Risk Level: at risk
Local Risk Level: Minority
Listed by DAD-IS and RBST
For months it was planned to leave for a week long Explorer Tour to discover rare horses with a friend in the last week of September. But for months now, it is also impossible to plan anything. Almost all my ideas and plans I had for this summer and autumn had to be cancelled, postponed or completely reorganised. For this reason we kept telling us, that we would decide in short notice where to go.
First I had in mind to finally explore Switzerland. I have been multiple times in the border regions to Germany, in Basel and Schaffhausen, once I travelled to Geneva. But I never *really* did horse photography exploration in Switzerland, and I had to cancel my planned tour already in spring. With the second wave of the Corona pandemic Germany releases every week a list with Corona hot spots or risk areas. Unfortunately three cantons of Switzerland were on this list, three of which I wanted to travel to. New plans had to be made. Every Thursday the list gets a general update. After studying the list, putting countries and regions in relation to our time (we only have a week), my Explorer projects (must have Forgotten horses) and general common interest (language, culture, food), Italy was the perfect candidate. Well, at least the northern part of Italy! Also it would be a great opportunity to meet my friend and colleague Jess of Equestrian Writer again, which whom I went to Naples last year to explore the rare breeds Napoletano, Salernitano and Persano. I organised a very tight 2000 km drive in 7 days with photo sessions in less than 24 hours.
On Friday afternoon I picked up my friend Izzy at the station, then we went south. The first days of the Explorer Tour in Italy were set more or less, but I still needed texting with horse breeders and owners. Good thing, that my co-pilot did the writing, of course in Italian language! In the world of horses most people don’t really speak english… expect in England of course. During our crossing of the Alps we made first contact to fresh snow. My first September snow! I wasn’t sure if I should be happy about it, or if I should cry. After waking up in the morning next to the iconic dolomite mountains, I was 100% clear that this scenery would be magical.
We met Nora Bielitz, a photographer which whom I have been in contact on Instagram and was spending her holidays in South Tyrol. Together we climbed up the Seiser Alm in the early morning, to capture the Haflinger colts in the fresh snow. They will be brought down to the valley within a week, so we were very lucky to photograph the horses in the mountains in this scenery! I had expected something different in my plans, but this first snow is surely a once in a lifetime experience.
The plan was to travel south on the east coast of Italy, on the Adria side. The biggest attraction in the north is of course the floating city: Venice! I have never visited the city before and haven’t been attracted to be one of the 20 Million tourists pushing each other on the small canal bridges. Due COVID19 travel restrictions and lack of cruise ships however, the city wasn’t over crowded as usual, but still buzzing and with vibrant nightlife, I haven’t experienced for months and almost forgot how this feels like 😉
I enjoyed my short stay in Venice a lot and hope to come back again one day.
After the mountains in the snow, came the Delta in the rain. On the second day of our short trip to Italy we visited the Delta horses, the Cavalli del Delta. These are actually Camargue horses that became native to the Italian Po Delta in the Veneto in the 1970s. They feel quite comfortable here, because the conditions are very similar.
Did you know that the Camargue horse is also classified as endangered? Although they are so well known, horse breeding is mostly very local and takes place in small populations.
By the way, Camargue herds can also be found in Spain in the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park, where they also enliven the marshes with numerous birds.
My trip to Italy in search of rare and endangered Italian horses led me to the breed Bardigiano. These are small horses from the Apennines, a mountainous region in northern Italy in the province Emilia-Romagna. At Allevamento LinFa I had the pleasure of getting to know and photographing this wonderful breed. We had a session with the Bardigiano mare and foal herd in the hills and portrait sessions with the stallions in the forest and in black background.
The best things happen to you, when you go with the flow. We intended to explore the Bardigiano, but also found a wonderful Cavallo del Delta, the gelding Trix. this way I can add some beautiful portrait shots to my collection, after photographing the horses in the Delta only in freedom. I have to admit, that I love all the markings and scars of Trix’ head. Such a character!
After a short detour over San Marino, a dwarf state in Italy and a place I haven’t visited before, we went straight to Tuscany. Beauty & power – the Maremma horse! This wonderful stallion M. Uriel was my shooting star in the soft morning light, and he made sure there was a lot of action. The Maremma horse is an ancient workhorse from southern Tuscany, which is mainly used for cattle driving. The breed is characterised by strength, hardness and a strong character.
Again a black horse from Italy! You would think I only photographed black beauties. But this picture is more of an Italian horsey, more precisely the Cavallino di Monterufoli, or simply called Monterufolino. A real rarity, because there are less than 350 specimens of this horse. These ponies have their origin in Tuscany and are threatened with extinction. They are excellent riding ponies, which have proven themselves even before the carriage and with children, together with the robustness of the half wild keeping all year round. On the photo is the chic stallion Duccio and a group of mares in the typical tuscan landscape, which I visited together with my friend and colleague Equestrian Writer.
After all this fast travelling and tight schedule, we spend a lazy day in the beautiful hills of the Tuscany. In the evening we visited a herd of wonderful Quarter Horses in the most magnificent sunset. This was my only sunset on this trip, followed by loads of rain! Did you know, that the Quarter Horse is one of the most popular breeds in Italy? the western riding style is very common here.
Here I photographed some truly dreamy horses! The south Italian horse breed Murgese is a black baroque horse with stunning looks and character. It is an ancient breed that almost got extinct, but found a revival and gets more popular for dressage, trekking and leisure. I had a photo session with Roberta Imama who works them up to Grand Prix and has the most beautiful black beauties 🖤
We met the Bardigiano horses again in the mountains of the province Emilia-Romagna, but this time in the western parts and in the town which gave the breed their name: Bardi. In the morning we had a session with a herd in the forest – and in the rain. And in the afternoon some portrait shots and a group of stallions in the hills, and in the rain again. I have to admit, photographing dark horses in the rain isn’t the easiest task, but it added a touch of drama and the horses were funny enough for some action shots.
I was over excited about this stop, because I wanted to go there for the past two years and never actually made it. Back in the Alps, on the border between Switzerland and Italy lives a herd of feral Haflinger horses. Yes, these horses are wild, or let’s say, they became wild. The Bisbini, the horses are called Cavalli del Monte Bisbino, are Haflinger horses who turned wild after their owner died. They simply continued living in the mountains. Like always when I search for free horses, I had no exact idea where to find them, a mountain can be a big place if you look for horses! and after the storm and rain I expected them in a sheltered place somewhere in a forest. To my surprise we found them quite soon: relaxing on a peak! With our goal set we continued our hike in this wonderful landscape and took some photos of the Bisbini. To me, they looked like the kings and queens of the mountains, what they certainly are. What an epic finale to this Explorer Tour!
Let us escape on an exciting journey full of horse photography, beautiful places and great people. My Explorer events can be one-day adventures or extend to large expeditions. With changing destinations and themes we will never be bored. You have the choice, I would be happy to welcome you.
Almost 60% of our equine breeds are endangered or have a vulnerable status with such small populations, that their destiny often depends on the selfless commitment of individual persons. It is my mission now to explore rare and endangered horse breeds and to raise awareness by giving them a new platform and to preserve equine diversity.
This is a horse breed gallery to show the horses of the world I have photographed for my projects Forgotten Horses and Free Horses, as well as during my other photographic actives, events and travels.
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