Capturing a Legacy – Mounted Branch, Victoria Police.
THE SENIOR HORSE PROJECT
The Senior Horse Project was first showcased as a Pop-Up Photography Gallery display at Equitana 2022 in Melbourne, where many senior horses I have had the privilege of photographing to-date were showcased.
The display garnered great interest amongst horse people who related with having a much-loved horse now entering the later stages of their lives and who had yet to have invaluable photos documenting their legacy.
During the Equitana event we had the chance to meet Senior Constable Renee Gietman, who was there showcasing the Mounted Branch and explaining the role for those who may be interested in joining, or for people who may have a horse suitable for the required work.
I began the Senior Horse Project some two years ago as an endeavor to give something back to the many senior horses in our lives. It is a photographic documentation of these wise old souls in all of their majestic glory and capturing their unique personality and beauty in a photograph for their loved ones to treasure forever.
Early one Autumn sunrise, I was spending time with one of my Senior horses. I reflected on our time together throughout the years and had an immense feeling of how grateful I was for the journey we shared – there was love and respect and I recognised the significant role Horses played in shaping my life. I felt a strong calling to celebrate their legacy.
The Mounted Branch has been operating since 1838 and is the longest serving unit in Victoria Police. This included a breeding program to purpose breed their very own horses for the job. A lengthy dedication goes into planning a breeding program of this nature. Foaling down, growing young-stock and then the slow and steady training and assessment program that will inevitably set them up for success as a valuable member of the branch.
This program now operates differently, with the Branch either buying horses from the open market, or accepting horses through donations. They are trialed and assessed over a 90-day period before it’s decided whether or not they will join the branch. Though still an integral part of the team the Mounted Branch has slowly gotten smaller as other modes of transport have become more frequently utilised. As it sits now, they currently have 28 members to cover the whole of the state of Victoria, with trainers having an older horse and a younger upcoming horse in work.
Pictured above: Unity
At Equitana, Renee resonated with our Senior horse project, and told us of the senior horses of the Mounted Branch who were vast approaching their retirement. Three warmblood mares Xacara (19), Willow (20) and Unity (22) who are the main features of this blog. They do still have one last gelding working, who is homebred and is Xacara’s half brother; but they are the last of the purpose bred horses for the Victoria Police-Mounted Branch.
Pictured above: Xacara
Pictured above: Willow
Acting Sergeant-Samantha Christian, told us of the amazing contribution these, and all of their horses provided and how much they meant to their team. Xacara, Willow and Unity were all allocated as Sergeants horses meaning they lead the troop in large scale jobs thanks to their reliability and obvious bravery. According to Samantha they were incredibly versatile partners. Their gamut ranging from training new horses to working high-level protests to ceremonial jobs.
These incredible mounted police horses are the perfect example of the importance these animals can play in our lives and the beauty in getting to document them. When asked why she chose to participate in the Senior Horse Project Samantha said:
“I really like the idea of the senior horse project as it gives a memory of the horses at their retirement from their job (in our horses case) or their ridden life, and we are able to remember them for all they were while they were working.”
Pictured above & below: Xacara & Acting Sergeant Sam Christian
Having the opportunity to document the final homebred legacy of the senior horses at the Mounted Branch in Attwood, Victoria (where the stables were purpose built in 2016), was a great honour and privilege and is undoubtedly a career highlight thus far.
A heartfelt thank you to the following people for your assistance in The Senior Horse Project and for their service at the Mounted Branch ~ Senior Constable Renee Gietman | Senior Sergeant Jayne Hanson | Acting Sergeant Sam Christian, and helpers within the Victoria Police for our photoshoot.
You can read more about the Senior Horse Project HERE
Do you have a special Senior horse in your life? Contact Rachel HERE today to discuss a unique photoshoot experience of your own.