The Journey

September 2019

Recently a dear friend gave me a book to read. I guess the title isn’t important, what was important was the mere fact I held it between my two hands, this was almost a confirmation about life. Like a guiding light that shows you’re traveling the right path no matter how hard it gets. Sometimes that’s all we need, a guiding light. I met a few of those along this journey.

It has been a little over a year since I left my stable job as a postman, in search of something. I didn’t really know what I was searching for, but along the way I’ve learnt a great many things.

Its been a story of travel, a story of horses, a story of love and a story of trust.

I’m no great writer, and I feel thoughts, words and emotions can’t really convey what I found inside. I hope this journey through pictures will provide some enlightenment into the simple joys I found.

I guess I was hoping to find peace on the road, in strange lands and foreign faces. But it turns out peace was much closer to home than I realised.

What was supposed to be a great outdoor adventure, turned into a journey inward of self discovery.

Ever asked yourself ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I doing here?’

I was always envious of those people who seem to know who they are. Those who seem content with the simple life. Go to work, go home, eat, sleep, have kids and repeat. It seems like the most beautiful and simple way to live, but I was never satisfied with that as an answer to life. I always thought there was something missing. Turns out it wasn’t something external I needed to find.

There has always been an idea in my head of who I thought I was, what my destiny was, but the thought of chasing that dream was too scary to ever consider.

On this path, one thing that has consistently astounded me is how many beautiful and kind people are out there. People who you can open your heart to. People who will fill your bowl when they can see it is empty and expect nothing in return.

One of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that, I used to think you had to trust someone to love them. The reality is trust is built from that pure love. The love of everything this world has to offer. Open your mind to it, and open your heart to it and love will come flooding back to you.

Look at the grass everyday like you’ve never seen it before. See how the dew forms, see how its colours change with the seasons. Watch in awe as the squirrels peel their conkers readying themselves for the winter. Notice the rabbits burrowing deeper as the shorter days draw near. Notice the pears start falling from the trees. Love these things. They are what give us life.

This pure love of watching things grow and change applies to horses as well. I stumbled into working with them in ways only the mysterious universe knows. Having no experience or knowledge, I was thrown in at the deep end, pretty much left to my own devices to figure out how they work. How to keep my head above the water so to speak. For that experience I will be forever grateful! And it was something no money could ever buy. People gave me advice, sometimes this was good, sometimes it was bad. Unfortunately there is no way to tell the difference until you try. I will say one thing though. If something inside tells you it is bad advice, it most likely is. Listen to your heart, it’s usually right.

When I started working with them, there were horses that used to drive me insane. They were so stubborn and would not listen to a word you said if they didn’t want to. Horses are mighty creatures and once they dig their hooves in there is literally no moving half a ton of pure muscle, unless you cause them pain that is. But causing pain serves only to destroy that trust we so badly need to build. They seem to have an uncanny ability to know when you were in a rush, and do their damndest to stop you in your tracks. Almost telepathic.

I just had to accept that time was not something I could control. If it was going to take 2 months to build that trust, then so be it. In doing so, they seemed to become a lot more open to doing what you asked of them. Trusting that you weren’t going to bring them to any harm. Eventually I came to enjoy their funny ways and love them as they were. Accept their strange and quirky characters, just like people I guess.

Overall though, horses seem to be fairly simple creatures to keep. If you know how to feed them, clothe them with their little horsey rugs (I’m not saying I always picked the correct rug!) and pick their feet then I guess you’re probably most of the way there to at least keeping one alive.

It begs the question, what else really is there to know?

OK so you’ve learnt to feed, clothe, and look after your horse in a stable. If you can feed, clothe, put shoes on a human and give them shelter, does this make them happy? For a select few people it probably does. But I think the rest of us mere mortals need relationships. And whether that’s a friendship, a partnership, a marriage, they all need one thing to work. Trust and Communication.

It seems to me, people have stopped observing the world and how it works. Whether this is the fault of technology or not, I have no answers for that. All I know is we are all animals, we all know how to communicate with each other inside. You know how to talk dog, how to talk cat. You know when they want affection or when they want you to back away and leave them alone. You know when a plant needs water or food. We’re all One. Horses are no different. Sure they spook at stupid sh!t, they aren’t very trusting animals, but that’s just their nature! Just as human nature seems to be to try controlling the world, for reasons I’m yet to understand!

It took me a long time to start understanding how horses communicate. I could have probably read about it in a book somewhere, but I don’t think you get the same feel as just observing these magnificent creatures with your own eyes. After all, every horse communicates a little differently, just like people. I think it’s easy to read things in books and forget that these are just guidelines, just as science is taken as gospel without question. What works for one, almost never works the same for another.

