Wild horses – what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Strength? Power? Free spirit? Beauty? For me, it was all of these words. But the reality looked very different and led me on a path that made me realize how precious freedom can be, despite all the downsides.

After visiting a herd of these wild animals in the mountains of Bosnia I chose to dedicate my life to document the life of other populations around the world. In 2017 my second project led me to Namibia, and I learned about how much willpower horses truly process, even if they are one breath away from death. Surviving in the oldest desert of the world the beautiful horses now face new enemies – tourism and climate change. They crossed the desert throughout the day to find something to eat – anything – but nothing had grown within years. They tried to nourish from dry thorn bushes or other horses’ dropping to just get one bite of food. Their bones sticking out and I couldn’t believe that some of those were still alive, still walking around the dusty sand, refusing to give up on themselves.

Diving into this topic I realized that wild horses around the world face similar problems and that sometimes they can be seen as a mirror to today’s society and environmental problems. I decided to find and visit these beautiful animals, these symbols of freedom.

A few months ago, I visited the Netherlands to find wild Konik horses and witnessed what happens when humans try to interfere with nature’s fragile balance. What started as a good thought by the government to bring back wildlife in the area of Amsterdam ended as a tragic fight for survival for so many different kinds of animals – horses among them. It was heartbreaking to see all these animals that I associate with strength and beauty being left on their own until they transformed into slight shadows of what they once must have looked like.

No matter how many thin and starving horses I saw, there was one thing I could not spot anywhere: Resignation. They kept going, day after day, night after night, not bending towards their final end. What is it that keeps them going no matter the circumstances? Is it love for their family? Is it instinct? Stubbornness? A heart full of love for life? This is where the mystery lies, the real power of horses – their true magic. This is why we love them, why girls around the world adore these creatures: They are a symbol of undeniable hope.

Horses are strong and independent animals that will always try to find a way to survive any circumstances nature provides them with. Snowstorms? No problem. Desert? No problem. Steppe, beach, forests – name it all, no problem. But there is one big enemy they simply can’t fight against: humans.

For centuries horses were walking side by side with men. For hundreds of years, they helped us to discover new places, conquer lands, expanding the human race, being loyal partners both in war and peace. The world would not look like it does today if it weren’t for horses. If we can’t make sure that one of our greatest allies survives in this world, how will we ever make sure to save ourselves?

I hope that through my animal photography people don’t want to look away anymore, that the artistic composition and emotional light draws attention and catch their eyes. Maybe they will get them to pause for a moment and discover the image with every detail, to fall in love with the freedom in the eyes of horses. Only if we are open to see, we are open to taking action on change.

More info: carinamaiwald.com

Two wild Konik stallions in Netherlands

Wild desert horses during early morning sunlight in Namibia

Calm wild stallion in Bosnia

… step after step – Namibia

Dry land – Namibia

Tenderness – wild horses in Bosnia

The true face of wild horses – Bosnia

The price of freedom – Bosnia

Waiting for tourists hand out food – Namibia

Trying to eat thorn bushes – Namibia

Calling for help – Namibia

Final End – Namibia

Desert Ghosts during twilight – Namibia

Photographer Carina Maiwald and the wild horses of the Namib desert