caballos cubanos

21 images Created 3 May 2017

I’ve been an equestrian for most of my life. When I traveled to Cuba to study documentary photography, I struggled with finding a way to find myself in the culture. Yet, through my knowledge of horses, I was able to better understand it. In Cuba, horses permeate through every social class, a ubiquity that no longer exists in America. Horses existed in the poorest parts of the country - these horses had jobs, and worked for everything they ate, which wasn’t much - not that their owners had it any better. It wasn’t an easy thing to see, as I was very used to seeing well-fed and well-cared for horses back home. Yet these horses were a reflection of the daily struggles and hardship of life in Cuba; of what life looks like for most Cubans.

An hour outside of Havana lies a stadium illuminated by the blistering sun. You won’t find any tourists here – just masses of Cuban rodeo fans who spend their Sundays cheering on their favorite teams over the sounds of thundering hoofbeats. athletes demonstrate daring feats of horsemanship, while other participants compare their skills at animal husbandry in a kind of pageantry. Rodeo culture brings together cubans from all walks of life in both admiration and spectacle of what originated as traditional ranching practices. The horses here were athletes, too, just as celebrated as their riders, while equally representative of the working class.

My travels also brought me to an equestrian center tucked away in a corner of a sprawling and mostly deserted public park. This equestrian center was home to an annual auction of imported dutch warmbloods. I managed to talk my way into being the photographer for this event, which took place over three days. The first two days consisted of potential buyers trying the horses, which had been carefully trained in the show jumping discipline. The third and final night was the auction itself, an exclusive event that called for formal dress. The auction attendees sat in a banquet area high above the arena, where the horses for bid were paraded through. Somehow, because of how highbrow and expensive the event was, it seemed like the least cuban thing ever. It was such a stark difference between these horses - who were fat and shiny and full of life - and the horses i saw in the countryside.
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