Lacking inspiration, I started looking through my photos and decided I actually have enough horses to write about them at least once -- if I include sculptures of horses.
A wonderfully intriguing sculpture is "The Iron Horse" by Lyle Nichols in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It's made of scrap metal that was found near the Union Pacific railroad in that city, and is a tribute to the role that the railroad and railroad workers have played in the area.
I'm a fan of art in public places, and I admire the time, effort and incredible creativity that goes into creating a piece like this. As an example, among the hundreds of parts and pieces that form "The Iron Horse," I identified numerous wrenches and other tools, a spark plug, cog wheels, spikes,
ball bearings, a part from a wood stove, hooks, at least two axe heads and dozens of other items. The horse even sports a Wyoming license plate on its left hip (sorry, not pictured), as well as full-sized horseshoes on each hoof. The intricacy of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up the entire sculpture is amazing!
A second public art installation featuring horses (and valued at well over $1 million) that we found in our travels is located at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and was designed by sculptor Dave McGary. Titled "Free Spirits at Noisy Water," this installation is extremely large, covering more than 250 feet from front to back. It's made up of eight larger-than-life galloping horses representing different breeds found in the US. As I walked around the area, I discovered it was literally impossible to include all eight horses in a single photo.
The realistically painted and patinaed bronze horses weigh between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds each, and the last horse, seen jumping over the hedge, rises 36 feet above the path. This installation is considered a feat of engineering since most of the horses are balanced and anchored on a single hoof, and the mare/foal pair that represent the Paint horse breed have seven of their eight hooves off the ground (the foal is welded to the larger horse but the mare is anchored by only her left rear leg).
Sadly, on the day we were there, it was heavily overcast and my photos simply don't do justice to this artwork that is apparently one of the most photographed art pieces in the state.
A real challenge for me in photographing live horses is that they spend so much of their time with their heads down, grazing. That's evident in the first photo, "Old Friends." The pair was very aware that I was there but were far more interested in breakfast than in me; I think in the entire time I was photographing them, I got only one image with the head of one horse up and looking at me.
Horses are inherently curious and, if you stop near them, they'll often come closer to check you out. This can be pretty intimidating to someone who isn't used to horses because they may come right up to touch and sniff, and, if you have a treat, to nibble. My husband, who seems to be loved by
animals of all sorts, was the draw for both horses in these photos. The older mare pictured on the right originated from one of the four BLM Herd Management Areas (HMA) in Colorado. She and her pasture buddy came to check us out where we were camping one day. We got to talk with the owner, who said this mare's unusual marking on her back and hindquarters is a peculiarity found only in the specific herd she came from, and that it seems to be a feature cropping up more often among those horses as they diverge genetically from other feral and semi-feral herds in the state.
Of course, getting a photo or two of a foal is always a goal, but not one I've been particularly
successful with. This colt was difficult to photograph because he's so dark and it was really hard to get any detail to show up. This shot against his mom's buddy was the most successful because of her light coat color, but he's still just a very dark silhouette.
And speaking of contrast, I like how these horses lined up, with the odd one out looking toward the camera while the other three could care less what I was up to.
The photo below was taken of a band of semi-feral horses found on Native American lands in southeastern Montana. This particular band of more than a dozen horses in total seemed to be made up mainly of mares, the one foal, yearlings, and two-year-olds. They are semi-feral because such horses may be ridden only a few times a year while working cattle, at rodeos, celebrations and ceremonies, and in parades, but spend much of their time free on the prairies and huge pastures of tribal lands. This photo highlights the vast area where these horses spend their lives.
I love horses -- their individual personalities, their wide range of colors and form, and their magnificence. Photographing them better is a goal to keep working on, and I look forward to future excuses to make imagery of these beautiful creatures.
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