If you do not walk with the animals, you will not know them – And what you do not know, you will fear – And what you fear, you will destroy.
–Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh
I did not grow up around horses, but I have always felt a connection with them, similar to my love of the wolf. It was at the end of 2017 when I happened across a magazine article about a woman working to save a breed of wild horses from out west – The Magical Nokota® Horse. Instantly, I was captivated by these horses and their lineage. I knew I had to see them in person. I chatted with Christine McGowan, of the Nokota Horse Preserve of Chester Springs, and traveled out to her farm in early January 2018 and spent hours with her and these horses….And that is where the story begins…
Since that first week in the cold winter of January, I have traveled out to her farm nearly every week to learn from her and from these horses. I have spent countless hours sitting in pastures, watching them communicate with each other and with the humans they encounter. I have listened to Christine as she has explained the “old language” these horses speak and how she speaks to them in that old language. I have watched her “speak” to a horse that moved away from everyone else and seen how that horse connected to her and came to follow her. I have been humbled by what these horses have freely given me. I have come to cherish my hours spent with them and the deep connection I feel when I am surrounded by them in a field. Their eyes speak a language I have never heard before and each time I am around them and I can touch them and breathe in their smell, I feel myself letting go of the chaotic outside world and grounding myself in the natural world I have so greatly missed being connected to.
These images document a recent session with Trinity, a Nokota® horse I will never forget. The first time I saw him, I stopped in my tracks and watched him as he moved around the other horses. They, like myself, knew he was different. He has a way about him that places him very high in the pecking order of the herd. He seems to move without fear and with a headstrong presence that is clearly felt. He is an alpha. He came to the Preserve from the lands of North Dakota several months ago and his wild nature is breathtaking to see. He is a special Nokota® horse.
On the day these images were taken, Trinity and some of the other horses were in a large paddock that was covered in snow from a recent storm. Trinity ran from us and the others horses followed him, just as their instincts have taught them over the ages. I watched Christine as she “spoke” to him and was mesmerized as he stopped running and “spoke” back to her. I was able to document this conversation through images. In the end, Trinity, a strong-headed, dominant, feral horse, freely came to follow Christine and willfully submitted to her request. It was humbling and beautiful and reminded me of Chief Dan George’s words above. I also heard myself saying, “Mitakuye Oyasin.” In the Lakota language of the Sioux, these words remind us that we are all connected, all are our relations. These words remind us that we, as two-leggeds, share the same Creator as the four-leggeds, the winged ones, the plants and trees, the rocks. We are all one family on the same planet and we are all loved by the Great Spirit. We are all a part of the same great circle of life.
I encourage each of you to step back and look at your own lives. If you have lost your connection to nature and the animals and the earth beneath your shoes, do all you can to reconnect. Put down your phones and walk into nature. Take off your shoes and feel the grounding energy that comes through the earth beneath your feet. Touch. Breathe. Hear. Taste. Smell. Let go and live….Don’t just exist.