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Thoughts From a Wild Horse Photographer...

two wild horses behind long grass greeting each other

Photo Credit: Wild Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

- Nelson Mandela

The month of November is naturally a time of reflection, as we think about Thanksgiving and the many blessings we have - both individually and as a country. Personally, I’m so grateful for the many people that have honored me by having my wild horse art hanging on their walls. But inevitably, when thinking about blessings, my thoughts always return to freedom.

America is known for freedom and has been since it was founded. Freedom is a major reason why thousands of immigrants have become Americans every year since our country’s founding. I am one of those immigrants and for over 30 years have been a recipient of the incredible opportunity afforded to every person in this country.

a herd of wild horse of Onaqui mountains

Photo Credit: Wild Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

FREEDOM… It is why millions of people have made the journey to cross into this country. They look at America and see unlimited potential and opportunity; they see a 250-year quest for freedom that resonates within their souls. It is quite a legacy that our biggest exports as a country might not be petroleum, cars, or technology; but freedom and hope.

"I will be free or I will die maintaining my freedom.”

In the wild horses, I see a metaphor of freedom. I think of the video I saw recently of a wild stallion trying to escape from a Bureau of Land Management trap after being captured. Having known complete freedom its entire life, the mounting anxiety and discomfort of being in a confined pen eventually become too much.

In the video there is a moment of adrenaline when he makes a short running start and attempts to jump the 6 foot fence. He does not clear the top bar, and falls heavily and unnaturally to the ground. This is a spirit that has tasted freedom and will do anything to maintain that freedom, including sustaining injury or death. It is a simple insistence: “I will be free or I will die maintaining my freedom.”

This American thirst for freedom is unquenchable, once tasted. It is a refusal to be subjected to oppression. It believes that all people are deserving of respect and opportunity. It errs on the side of allowing even controversial and unpopular thoughts to be heard, rather than allowing ideas to be suppressed. It insists on protecting our inherent rights and individuality, rather than giving up those rights to the greater collective.

silhouette of a wild horse running on top of a ridge

Photo Credit: Wild Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

The wild stallion that dies trying to jump a fence, escaping captivity from the Bureau of Land Management, is the embodiment of this ideal. Freedom is worth protecting - at any cost. And our freedom has come at a great cost in blood and lives as many have given everything to protect our country. Those who have served our country in this way deserve the greatest honor.

In the wild horses, I also see a reflection of hope. My wild horse photography often depicts the traits I find most appealing in the American mustangs: resilience and persistence. In the harsh desert environments they inhabit, they are survivors. Their existence depends on resilience; on moving forward despite the odds; of persisting through the constant threats.

This is a close parallel to the experience of most of our ancestors in this country. No matter where they came from, or how they ended up here, they were survivors - many beaten down and marginalized in some way. They were overtaxed, enslaved, discarded, or suppressed. All survived unimaginable hardship and found a way to thrive, despite overwhelming odds, through determination and toughness. And, in their resilience and persistence, each became a living representative of what it means to be American.

horse photographer maria marriott

About Maria Marriott

Maria Marriott is an award-winning equine photographer known for several wild horse photography series, including her latest on the McCullough Peaks wild horses of Wyoming. Her work following and photographing wild mustangs across the Western states has allowed her a platform to bring attention to the pressing issues faced by the American wild horses.

Maria works with several nonprofit organizations committed to the preservation and safety of mustangs and equine therapy.


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