I was born and grew up in Romania. I often travel back to visit my family and friends.
Last December was a bit different. I went home with the intention of finding and photographing some horses roaming free in the Southern Romanian forests. I was detoured. Prior to my arrival, my dear mother watched a documentary on the Hutul horses from the Northern Carpathians ands she felt the subject might interest me. I did my research, discovered Lucina Stables and effortlessly decided to travel to the other end of the country, close to the Ukrainian border. The adventure exceeded my expectations.
Horses have always been a big part of the Romanian people’s lives. In many areas of the country men and their four legged are intimately connected and the animals are indispensable in most households.
I had to talk about this while staying faithful to the thread tying my equine stories together: depicting horses' vibrant spirit and reflecting their desire to run free, regardless of their circumstances.
The locals from the North are extremely proud of this horse, which is so relevant to their existence in the area. Lucina Stables’ crew makes sustained efforts to preserve the breed by carefully and selectively working with the blood lines. Lucina Stables were first opened in the 1850′s by the Austrian Colonel Martin Von Hermman for the equine needs of the Austrian army. The Hutul horses are still raised there to this day and are known for their exceptional adaptability, strength and agility.
With the exception of the breeding stallions, the horses at Lucina roam free in very large paddocks with creeks flowing through. They seem to be more aware of their free nature and they are connected with each other in a herd context while exploring their natural environment. Quite refreshing to witness.
I was able to enjoy the company of almost 60 horses, most of which were gestating mares expected to foal this spring. The energy around the group was simply extraordinary.
During my stay, one mare kept on following me around to the point where I could not even take photos as she was beside me all the time. Before leaving I went to say goodbye to my four-legged friends. She came to me, and while I was caressing her face, more of her friends joined and it all turned into a strange, beautiful, emotional procession. I was overwhelmed and had tears rolling down my face. I did not want to go!
The experience truly brought my vision to a new level. It shifted the way I look at my equine work and is already helping me imagine new adventures.
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.
Website: www.gracefulhorses.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/GracefulHorsesPhotography Twitter: @gracefulhorses