Horses: A Creative and Spiritual Journey
How photographing horses led to incredible discoveries
by Manuela Stefan (www.gracefulhorses.com)
Looking back at my life I truly am marveled at the way events have unfolded and brought me full circle. My current vantage point allows
me to make more sense of the puzzle I have been putting together, piece by piece. I am not saying it is complete, but what I have so far is already making a lot of sense.
As a child I spent summers in the Romanian countryside with my grandparents, surrounded by nature and animals. Grandpa always had horses. My father loves to share so many of his own childhood memories, riding bareback and being so connected with these animals. I remember admiring them and being taken with their grandeur. I was 5 years old at the time and they seemed bigger than life. I would watch foals being born and standing up on frail legs. It made so much sense to be there among them that I never thought my life in the big city would change everything. My grandparents passed and I ended up going back to the village less and less. The physical connection with that fascinating world came to an end. What I did not know until years later was how deeply embedded in my spirit this experience has remained.
In 1998 I moved to Canada and continued on with my urban lifestyle, this time in Toronto. A few years ago a friend of mine took me to a farm close to Guelph, Ontario and I had the chance to spend time with some horses. While driving back to the city I kept on thinking about them and about going back very soon. The feeling of deep peace was truly overwhelming.
It was my soul's home coming.
Months later I had to drive to Collingwood for a photo shoot with a lovely couple. On the way there I kept on seeing horses. I would stop the car so often that I almost did not make it on time for my appointment. I remember standing by the farm's fence and having the horses run towards me. My blood would pump faster through my veins and I would feel exhilarated.
One day I woke up after having dreamt of a white horse. The vision stayed with me and I started asking around with the hope that I would find something like him. That's when it happened. Miraculously (or not) I learned about the beautiful white horses of Camargue. Three months later I was flying there.
Needless to say, every single moment spent in the marshes of Camargue with these gracious beings was beyond rewarding. At times it felt as if they knew I was there for them. When they were not running in the water, they remained totally still, like majestic statues.
I stood there in deep awe and gratitude for what this moment was offering me: one of the most incredible encounters ever. I was surrounded by pure beauty, grace and overwhelming power. It was as if the horses were trying to tell me that they knew why I came and they understood my journey.
I returned home feeling changed. Affected. Inspired. Driven to do more.
New experiences have followed, allowing me to see the horses run in different landscapes, most of them foreign. I knew one thing for sure: regardless of the circumstances the animals were in, I would do my best to capture their shining spirit.
I like to believe that my images are a representation of the special state my mind and soul are in when I am close to horses. I try not to go into my experiences with preconceived ideas. But rather allow myself to flow with what each moment offers.
Ultimately, this is what horses are so good at: teaching us to be right in the moment with them and not worry about the outcome. They have an amazing way to show us that absolute trust is achievable when we let go of expectations and agendas.
this captivating journey will continue on and will open new portals into spectacular realities. My work is ultimately an homage to the nature of these animals. I hope that my visual stories will keep inspiring all those who share the way I feel. And I know there is quite an impressive bunch out there!
Manuela Stefan is a lifestyle and equine photographer with a deep passion for travel. Her ‘Graceful Horses’ collection came to life as a result of her strong connection with the spirit of the horse. Manuela’s fine equine art collections have been exhibited in galleries based in Toronto ON, Collingwood ON and Montana US. Based in Toronto, Manuela is available for private and commercial projects in Canada and internationally.