour and go past or through seven fields with horses in. There are even two riding schools near me.
Some of my recent photos are here, and there are more on Flickr. I don’t know what else this year will hold, but I do know I’m going to be taking lots of photos of horses.