Stanford Addison is an Arapaho Elder from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. He has a spiritual gift some call, "horse medicine." A gift which carries huge rewards but which came to him at huge expense.
At the age of twenty, Stanford’s spinal cord was severed during a pickup truck accident involving wild horses. For several years he was suicidal and intensely angry toward all horses.
Despite the hatred he once felt, wild horses have become a vehicle by which Stanford shares his message of universal tolerance and respect. He has learned to not “break” wild horses but rather “gentle” them. Unlike most trainers, Stanford refuses to break a horse’s spirit. He calls his training method “Heyteyneytah”, the Arapaho word for respect. While teaching novice and expert horse riders to “gentle” a wild horse, he is able to help his students overcome self doubt and learn to be acutely sensitive to the language of these powerful animals.
A year ago Angelique Midthunder camped out on his ranch to begin a documentary film about him. Angelique told me of the kindness, generosity and “wisdom beyond comprehension” that she had found in this quadriplegic horse trainer. Upon hearing that she was returning to Wyoming to finish her film, I asked Angelique to let me be part of her tiny crew. To share in this unique experience, I was willing to hold the boom mic, to gaff, be a gofer, whatever she might need. Needless to say, I was honored when she invited me to be her Still Photographer on the set.
I was honored again when Stanford invited me to attend his customary Saturday night sweat lodge ceremony. In the darkness and heat, hearing the women’s simultaneous prayers and the men’s ceremonial songs, I was privileged to experience an overwhelming love and staggering beauty.
These photographs were shot during a five day period at the Addison ranch. They document Angelique’s bond with Stanford, the adventures of her crew (five including me) filming SILENT THUNDER against the backdrop of the snow capped Wind River Mountains and my encounter with an extraordinary man. A man who has overcome his own limitations in order to dedicate himself to sharing a path of love and nonviolence, open to all. Stanford hopes that his teachings of respect, understanding and tolerance between humans and animals will foster the same characteristics between human beings, regardless of their perceived differences.
Teresa Neptune, July 2005