I’m being stared at by a lazy-eyed Mérens stallion. In return I’m watching the water drip from his lips after his drink of water, the sunlight catching the drips in sparkling diamonds. He is the boss of the herd, there are around 15 of them and a wee jenny donkey.
Four of the horses are tugging and shaking hay from the rack with gentle rhythmic chomping and grinding. Standing watch is a senior 31-year-old with a speckled pink velour, sagging and hairy mouth, grey hairs streaking his dark mane and a knowing contentment in his eyes. He is quite simply beautiful, they are all beautiful. Etalon, hongre, jument. New French vocabulary added to my memory bank today.
At times they have slow, mindful movements as they negotiate thick mud and icy puddles. I’ve stepped out of my boots countless times, nearly losing my balance and my camera. I am trying to capture their essence and my senses. Feeling their warmth and gentleness. I touch them again. Their flanks, rubbing their long necks, tickling their noses. And that horse smell. How do I describe it? Hay, sweat, hair, warmth, musty, earthy. Alive. A smell that makes me a young girl again. One mare is stood looking out over the landscape, beyond the pasture and into the forest beyond. I go over to her and stroke her cheek. She enjoys my caress, nudging me a little to continue then breathing tenderly into my ear as I try to photograph her feet.
One horse lays in the sun, enjoying the weak morning rays. As the sun shines on the herd, they appear to have halos. I am reminded of the Ted Hughes poem, The Horses.
“There, still they stood,
But now steaming and glistening under the flow of light,
Their draped stone manes, their tilted hind-hooves
Stirring under a thaw while all around them
The frost showed its fires”
Long black eyelashes, whiskery beards, softly flaring nostrils, a comical yawn. They are almost not properly awake, not properly here, other worldly. But they are here, their physical presence, the space they inhabit is real, solid and perfect.
Pentax Spotmatic/Ilford HP5