The story of Irish gypsies and their horses is part of Irish culture, largely un-discussed. Horse ownership on these city housing estates is often not without other inherent problems stemming from unemployment and poverty, but Horan wanted to reflect in this project a more positive side. For many of the young people the care for their pet horse is a positive and nurturing experience and gives hope where very little may exist. During his five years working on the project, Horan developed friendship, trust and respect for these misunderstood and often marginalised people.
Most of the riders Horan photographed have no formal equestrian training. “I have met many fearless, competent riders all of whom are down-to-earth, kind-hearted people who love their horses,” says Horan. He has photographed everyone from tweed-suited older gentlemen, to the travellers and gypsies living in their caravans, to the tracksuit-clad youth from the estates and nearby working class suburbs – teenagers keen to show off their ponies and bareback riding skills on the cobbled stone squares and city streets …
The Irish government, in attempting to control and reduce urban horse ownership, as well as moderate the historic city and rural horse fairs, is imposing The Control of Horses Act, 1996. The end result may lead to the extinction of this unique and fascinating Irish sub-culture.
James Horan is an editorial and commercial photographer, based in Sydney. He moved to Australia in early 2007 to work for News Ltd, but personal circumstances saw him returning later that year. For the next five years James worked and lived in Dublin. Irish Horse was created during this time.