I was three years old when I fell in love with horses. My parents like to tell the story of how they knew it was serious when I exclaimed, “Never in my whole life, have I ever had a pony!”
I had been bitten by the bug. The horse crazy bug. My every thought was so consumed with horsey things as a child, that when I thought about other hoofed animals, I imagined them as horses.
Deer? Forest horses.
Cows? Boxy milk horses.
I remember visiting a tiny island off of Okinawa when my family visited friends there in the early 1990s. We were told that the island was home to wild goats. I was floored. To get to the island, we rode in a small, but fast motor boat. The entire bumpy ride there, all I could think about were those tiny island horses. I mean, goats.
Seriously, horses were magic to me. It wasn’t long after announcing to my parents that I wanted a pony, that my parents decided to give in to my sister and me. My parents weren’t rich, but they understood what it could mean for us to grow up with horses. I got a pony named Rusty, and my sister got a horse named Dotti. Those next few years of learning to ride and care for horses were the best of my childhood. I met my best friend around the same time I got my pony, and we are still horse crazy best friends to this day. The horses of my youth truly helped to shape me into the person I am today. They got me through some tough times, and they taught me how to be resilient. The whole, “when you fall off a horse, you better get right back on” idea is no joke. I fell off of my horses plenty of times (I even have home videos and scars to prove it), and got right back on. I guess it’s a combination of resilience and stubbornness, but still, I’m so grateful for all the things I learned about life through the horses I grew up with.
Although I no longer have my own horse, the bug never left me. In fact, it’s a huge part of what drives me to do the work I do. My love of horses led me to purchasing my first subscription to Horse Illustrated Magazine at 8 years old which then led to me being obsessed with the beautiful photographs of horses in every issue. It wasn’t long after then that I knew I needed a camera. And so began my love of photographing all of the animals in my life.
Today when I am around horses, or any animal for that matter, I feel like that little girl again. Giddy with excitement for the new animal friends I’ve made. For as long as I have lived, I have always felt as if I am living in their world. I am a guest, and if only they will let me in, let me understand them, then I will be a part of that world.
I especially felt this when I saw wild horses up close for the first time. I wrote a blog post titled “To Dream of The Wild” about the first time I met wild horses living at the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary. It was an experience that came into my life at a time of great transition, when I was incredibly vulnerable to the realities of taking the leap toward my dreams. It was the perfect moment for me to learn from the wild ones, and to bring home all that they taught me.
A few months after visiting GEMS, my husband and I went on a road trip through Eastern Oregon, and eventually found ourselves in the Steens Mountain Wilderness staring at a herd of wild horses. It was so freaking magical, I can’t even explain it without wanting to cry. I watched two wild foals chase each other through the grass and around their mothers. This was the moment when the dreams of Little Marika came true, and I was reminded that no matter how old I get, the magic of animals will be just as strong as it was when I was a little girl.