One of my earliest memories was sneaking away from the house and going down to peer at some horses through the rail.  I know this doesn't sound so unusual but you see I was only two at the time, living at Fort Benning, Ga and these were some of the last Cavalry horses. 

I didn't spend much time during the next 20 years thinking about horses until I was nearing my discharge from the army.  I was trying to conjure up what I was going to do for the rest of my life, and  even though I had ridden a horse only once or twice in my life, I knew I was going to be in the horse business.  

After the army released me I took a job at a track close to Tampa, Fla. where I learned the finer art of stall mucking.  They did let me ride some but it seemed the others got the gentler mounts and I always got the rank, ill, irritated, jerk horses.  I remember they used to tell me before I would mount, "don't let this horse buck!", the trouble was they never told me how to keep him from bucking.  

The track thing was good because I met a cowboy from Pierre, S.D. who worked for a rodeo stock producer down in South Florida.  He told me they were looking for riders to cull out bucking stock that wouldn't buck.  It paid well and he agreed to teach me how to green break horses and prepare them for the sales which he said really paid well. 

That was it for me, I had found paradise.  Me and the cowboy went to work for the stock producer and it did pay well until he rented all his stock out to the rodeos and we didn't have a job any more.  So, we decided to follow the stock producer from rodeo to rodeo and ride the stock we had already ridden.  This worked ok too until I got thrown on my head in Sydney, Montana.  I sustained a career ending injury and my rodeo career was over that quick.  

 A team roper from Trotters, N.D. needed a hand on his place and took me in but the injury slowly got worse. Finally a doctor told me I would never do manual labor again, especially on horse back. 

Reality set in, I came back to Alabama and entered college, majoring in art.  I had every intention of becoming the worlds greatest painter.  There I met a lady who owned a horse, a Tennessee Walking Horse.  We married and eventually bought a 2 year old TWH show horse. 
  
We were having a terrible time getting a photographer to come from Tennessee to photograph our horse.  I was a serious, amateur photographer so I put my wife on the 2 year old and I found out that day I could make an action portrait as good as those guys in Tennessee.  We were friends with a lot of walking horse people and soon they were asking me to photograph their horses.  It grew and grew until I started shooting at shows on the weekends while keeping my full time job.  After two years I was making more at the weekend job than my full time job so in 1971 I quit my job and started photography as a career. 

Early on I didn't depend on horse photography as my specialty.  There wasn't enough money in horse photography in Alabama.  My wife and I produced newsletters, commercial year end reports and I photographed a few horse shows and made a few horse portraits.  Times were lean. 

After only a few months of 1971 I met the owner of The Voice Of The Tennessee Walking Horse magazine, Bruce Spencer.  He liked my work and hired me to shoot Walking Horses for his magazine. 

Less than a year later I met two gentlemen who were attempting to establish a new breed of horse in Alabama, the Racking Horse.  They offered me a piece of the Racking Horse business if I would help them by photographing Racking Horses.  I went to Bruce with an idea for him to start a newspaper in that breed and let me and my wife run it. He liked the idea and we started The Racking Review.  I started photographing Racking Horses and photographed in center ring of the first 6 Racking Horse World Grand Championships 

During the second year of the Review I purchased it from Bruce.  My wife and I ran it for three more years then in 1976 I sold  it to its present owners, who still publish it out of Waynesboro, Tennessee. 

In 1977 I entered paradise for the second time, I went to work for David Howard as the Chief Photographer of the Walking Horse Report, Saddle Horse Report and Horse World Magazine.  During this same year I started photographing horses around the show grounds during the largest and greatest single breed horse show in the world, The Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Celebration.  I loved doing portraits of Walking Horses but this also became my downfall. 

That old rodeo injury from years before just would not go away.  I had already had two back operations but the pain was becoming so unbearable that I couldn't concentrate on my job any more.  I left that job in 1979.  The next three years were marked with declining health, income and marriage. 

By 1984 I was a divorced semi cripple.  I could work only 3 or 4 days a week then spend the rest of the week in bed.  I came back to Tennessee because I knew that in 3-4 days a week I could still photograph enough horses to make a fair living. I lasted until December 1991 when my injury put me to bed, almost permanently. The next month, January 1992, I went to Nashville for my third operation. 

What ever the doctor did, it worked. I healed, the pain went away and I started photographing with a new lease on life.  A couple of weeks ago I went in for my forth and final operation.  Life is good. 

In 1996 I was named the Official Photographer for the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Celebration.  In 2006 I was inducted into the Walking Horse Hall of Fame.

 

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© 2006 Jack Greene, Photographer
http://www.jackgreene.com