The Year of the Horse


Tonight ushers in the Chinese New Year, and this one is seen as the year of the horse. In honour of the spirit of the horse I’m posting some images I took around this time last year.

We turned yet another corner on the twisting snake of the mountain road, and an enchanted scene was laid before our eyes. Shafts of winter sun streamed down through the elongated vertical trunks of a stand of Scots Pines. Their bark glowed pink in the sunlight, and a soft green blanket of moss was spread across their roots, as though to keep them warm. Between the linear shadows a herd of ancient horses roamed through the pine scented air. Time stopped and endless generations of horses spilled together into this one moment of sun lit beauty deep in the Scottish Highlands. It felt as though these horses had stood here for centuries, connected with the soil and hills in perfect harmony.

With their beautiful faces and long flowing manes I’m certain they would look magnificent galloping across the hillside, but on the day we met they were content to snack on grass shots newly sprouted beneath the slender pines. There is something utterly relaxing about looking into the eyes of these horses, with their steady gaze and curious demeanour. Some came to the fence to check us out, while others hung back in the dappled shade of the mossy forest. The soft beat of their hoofs as they walked the earth, and the meaningful sighs and tail swishes passed between them as a hidden language, were entrancing. I was lulled into the spell of the world turning at their pace. Horse speed felt like the pace of relaxation, and by going slow the world came into sharper focus. I felt my connection to place deepen as I stood among the wild horses on the mountains edge and just breathed.


Wishing you all an exciting and successful year of the horse

Click here to find out more about the Chinese symbolism of the horse

If you want to know more about this beautiful native breed, the Highland Pony, click this link.

Here is a link to the Highland Pony Society, which has lots of information about this ancient breed of horses, native to the Scottish hills.

About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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61 Responses to The Year of the Horse

  1. Hanna says:

    They are lovely, Seonaid. Apparently I have become more fond of horses ๐Ÿ™‚
    All the best,

  2. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Riding in the highlands is on my wish list for our next visit (whenever that occurs).

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Absolutely magical. In the Wiki link, it says that these horses have a kindly eye. I see that kindness in your photos. By the way, I am a Monkey on the Chinese Zodiac. I was referred to your site by ordinarygood. Perhaps you would enjoy a look at my post for the Year of the Horse, featuring a couple of New Zealand horses

  4. restlessjo says:

    Not sure about the “half fairy” but there’s definitely a lot of romantic Celt in you, Seonaid, and it’s beautiful. These horses are totally alive and yet a dream at the same time. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I made the mistake of looking at my Chinese sign after Paula asked yours. I’m a Rat! Should’ve known it. And worse, incompatible with my Snake husband. I’d better go and read some more posts.

  5. Also … I see, in your response to Leya, that you mention the tracing of Scottish ancestry via the analysis of mtDNAs of those currently living in your part of the world. [I would have responded directly to your response to Leya, but couldn’t figure out how to continue the thread there.] Did you know that mtDNAs are inherited entirely through the maternal line such that the history and patterns you are alluding to is the history of Viking WOMEN in your part of the world and the influence of their intermarriages with the male, native, population. Such a cool area of scientific research … which grew out of the mtDNA work that told us that the history of human migration about the globe is a history of female human migration which commenced out of Africa somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago. So cool. D

  6. Perhaps you know that we raised cattle for many years here on the farm Seonaid. These words, ‘I was lulled into the spell of the world turning at their pace. Horse speed felt like the pace of relaxation, and by going slow the world came into sharper focus,’ brought back some strong and happy memories for me. During the summer months, when the animals were on pasture, I would often walk among them very early in the morning when they were out filling up before a very hot day (which they would spend in the shade) or in the early evening after the sun had gone down, and they were grazing before settling in for the night. When I would do so they moved at ‘bovine speed.’ The only sounds were of swishing tails and the tearing of grass … no chewing, mind you, just tearing. And, of course, all of this was accompanied by the pendulum motion of the head of each animal. Munch, munch, munch, to the right … and then, munch, munch, munch, to the left. And then the group would make for the water. Long … very long … gulp, swallow … gulp, swallow, until each had had their full. Perhaps you do not know, but cows are expert at cleaning their dirtied nostrils with their tongues! Thank you for opening that part of my mind which had been holding these special memories at bay. It was nice to spend this moment to recall and be with my cows. I miss them. D

  7. Tina Schell says:

    Seonaid, these horses are GORGEOUS! What are they? Your photos of them are wonderful, really dreamy. Beautifully done!!

    • Thanks so much Tina, high praise from such a great photographer ๐Ÿ™‚
      They are Highland Ponies, an old native breed, and they’re still used all across the Highlands as working horses. I’ve added a link to more information at the end of the post if you’re interested.
      The light was wonderful for photos, and the ponies were perfect models for me….dreamy is a good description of how it felt to come across them unexpectedly.

  8. These horses really do look as if they belong to another time and place….magical

  9. icelandpenny says:

    Beautiful, timely for year of the horse… What is the story of these horses? They seem to be ‘heavy horses’ but which breed? Are they still wild, though apparently in an enclosure? Did they come to this place by misadventure, like the wild horses of Sable Island (swam ashore from shipwreck)? In their honour, I must go salute Rooster, the Clydesdale in the Riverdale Farm, this weekend…

    • Penny, they are an old native Scottish breed, called Highland Ponies….I’ve added a couple of links at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in reading more ๐Ÿ™‚
      Perfectly suited to the highland hills, one of their characteristics is their long flowing manes.
      They are not really wild, but stirred that impression in my mind….forgive the artistic license. They are used all across the Highlands as working ponies, even on the Queens Estate of Balmoral, but also for trekking….which is what I suspect these ponies do. However in winter I imagine they just roam the hills….inside their fences ๐Ÿ™‚
      I look forward to seeing Roster appear in another post!