I don’t profess to be a great horse whisperer or anything of that ilk, I can assure you my horse vocabulary is extremely limited. It would be very ignorant of me to assume I know anything about them after only this short amount of time. I can only express what I’ve observed. This appears to be mostly irrelevant anyway, they seem to have this unspoken telepathy. By the glance of an eye the horse next to them knows whats happening and what they need to do. Knowing glances of, its time to be on guard. Or you distract him so I can steal the treats! Or maybe just … great…LARRRRY!! hes got his butterfly wings on again, hes really lost the plot now!!

Anyway back on topic… Where were we? Oh yes… ‘Who Am I?’

I learned if you wanted to turn up and ride something that did exactly as you asked without a thought of its own, then you’re probably better off with something mechanical like a motorbike where you can just sit on it and turn the key.

You might not be in the mood for their evasive tactics some days. But this to me, seems like a problem with the human rather than the horse. Take your time, or go find something else to do that day rather than take your frustration out on an animal that is only worthy of your love. And I guess that’s a general problem in today’s society. Everyone is in a rush to do everything. I find myself asking, to what end? To reach a goal so you can rush to the end of the next one?

Enjoy the beauty of slowly gaining a wild beasts trust while it lasts, don’t rush these things. Slow down, take time to stop and smell the roses as they say. Soon we’ll be 85, wondering where the time went.

Although horses can show unrequited love and affection, they are indeed powerful creatures and need to know their boundaries, if they cause bodily harm or pain, they need to know that. Just as you would teach a dog not to bite. Unnecessary violence though seems to have one of two outcomes. Firstly it just creates fear, soon enough the horse will stand deadly still, and do exactly as you say. Not because you’ve asked it to. But because it’s too scared to do anything else. Imagine living a life where you’re too scared to move because every flinch might result in harm coming your way. Secondly it makes the horse numb. So when you actually want it to listen it has no idea what you’re asking. It doesn’t know whether the slap of a hand means stop, go, put your leg down, stop eating my butt. All it knows is it’s probably going to get another slap anyway, so might as well carry on doing what it’s doing. CHOMP!

Remember, kindness builds love, love builds trust and that bond only strengthens with time spent together.

If you can’t trust your horse stood next to it, how can you possibly begin to trust it while sat upon its back? Likewise, if the horse can’t trust you to lead it safely, how can it trust you’re not going to bring it to some harm while riding it. This is something else I observed along the way. Those who take their time to build those relationships seem to perform better in anything they asked of their four legged friend. Those who spent their time just taking their horse for a walk beside them, as an equal, knew how their horse would react to certain things. Their horses seemed to trust them almost unwaveringly. They didn’t fear their horse, nor did their horse fear them! They worked as One.

As much as there are those people out there who want to see you achieve your destiny, there are also people who want to see you fail at your dream, or worse, come to harm. In these people you can see only fear and pain. More fear in their faces, more pain in their souls than you could ever imagine. I know in time they will find their peace, or at least I pray they do. Even in these people you have to show love, otherwise how will they know what it looks like. Like observing the intricate patterns of the venomous adder, keep your distance but still appreciate its beauty. From love and kindness comes prosperity. From fear and hatred grows only self destruction. Something I’ve witnessed time and again.

So … ‘Who Am I?’

I’ve made mistakes along the way. I had my first encounter with a horse at the start of the year that couldn’t, or more correctly, didn’t want to be caught. My first instinct was to try and tire it out, funnily enough, horses can run forever! Who knew!! So yeah … that didn’t work.

It came back to that issue of trust. Horses are unbelievably distrustful. They think everything is trying to kill them. Oh no the tractor moved, DEATH IS UPON US! RUNNNNN!! Unless you are these two, in which case, yeah I really have no answers. They’re just special.

The only thing that healed the mistake of broken trust was time.

I also made the mistake of going against everything my whole being told me, I started rushing. Rushing is a sure fire way to create distrust in any situation. Probably how they always knew when the vet or the dentist was here … He’s rushing guys! somethings going on! better safe than sorry … run!!

(not again … sigh…)

But we do live in an age where time is money, and unfortunately that’s just how some things have to be I guess. So remember, if someone offers you their time for free. Accept it with grace, it’s worth more than you can possibly imagine.

I don’t expect anyone to take notice of my ramblings here, but if we stop listening, if we stop observing, we stop learning, if we stop learning we become ignorant. If we become ignorant we become stale. Staleness is the ultimate absence of progress. You might as well become a potato. But then again, even potatoes grow with a little love along the way.

