The Doñana National Park in Huelva province in southern Spain is one of Europe’s most important wetland areas. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994, it is a haven for fauna, such as the Imperial Eagle and the Pardel Lynx. However, for as long as human memory serves, horses have also been living in the marshlands: los caballos marismeños. The horses that Christopher Columbus took with him on his expeditions to America from 1492 are widely believed to have been marsh horses and many people believe they formed the base stock of the modern American Quarter Horse.
Featured on our front cover this month are Tania Patrick and her nine-year-old Quarter Horse mare, Sedona, photographed by Olya Tutova from 42beats photography.
Six thirty in the morning. The sun is rising over the Greek village of Magazia; the Aegean Sea laps at the shore beside whitewashed buildings. Hooves pound the sand as a bay horse streaks past with a rider on board.
There was a lot going on around the vet ring and Dante didn’t like any of it. He’d had enough. He wanted to be left alone. I’ve learnt his default when it all gets too much for him is to become pushy and, by the time we were at the vet ring after our second official endurance training ride, Dante had well and truly had enough. In his defence, he was stressed, tired and hungry. He’d just been ridden 20 kilometres - his longest ever ride. He wanted to be with his brother, Cruiser, who was in the yard.
“I challenge you to do a painting a day.” Yvette Frahn had been working part-time as an equine artist for some time when her friend set the challenge to her - to create one new work a day. Yvette was momentarily at a loss - where would she get the inspiration to create such a long stream of new pieces? Then she was struck by a realisation. She had the source material out in the back paddock - her mare, Tooky, and on her desk, a towering stack of photographs she had already taken of her.
Buoyed by how well young Dante behaved at his first foray into the world of endurance riding, I entered him in a second training ride. This one was 20 kilometres and would be his longest ride to date. My teenage daughter, Lauren, asked if she could ride him this time, with me riding 22-year-old Floss. Since Lauren’s Welsh Pony, Timmy, retired last year, we’ve been sharing Floss and Dante. It works well and I had no qualms about Lauren riding Dante in the 20km ride - and I’m always happy on Floss.
As orange as her own hair and with the same bright personality, the striking and elegant Monsoon stormed into Aukje van Vark’s life to prove that with horses - as in life - it never rains, it pours. Originally from the Netherlands, Aukje moved to Australia with her husband and three daughters in search of opportunities to reconnect with nature; in the way others born in this astounding continent take for granted. Space, lifestyle and better weather to enjoy them were top of their list.
At 17, most young women are completing their final years at high school; filled with big ideas and grand plans for their careers, and the start of their adult lives. But, for Agnes, at just 17 years of age, she was coming to terms with the possibility she would never be able to stand up or walk again. The result of three diseases that had progressively affected her body since birth, leading to Agnes having to adapt her life to reliance on a wheelchair and a manual hand-controlled motor vehicle for mobility.
Endurance riding has long been one of my ambitions, so when I saw there was a 10km training ride on offer a short float ride away from the paddock, I decided it was too good an opportunity to let pass. Ten kilometres would be no big deal for Dante as far as distance went, so the event would provide an opportunity to expose him to an occasion with dozens of other horses, the vet ring and all the attendant excitement. I convinced my daughter to come along as well and ride old Floss, who we knew would be calm and steady - a good support for Dante on his first big outing.
Featured on our front cover this month is a beautiful photo of Laura Mitton and her horse ‘Graphic Design’ - aka Nelson - taken by Averil Crebbin of Picture the Moment Photography. Laura is an up-and-coming showjumper - eager to find her way and carve her name into the horse industry; keen for a taste of the big jumps and for the chance to compete at international level in Europe.