Photographing Walers: a Hobby

Angela Tiede. Image by Mike Cook: Waler colt Pinjee, with stallion Virtuoso, March 2021.

I met Mike Cook first in 2011, after he read about my Walers featured at the Lancefield Show in October 2010. The show secretary passed on my contact details and he rang me to ask if he could visit and take photographs, as it was an important hobby for him and he been volunteering and taking photographs of the retired racehorses at Living Legends just down the road from me for some years. He was particularly excited at the prospect of meeting Walers for the first time. I was pleased to have the interest so we made a date.

Article in the Weekly Times newspaper in Victoria about Walers and their appearance at the Lancefield Show
Barry Kennedy, The Weekly Times, October 2010

Mike’s first visit to take photos was in May 2011, during a very wet period where my driveway was just mud so he had to walk from the front gate as his car was not a 4WD. Wet muddy paddocks, wet muddy horses. But he was thrilled to meet my Walers and snapped away happily. The Walers were equally thrilled to have a visitor as they lead an otherwise very quiet life.

Images by Mike Cook, 2011: Fisher, Pearl, Virtuoso , Rigoletto, Ezekiel

I had no expectation of seeing his photographs, let alone of receiving copies of them, or that we would strike up a regular visit schedule of twice most years, on a day when the weather was reasonable and the light not too harsh. After each visit, Mike rings me to tell me he has a CD, in the early days, a USB more recently, to drop in my letterbox next time he is in the area. Naturally, COVID lockdowns here in Victoria put a hole in our schedule for 2020.

Young Waler mares Aria and Coolibah, part-Waler mare Somers in the middle

Mike Cook Image 2014: Aria, Somers (part-Waler), Coolibah

Mike Cook Images 2017: Faith & Mega, Rigoletto, Pearl, Hastings (part-Waler) & Ezekiel

Here we are in 2023 and Mike has visited to walk my paddocks photographing my Walers almost every year since we first met in 2011. He asked me early on if they ever lift their heads from eating for more than a few minutes at a time, yeah, nup! He soon learned that patience was the key, always ready to take the photo with a second’s notice that a head would lift, a horse would change position, an opportunity for The Shot would arise.

Mike Cook Images 2018: Fisher, Aria, Pearl

Many of the photographs on this website are Mike’s, and how grateful and lucky I am to have the benefit of his hobby. He always says the luck is all his, but of course it is a win-win for he and I and the Walers. And for those who visit this website!

Mike Cook Images 2018: Enoch, Faith, Fisher, Enoch & Virtuoso

The season provides a different backdrop of course, with dry, brown colours in the Summer/early Autumn and green everywhere to see in the Spring/early Summer, the volcanic grassland a beautiful backdrop to the horses.

Mike Cook Images 2018: Faith, Aria, Enoch, Rigoletto, Virtuoso

Mike’s regular visits have enabled me to have a record of my Walers as they have grown and matured, such a precious resource for me. I think his photos truly reflect their souls, not just their appearance, and this helps bring another dimension to the story of why Walers are so important to so many, it is not just their history, it is their very people-oriented way of being.

Mike Cook Images 2019: Aria, Fisher, Coolibah, Ezekiel, Rigoletto

Mike Cook Images 2021: Virtuoso, Topsy, Pinjee, Bess

Mike Cook Images 2022: Fisher, Bess, Tommy, Ezekiel, Topsy

I am privileged enough to have another keen photographer, Susan McNab, visit my Walers and share her photographs with me. Sue was also persuaded to design and build this website, and her photos are used throughout too…That is a whole other story for another time.

Posted by Angela Tiede

Educator and Waler advocate and owner since 2006.