I soon came to the realisation, that I love horses probably more than I dare to admit, but caring for 25+ of them takes more energy than I could ever carry on mustering. It just wouldn’t be fair to them. I honestly take my hat off to all the yard owners out there. It’s an arduous and unthankful job at times. Knee deep in sh!t, day in day out. No sooner is a hay net filled, than it needs filling again.

And so it is with a heavy heart that I have to walk away, take off the great horse mask, and turn to face my destiny.

I do thank all the owners and riders for entrusting me with the care of something for which they love dearly. I dare say I felt like they were some kind of long lost family. Sure a bit dysfunctional at times, but what families aren’t? Nevertheless, everyone still looked out for their neighbours.

I hope the people … and more importantly, the horses … I have met along the way have enjoyed my company, just as much as I have theirs. Even if I did have my camera in their faces most of the time 😛 It has honestly been a true pleasure to work at a place where people go to enjoy their hobby. A place where people go to de-stress. A place of true joy. All in such beautiful surroundings.

I think the most important thing I learnt along the way was just exactly who I was, and how to be comfortable in myself. In that, I found a great deal of inner peace, but also a great deal of strength.

So I guess there is only one final question to answer. Who am I?

I came to the conclusion, you really are whoever you want to be. After all, thoughts become things. We thought of going to the moon, we achieved that (or did we?), we thought of touch screen technology that could keep everyone interconnected and sure enough, that emerged. We thought of cars that could drive themselves, they’re on their way! So be careful what you think, take control of your thoughts. Keep them on a short rein when they’re running wild. Or let loose, kick up the dirt and shoot for the stars … If you think you can jump 1.50m then you probably can, maybe not right now. But you will with time. If you think you can’t ride bareback, you definitely won’t be able to, so make sure you trust in yourself. If you’re scared of fillers, your horse probably will be too. Remember the telepathy! But most of all, remember the love and kindness. Love what you do and the rest will take care of itself.

Anyway I’m getting off track again. It has been amazing to watch all the riders, young and old alike grow with their horses. Seeing people go from not jumping, to jumping without fear. From horses being untrusting of their new surroundings, to finding best friends they can play with. People riding in harmony with these creatures, ever faster, harder, better.

So with this, it’s only fair I show a little humility. Something we all should do once in a while. I’m not just a photographer, I’m a musician. Something I’ve only recently felt like I could admit to. Not because I didn’t feel like one. Music has always been my passion. Ever since I can remember I loved hitting things with sticks just to see what sound they make. The sticks even worked on my two brothers, although they probably weren’t the most musical sounds! But it has taken me close to 20 years to admit that dream to myself. Admitting something makes it real, it makes the fear of failure all too present. It is now or never.

Music also comes from the soul, so I guess in a way I was afraid to bare my all in front of people. But watching these riders, some young, some old. Going out there in front of the crowd on a horse, giving their best show really inspired me. If these guys can ride a half ton beast and keep it under control in front of a crowd, then hitting things with sticks seemed like childs play.

I want to share with you a song. This song came into being almost a year ago now. It’s still unfinished, and has its flaws, its mistakes. But as with all learning, we’re never finished. We just have to be happy with what we’re doing right now. I hope to return in another year to see how far you have all come, and hopefully you can see how far I’ve come too.

About a month ago someone told me, its not about the money, its about what you love doing. I had no money in the bank, no money to even buy new clothes. I was broke, but worse than that I was unhappy. I’m still pretty much broke, but at least I’ve found my peace. I found what I love. In those desperate times of suffering I also found people that loved me for just being me. People that help you through those dark times no matter what, without question, without hesitation, they were there. I think that’s something money can never buy.

Don’t wait 20 years to chase your dream. Do it now. Money comes, money goes, but life doesn’t wait. Don’t turn bitter watching other people grow because you haven’t dared go after what you want from it. And I’m not talking about fame or riches. Decide what you truly want, what you truly love. Life seems to give you what you ask it for.

If you’re struggling, or if you’re in a time of crisis, certain special people also seem to enter your life. I can’t explain this, but the universe seems to give you everything you need. You might not realise at the time, and it might not be what you want, but it definitely will be what you need. I can promise you that much.

I wish everyone the very best on their future endeavours. Keep watch for those omens, for those guiding lights. Those stars in the dead of night that lead the way.

I send you off with all my love.


(Special thanks to Helen for this picture)

Apologies to the few who I didn’t get chance to feature, lets just say digital technology has an uncanny ability to steal memories away into the ether.