Shelley Paulson Photography Blog – Minnesota Equine, Wedding and Portrait Photographer


I have a really good reason for not blogging these past few weeks: I was busy preparing for, taking part in, and then recovering from my weekend photographing wild horses in the mountains of northern New Mexico. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. I will make up for the lack of blogging by posting a ton of photos. I am breaking them up by day, and will include a narrative about each day.

This was a workshop, led by Lynne Pomeranz. These Wild Horse Workshops are “Educational Adventures for Photographers, Horse & Nature Lovers”. Even if all you have is a point and shoot camera, I can assure you, if you like to spend time in nature and want a chance to see wild horses living completely off the land, I HIGHLY recommend you take a workshop from Lynne. She is a delightful person with a deep knowledge of wild horse history and behavior, including how to find them and approach them so as to stay safe and respect their wild nature. Lynne has published a book entitled “Among WIld Horses” that I would also highly recommend. I’ll share more about it in my last post.

On a technical note – I shot mostly with my Canon 70-200 2.8 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter. I shot in Av mode, with exposure compensation turned down a click or two because the brush often caused overexposure. Why not shoot manual? Because the action happens so fast! I was actually quite impressed with how accurate my exposures were. My wide angle shots were taken with my new 35 1.4 L.

I flew to New Mexico on Thursday and Linda and her husband Jim picked me up at the airport. Linda and I planned to do this workshop together, and it turned out we were the only ones to sign up for this one, so it was a really fun, intimate experience for all of us. Jim didn’t go on the photo shoots, but shared meals and lots of great stories with us each day.

We made it to Chama, NM at dinner time and ate at “High Country,” a sweet little café that served fantastic New Mexican food. I had a combo plate with all sorts of things that made my mouth burn!


The next morning, we got up extremely early and headed up to the Jicarilla Horse Territory, located in Carson National Forest.


Lynne scoped out the park from an overlook, and we spotted a small band of horses!

I also have to add here that this was my first adult experience of, well, going potty in the woods! Yes, I guess I’m not the country girl I thought I was and I needed advice on how to execute this successfully. I actually got pretty good at it, which was good because the roads were very rough and bumpy, and we had to drink a lot to stay hydrated in these elevations and dry environments.


This was the first band we found. We wondered if the yearlings might have been twins, as they were exactly the same size.

In most cases, we would only have a few seconds to take photos before they would run out of sight. This was a bit frustrating at first, but I learned to love the excitement of searching for horses and approaching them softly to try and get close without making them run away. We would never chase them. As the first workshop of the year, we had a responsibility to start “training” the horses to get used to our presence, so future groups have the same opportunity (or even better) to see and enjoy the horses.


A stallion from another group running through the brush. Much of the brush was made up of sage – which smelled so wonderful!



Horses are, by nature, very curious. They would run, then stop and watch us.


Then run again!

For the mid-afternoon, we headed back to Chama to rest. On our way home, we stopped for gas and there were some roadside stands where Jicarialla Apache Indians were selling fry bread and other yummy foods. I got myself some lunch!





That evening, we headed to the Monero Mustangs Sanctuary at Yellow Hills Ranch. We met Sandi Claypool, who runs the sanctuary, where she cares for mustangs that have been removed from the wild for various reasons. On this property, the horses are returned to their wild state, meaning they are not given the same kind of daily food, water and care that domestic horses are given. What they are given is hundreds of acres to roam freely and live the way they were intended without being in danger of bring rounded up and sold at auction.


These are Sandi’s hands, gently touching her riding mare’s nose. I have rarely met someone who loves animals the way she does.


These horses, though wild, are much more accustomed to the presence of people, so we were able to be much closer to them and they didn’t run away from us like the Jicarilla horses did. We did, however, still need to be careful about getting too close, because the horses are wild and therefore can be dangerous.


This little mare is named Pluma. We all felt bad for her because she was being rejected by all the other horses and was always on the perimeter of the herd. You will see a lot of pictures of her because I thought she was beautiful. :)



Did I mention how beautiful New Mexico is?


There are several geldings in these herds who spent the better part of their lives as stallions. Wonderfully, they have retained their stallion ways and each one has a herd of mares and fight to steal each other’s mares, just as stallions do in the wild. This is Roanie (left) and a Bay Stallion, whose name I cannot remember.

They gave us quite a show that evening. The bay stallion came up to Roanie’s herd to steal some mares, and Roanie took almost all of the bay stallion’s mares! You will see a lot of that drama in the following photos.
















After all that drama, the horses needed a drink!


There was one foal. She was super cute and friendly!




I really liked this mare too.


These horses come in a beautiful palette of colors.




These two mares seemed to be friends. They would stand back and watch the action without getting too involved.





Roanie has such beautiful muscling. I probably have more photos of him than any other horse.


Lynne, our instructor and my newest friend. :)




Ready for Part 2?


  • Comment by Michelle — May 21, 2009 @ 12:15 pm


  • Comment by Rachael Waller — May 21, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

    Shelley!!!!!!!!! I love what you have come home with!
    The image of Lynne is stunning.. good job! She never likes to have her photo taken! lol
    The one of “Sandi’s Hands” is another stunner…

    Simply wonderful work.. thanks for making me feel like I was there with you .. I love Lynne’s workshops!

    All the best,

  • Comment by Shaunna Crust — May 21, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    Shelley, What an awesoe experience! Those are some beautiful horses and beatiful pictures. Love and miss you!

  • Comment by Lynne Pomeranz — May 21, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

    Hi Shelley,
    It makes me so happy to see all these wonderful images that you captured of the horses. I absolutely LOVE the black & white images of the stallion! Keep on posting. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the rest of them.

  • Comment by Jennifer Fields — May 21, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

    Shelley – these are awesome, as are all of your photos. What a fabulous opportunity – I am envious! I anxiously await Pt II!

  • Comment by Jill Fleming — May 21, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

    Fantastic photos Shelley! (as always)

    I got to meet Lynne in Colorado when we were photographing the wild horses in the Sandwash Basin – she’s got such a kind heart for wild horses! I didn’t know about the New Mexico workshops – are there more this year?

    It looks like you had an amazing time! “Sandi’s Hands” is stunning! I can’t wait to see more photos from your adventure!

    Blessings to you!

    P.S. – Glad to hear you’re a real “outdoor” girl now! :op~

  • Comment by Tony — May 21, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

    These photos are amazing!!!

  • Comment by Sandra — May 21, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

    Such an opportunity. Fantastic Shelley.

  • Comment by Annie — May 24, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

    What AMAZING pictures, Shelley! Oh, I’m just so happy for you that you got to do this, because…for real, what could be cooler than shooting wild horses?

  • Comment by Nanci — May 26, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

    WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! I cant say WOW enough!
    What a beautiful and spiritual expericance.
    I want to go next time!

  • Comment by Jeannette — May 26, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    These are BEAUTIFUL! I completely understand how this could alter your bond with horses and the camera… You ROCK!

  • Comment by Jean — May 30, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

    Beautiful pictures and I enjoyed reading about your adventure, too.
    You do such fun things!

  • Comment by Susan M — June 3, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

    Simply amazing! Thanks for sharing the journey with us!

    P/S: How come my fry bread never looks that good! LOL!

  • Comment by Susan — June 4, 2009 @ 7:04 am

    Wow Shelley! What a fabulous experience along with beyond fabulous photos. I feel humbled as I look at these then go out to start my day. Inspiring.

  • Comment by Marian Robinson — June 4, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

    Beautiful pictures!

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