In her youth, my mother managed—secretly—to acquire a horse and keep him in a nearby barn, her parents none the wiser.
I grew up on stories of Mom’s misadventures: trudging through snowy Alberta pastures while pulling hay on toboggans, her first nervous attempts at vaccinations and the moment she knew her secret was out: when a saddle showed up under the Christmas tree.
There’s no question Mom’s childhood antics are at the root of my lifelong love affair with horses; I can’t imagine how different things might have turned out for me if not for hidden horses and a bit of adolescent rebellion.
And while I can imagine these stories in my head, I’ll never know the horse responsible for shaping my life—I’ve never once seen a picture of him.
Maybe photos existed once and got lost. Maybe none were ever taken (because, you know, secret horse). Whatever the reason, I don’t have photographs of Mom’s memories, and I truly wish I did.
I can only hope my future children inherit a love of horses. When they do, I’ll share with them about my own adventures on horseback. I’ll tell them about Herbie, driving cross-country to chase dreams, sleeping/hand-grazing in a roadside lawn chair with a blown tire in the middle of the night and nowhere, his afternoon snoozes and his sweet, sweet eyes.
When I tell these stories, I’ll pull out the printed photos and show them his crooked blaze, knowing gaze and rebellious tuft of a forelock. When he’s long since passed, I can look to the portraits and run my hand across his copper coat once again. And in 40 years, my children can pull the same image out—a true heirloom by then—to hang on their walls and tell their own families about their mother’s plucky little ranch horse.
In the digital, share-everything, look-at-me world, it’s easy to overlook the value of high-quality portraits of you and your horse. After all, everybody has an iPhone, right? Why pay for professional photos? What makes portraits better than a selfie with 8 million artistic filters?
Portraits—of your horse, your pets, your family—aren’t about vanity, garnering Instagram likes or updating your Facebook profile picture. They’re about capturing treasured relationships, preserving memories and crafting lasting heirlooms for generations to come.