Every once in a while, if you are very lucky, you have an experience that leaves you feeling moved beyond words. This is a story of a moment like that, a day I will always remember.
I was on a photo workshop with Craig McCord in Eminence, MO. We were on a mission to find the wild horses of Shannon County. This is a well known herd of horses that live off the land and come and go as they please. I had heard about them, but didn't hold out hope that we would find them because Craig described them as the "ghost horses," and assured us that they often eluded his best efforts at locating them. But we got lucky, and found them grazing in a large pasture at the end of a long dirt road.
We all grabbed our cameras and long lenses and started walking quietly across the large field. The horses were fairly far away and kept grazing, paying us no mind except for a few that I called the "guards" who kept a close eye on the intruders.
The sentinels keeping a close watch on the photographers
We all clicked away, taking lots of photographs as we slowly edged closer and closer to the herd. When we got a bit too close, the horses would let us know by moving back. Most of the photographers were probably about 50 feet from the horses, and this seemed to be comfortable for both parties. I was so thrilled to have found the herd and was so busy taking photographs, I wasn't aware that I was slowly getting closer and closer to the horses and leaving the other photographers behind.
The guard horses became aware of my closeness and the dark gray horse started to nicker and bob his head, looking right at me. Without considering how it must look to others, I nickered back and bobbed my head right back at him. We had started a little conversation! He would nicker and stare, I would nicker and look down so as not to appear threatening, all the while each of us taking careful steps towards each other.
The start of our "conversation"
Looking down to appear non-threatening as they edged closer and closer
I got closer and closer until I was just a few feet away from the herd, and after a few moments they seemed comfortable with my being that close. And just like that, the guard horses and a light gray mare took a few tentative steps towards me, their curiosity getting the best of them I suppose! They were probably amused and somewhat befuddled by this strange human that nickered at them!
Reaching across the gap to become friends
I stood completely still and felt a wave of calmness and acceptance as I was surrounded by the wild horses, they were allowing me to be a part of their herd. The light gray horse even stretched out her neck towards me, and I responded by putting my hand on her nose. I was moved to tears when she nudged my hat with her velvety soft nose.
Close up of my special new friend
I have had the good fortune of having a special connection with animals for most of my life. I clucked to the new baby chicks on my grandparents farm, mimicking the mother hen's way of talking to her babies. They responded to me and eventually I could call them to me from across the yard. I often whinnied to horses from the fence of their pasture, only to have them come up to me so I could feed them an apple. So my "talking to the animals" started a long time ago! But this encounter with the wild horses was incredibly special, a moment that I will never forget. Perhaps because of my life long love of horses, or because I was accepted into this wild herd for a few incredible moments, I will forever treasure my encounter with the wild horses of Shannon County.
A special thank you to Craig McCord for finding the horses and for taking photographs of this incredible experience. I normally would be reluctant to post photos of me with my backwards baseball cap and multiple layers of clothing and rain gear, looking far from beautiful! But take a look at that smile on my face and you'll realize that it doesn't matter what you wear when your heart is that full of pure happiness!