Charlotte Dumas’ Unforgettable Photographs Of Mysterious Burial Horses Will Stay With You

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At the grave of a fallen soldier stands a pale white horse, regal and majestic, with his mane in tight braids. In Anima, the photographer Charlotte Dumas delves into the quiet moments in the lives of burial horses, known for participating in the funeral ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. The magnificent equine creatures— who by day serve as living manifestations of moral ideals, patriotism, and righteousness— are caught by Dumas’s lens in nighttime moments of introspection and rest.

After the flags are folded, after the firearms have rang out, the horses remain in their small box stalls, resting on humble beds of shavings and hay. Shot under Dumas’s gleaming twilight lighting, the animals are pictured in the final minutes before sleep. In stark contrast with the colorful visions of their burial services, they are bathed in a moody Rembrandt-esque glow that streams in from metal bars, seemingly retreating into an unknowable equine psychology.

Yet within these peaceful moments, Dumas captures an anxious sense of unrest. A horse’s glinting black eye remains open as he twists his neck, revealing waves of muscle under short-clipped fur; a long nose, its hair worn away by a bridle’s noseband, pokes out into the light, emerging from sleepy darkness. The neck and back of the creature is fixed in the frame, isolated from the rest of the body, as he goes to stand upright, his withers stained with manure.

The horses range in age: some wear the grey fur of youth, while others are pure flea-bitten white. Seen here, it is as though the horses cannot escape the atmosphere of the cemetery, confined within their dark stalls forever by some invisible knowledge of death. Take a look.
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  • Megan Nordyke

    Any horse with black skin and white hair is technically “grey.” A white horse has pink skin and white fur (usually called, in the horse world, “cremello”). These horses are all grey. Grey horses almost always lighten as they age; most dapple greys (the ones with steel-grey coats with circular white patches) tend to become completely whitened out (all white hair) by about age 12. “Flea-bitten” grey refers to horses with thousands of tiny brown specks. It looks to me, although I can’t tell for sure, that all of these horses have roached, or shaved, manes.

  • F. Siciliani

    You are incorrect about cremello horses. Cremello horses have a cream/golden/or peach-ish coring to their fur with very distinctive blue/green eyes. It is a completely different color genetic than white horses which as you said, have pink skin but dark (or sometimes glass eyes) with white hair.
    All technical talk aside, these images and the thoughts behind capturing them are quite moving.

  • Megan Nordyke

    Fair enough! My enthusiasm is solely for one particular breed whose genetics exclude pink skin almost entirely :)

  • F. Siciliani

    Which breed is your favorite? I have four Percherons right now but was offered a cremello fully once that I was absolutely crazy about. I was set up to take her at the time but she was a beauty.

  • Megan Nordyke

    Arabians! I don’t have one and haven’t had one for a long time now, but I grew up around them for over ten years and as soon as I can, I’ll be getting at least one (or a cross). But I love them all.

  • F. Siciliani

    Filly