  10. Paula says:

    Happy year of the horse, Seonaid ๐Ÿ™‚ These are terrific ๐Ÿ˜€ Is horse your star sign?

  11. They’re so beautiful! Makes me think of my Aunt’s Welsh mountain pony who lives out on the muir in the Ochils. She’s about 40 years old now. I love seeing them with their winter coats and long manes ๐Ÿ™‚ Magical!

    • They are probably closely related to the Welsh Ponies. These ones are called Highland Ponies, and are one of three ancient native breeds of Scotland which remain to this day. There is something wonderful about old breeds of animals which have adapted perfectly to their environment….they just look so at home and relaxed.
      I wonder if hardy native species like these live longer….40 years sounds like a good age for a pony ๐Ÿ™‚ Whats your Aunts pony called?

      • I think they probably do live longer! She’s called Pepper and she’s about 9 hands high ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s lost her teeth so my aunt takes her out buckets of porridge! I wish I could go and photograph them but the muir is pretty inaccessible for me with my disabilities. I agree it’s a wonderful thing to see native wild horses out in their natural habitat!

  12. Gorgeous horse, beautifully and magically captured for posterity. They seemed to know they were on show! What sweet composed looks. They do indeed look as if they had stood there for centuries, guarding the land.

    • They did pose beautifully for me, some of them coming up close for a good look and perhaps hoping for a nibble of something tasty! When they came into view round the corner I was smiling from the first moment….a really beautiful gift from the Highlands ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Leya says:

    Magical horse photos, Seonaid! They remind me of the Icelandic horses. The difference is that they do not have any trees in Iceland – at least not this big! On the other hand the landscape there is enigmatic in other ways. Beautiful post as always!

    • Ann Christine, I think they are probably quite closely related to Icelandic Ponies. We certainly have lots of them around in Scotland as well as our native breeds, as they are so suited to the climate. They have the same long flowing manes and beautiful colours.
      Did you know that the female ancestors of the Icelandic people came from Scotland…..I stumbled across this recently and found it fascinating.

      • Leya says:

        It really is! What I did know was that many vikings sailing to the British Isles sometimes took their brides from your country. Maybe killed her parents but also stole the women.
        Where did you read about this?

      • They have been running a genetics program in Scotland looking at mitochondrial DNA across the population, to see where our roots lie. There is so much Viking DNA….it was a link to that research where I read this (I’ll see if I can find it again).
        Historians here are rethinking and rewriting the Viking history of these isles, as it seems that there was a lot more settlement and integration of the people than was previously thought. Most of our history was of course written by the Christian monks….and they didnt take too kindly to the pagan incomers….much propaganda!
        Norway still ruled the Orkneys, Shetland and the Hebrides along with big tracts of the northern mainland…

  14. Colline says:

    Beautiful horses. All the best for the new lunar year.

  15. wildsherkin says:

    Oh such beautiful images and wonderful words! I am beginning to think that you are half fairy as you seem to find the most magical places and haunts. I never knew there were wild horses roaming in the Scottish Highlands. Magic!

    • Oh no, you spotted the fairy half….I’m busted!
      Delighted you enjoyed the magic of the scene.
      I’m not sure that they are actually wild……that’s just the impression they left me with…..

  16. pommepal says:

    What beautiful photos of these delightful ponies in their thick winter fluffy coat. I also was born in a previous year of the horse, maybe that explains my deep love of horses

    • Perhaps it does, they are such wonderful gentle creatures, yet full of wild freedom loving energy. I loved the fuzzy look of their coats, and their manes and tails are really quite long, which i didn’t quite capture in the photos ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Lisa says:

    Soo cute ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. joshiphotoeye says:

    Beautiful pictures.

  19. dadirri7 says:

    absolutely magnificent photos of these glorious beasts. Your words put us there, right in the forest feeling their breath and curiosity as they live fully their day …

  20. Lucid Gypsy says:

    This will sound silly but I’ve never seen horses amongst trees like that, wonderful captures!

    • I know, they look perfect among the trees, and I think because these trees are quite old and tall it gives an ancient feel to the whole scene. Don’t they look happy and relaxed among the trees and the dappled shade ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. ordinarygood says:

    These horses are so special with their gentle energy and softness. I was born in a much earlier year of the Horse so I wonder what this year might bring for me. Slowing, breathing and allowing as you have done here seems wise practice.

  22. So wonderful! I had the good fortune to see a group of wild horses once too, it was a sight that will stay with me forever.

  23. You entered a fairy tale land of enchantment, beautiful and mystic. Thank you for these beautiful photos.

    • It really did feel like that, the mountains around were topped with snow and the air was freezing, but here in this sheltered stand of pines it felt like eternal summer. The white horse in particular carried my thoughts to fairyland ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Your horse photos are so wonderful, Seonaid. How lovely to have a whole year of the horse. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you, I’ve had them sitting on my hard drive since last year, so when I realized it was the year of the horse it seemed like a perfect excuse to share them. I thought they were beautiful, but then I do love horses ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Amy says:

    Love these horse photos! They are gorgeous. Happy horse year ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Maverick ~ says:

    Love the horses fuzzy coats, great captures!

  27. Brenda says:

    What beautiful pictures!!

  28. Mama mia, ahhhh, you take my breath away . So beautifully said and the horses are to die for.

  29. The Editors of Garden Variety says:

    What stunningly beautiful pictures of magnificent creatures!

  30. Happy New Year to you too! And thank you for your beautiful work! Linda

  31. twoscamps says:

    Seonaid, these are beautiful images! Wishing you a happy Chinese new year! Maureen

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