I was excited when I read this headline. I became less excited as a I read through the article. It seems that America’s wild horses are doomed to be misunderstood, their numbers and what they mean misrepresented to their continuing detriment. And of course this misinformation will be considered gospel by many and no doubt used against them by their enemies which seem to increase in types and numbers the further along we go.
I don’t know if it is the writer Motez Bishara, the photographer or whom she stayed with in that trailer.
The Rolling Stones sang about them, and Ford named its most iconic sports car after them.
Their numbers are increasing, yet mustangs are among the ever-growing list of animals being eclipsed by the modern world.
That’s the view of Dutch artist Charlotte Dumas, who holds a particular fascination with the wild horses that populate the western U.S., together with the overall roles that animals play in society.
“Their physical presence may be growing, but what they stand for is deteriorating,” Dumas explains. “The whole idea of the wild and free horse is not sustainable anymore.”
And how about this? Why is it so often when an equine veterinarian, in this case a lecturer, open their mouths they seem to make the most astonishing statements?
Her two most recent bodies of work were recently on display at The Photographer’s Gallery in London. For “The Widest Prairies,” Dumas shadowed the mustangs from a trailer in Dayton, Nevada, while “Anima” is a video montage of military horses falling asleep in the stables of Arlington National Cemetery.
“Those horses make for a more appealing subject simply because they are more realistic of how most horses live, rather than in a very artificial habitat (catered to) horses that we might see in the Olympics,” says Dr. Thomas Witte, lecturer in equine surgery at the Royal Veterinary College in London.
How are horses being catered to if forced to live in a very artificial habitat? There’s more.
“The wild horses have such a romantic connotation; I wanted to challenge myself, and see if it was possible to take a portrait of one,” she says. “I thought it was always a daring topic to go near, so it took me a while before I was ready to take that on. Practically they are very different from each other.”
Dumas spent nights in a trailer loaned by a wild horse preservationist in Nevada. The topic is controversial, since the free-roaming horses (numbering 40,815 throughout 10 states) can overpopulate and encroach on residential areas.
“They keep coming closer and closer to civilization because there is no food on the hills anymore. So (there is a question of) who’s infringing on who,” she explains.
Witte notes that overpopulation can lead to a spread of diseases between species. “Wherever you have that interface between human population and animal population, you’ve got to do something to control the situation; that is for animal welfare as much as it is for human convenience,” he says.
That’s enough for me. Dumas’ images are arresting, but somehow make me feel very sad. See more at her online gallery.