The Senior Horse Project by Rachel Flynn Equine Photography.
My passion for horses is something that has been with me nearly all my life. Like a limb, my love for them is simply an extension of who I am, a thread intricately woven into the tapestry of my being.
I was first introduced to this world as a young girl, when my grandparents purchased a pony for us lucky grandchildren. Visits there quickly became all about that pony, with me instantly begging for rides upon arrival.
Not ever having owned a horse before, meant my grandparents were often surprised by the challenges one posed. That little gray pony we lovingly named Silver quickly developed her own cheeky little personality. This was particularly evident when Nan would walk through with food for the chooks. It didn’t take long for it to be decided that Silver would come and live with us. From that day on my love for horses would get stronger with every interaction.
Mum was terrified of horses due to a riding accident in her teens. But this didn’t stop her allowing me to spend hours outside with Silver. I imagine this gave her some much-needed peace in the house, devoid of my childhood nagging.
One day, whilst visiting friends, they pointed out a black Welsh Mountain Pony in their paddock. He was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen and I instantly fell in love with him. They had won him in a raffle, and he was the one that had taught their whole family to ride. As their children had since outgrown him, he now spent most of his days in the paddock. They kindly gifted that pony to us and we were a match made in heaven! I would use a bucket as my step to bridle him, and then I would climb a fence or gate to hop on bareback and off we would go. His name was Thunder and he was as close to bombproof as you could get.
I soon moved on to a flea-bitten Arab Gelding and when he retired, I purchased my first Stock Horse at the age of 13.
Being a farming family, during my teen years horses played a key role in our lives. Horses were still traditionally used for cattle mustering and with two farms, cattle leased in higher parts of the High Country, there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t use a horse for work.
My passion for horses did not falter as I became an adult and started a family of my own. Now, I am a professional equine photographer and breeder of the unique and majestic Gypsy Cob. It is fair to say that horses play an even more integral part of my life now than they ever have before.
Over the years I have had horses of all ages. From the youthful to the wise and everything in-between. The older ones, whose lives meant so much to me, would cause a great void when the time came for their inevitable passing. Losing an animal, no matter their age, is one of the most painful experiences that we go through. The importance of their life often overlooked by those who simply do not know.
One crisp May morning in 2e20, whilst feeding the horses as I do; I was taken back by the beauty of the morning light, watching it as it weaved in and out of the valley on our Neerim South property. I decided to do a spontaneous social media Live to share with everyone why I love photographing so much with natural light. Max, our senior horse, was resting in the paddock and I was able to proudly show him in all his glory.
There was something about Max and the light that day that struck me, and I announced on the spot that I needed to do something special for the senior horses in our lives, something that hadn’t yet been done. This idea had long been in my periphery but due to the demands of home-schooling a young family-and all that goes into it, I hadn’t yet had the time. But alas it had arrived and thus The Senior Horse Project was born. I was excited to be taking on something that no one else had documented here in Australia as an equine photographer, and to participate in something so meaningful to so many.
As any horse lover would know, these Great animals do so much for us and I felt a strong urge to thank them all for their service and the unique and significant roles they had played in my life. The lessons I had learned, the love I had gained and the partnerships we had built together deserved a nod. I leaned heavily into my horses as a young girl and into the ever-challenging teen years where my horses had been my savior in many ways, and my best friend in all. My passion for them is still as strong today as it was when I climbed onto that fence and mounted Thunder all those years ago.
When I decided to tell the Senior Horse story through a photograph, I knew each individual horse’s journey was just as important as those in my life. Once the project started, I reached out to my friend April Harvey, who, at that time, was working with Manolo Mendaz Dressage.
She told me that they had two very special senior horses at the Mendez stables and I was eager to come and meet them. I remember the drive up that day, and how blown away I was when I first saw him. His name was Dinamico XII and he was the well-known Andalusian/PRE stallion of the Mendez stables. My heart nearly skipped a beat as I took in this handsome gray stallion standing in the doorway preparing for our photography session. Throughout our session I soaked in every fragment of his incredible presence and the wisdom he seemed to exude. He remains a favourite among the many stallions I have had the pleasure of working with.
I couldn’t help but get emotional as I learned that Manolo had nearly lost him earlier on that year; though it reminded me of the importance of this project and how capturing a moment in time is so incredibly paramount. Whether it be with family, friends or the animals we have around us-eventually those photographs turn into our most treasured memories.
Ever curious to know of the impact horses have had on other people’s lives, I asked Manolo some questions about his journey.
What meaning do horses hold in your life?
“Everything. Horses are a part of me, they’re a part of my energy. When I’m not working with horses my life feels discordant. I have been with horses since I was a little boy. My mother rode 20km to the town to give birth to me. After 7 days she mounted up and rode the 20km home with me in her arms. From that moment horses have been my life.”
How have Horses impacted your life?
“Horses have had a profound effect on my life. I have met and performed in front of millions of people and traveled the world because of them. I have performed many shows in Europe and Australia; met Royalty and celebrities.-Horses bring me a sense of peace. As a child I used to go and sit with the horses in the stable and listen to them chewing hay, it was like music to me, an orchestra. Horses soothe me, they give me so much joy and fulfilment. Sometimes life and people provide challenges however horses are my comfort zone.”
Do you think Photographs are important?
Yes. They are very important. When we reflect on our past and what we have done they help enrich our memories.
Have you enjoyed being part of the Senior Horse project?
“Rachel is very passionate, kind and made the entire experience a pleasure. She appreciates and honours each individual horse’s beauty and spirit. I definitely recommend a photoshoot experience with Rachel.”
As a storyteller, I am driven to document your everyday Equestrian Lifestyle so that you have lasting memories for generations to come. There is a passion within me to bring the uniqueness of their personality that every horse has through my lens.
“When all we have left are photographs, we realise the importance of a photograph”.
When a horse is nearing the end of their time we are often forced or rather gifted, the opportunity to reflect on their journey and the road we’ve walked together. Some stories are too painful to share with words and I am thankful for the opportunity to create a wonderful visual legacy to remember them by.
If you have a senior horse, you’d like to be included in The Senior Horse Project, contact rachelflynnequinephotogaphy.com – Rachel travels Australia-wide & Internationally photographing horses.
In loving memory of Dinamico XII & Thunder.
All imagery ©Rachel Flynn Equine Photography