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Ceres’ Don Cool finds fun in capturing images of wild horses
Don Cool and horses 1
Donning his trademark bandana, Ceres resident approaches two wild horses in Nevada to photograph them. Cool makes about three to four trips to the Dayton and Carson City areas to take pictures of the majestic horses.

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me there” has been a popular saying since the 1800s but in Don Cool’s case, wild horses often are able to drag the Ceres man to the deserts of Nevada.

A local photographer for decades, Cool enjoys treks to Washoe Lake and Highway 50 east from Dayton to view and photograph wild horses which still roam the western landscape.

His passion to photograph wild horses began about 10 years ago.

“I try to go at least three times a year,” said Cool, who enjoys frequenting the Stagecoach area with a friend or by himself. “To me it’s just amazing in this day and age to see an animal that large still running wild, and in good numbers. On a good trip I’ll see 400 to 600 horses.”

Sometimes the horses are by themselves and sometimes they are in bands of 30 to 50.

“You’re driving along that flat Highway 50 and you’ll see them way out there and I’ll just take a dirt road out to them. And sometimes at the lake they’ll be herds as large as 100 or 200.”

Many of the young horses will be curious and walk up to Cool.

“You’re supposed to stay 50 feet away from them but I’ve had them come up and nudge me with their heads while I’m trying to take pictures. I get a little leery of the young stallions – I don’t trust them – but they’re pretty tame. They kind of start showing their teeth and flaring their nose and it’s like, I’m gonna back off a little bit because basically you’re out in the open and if one of them decides to come after you, you’re pretty much screwed.”

Most of them have been fed. They’re not supposed to but people feed them and when they see a car they come. They don’t want people harassing them and stuff and becoming dependent on people,” said Cool. “The stallions make me nervous, though, when the young ones get close. 

Cool’s work has been noticed. One of his photos in particular was shared on social media by the American Wild Horse Campaign and had over 900 shares and over 7,000 shares in the first day. His work was also praised at a 2018 Artist Spotlight reception when the city of Ceres used to hold such events at the Ceres Community Center. 

Cool used to have five horses when he lived in Hughson but found they were too costly to maintain. He sold them and “never gave wild horses a thought.” When he finally saw wild horses in Nevada at the invitation of a friend he developed “a whole new feeling.”

“They’re interesting animals for sure. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to go buy a saddle and ride a horse but I could sit and watch these guys all day long in the wild.”

Wild horses aren’t the only subject which prompts Cool to get away to shoot photos. He enjoys shooting water fowl at the Los Banos Wildlife Area. He’s driven to Santa Rosa to shoot photos of egrets.

“There’s hundreds of them and they’ve been nesting there for like 25 years. Every year they come back to the same trees.”

He’s also photographed the vast numbers of wild pigs that populate the Mount Hamilton area near San Jose.

“The pigs are fun to photograph. When I go up there I’ll see 200 to 300 pigs in a day. I’ve even sent my drone after them. It’s hilarious. They run from that drone until they see something to eat and then they stop.”

During fire season, Cool tries to gain access to shoot photos of firefighters in action. He was making plans on Monday to shoot the Oak Fire today.

“With the fires I like to put faces to it. It’s not all about flames; it’s about the people who fight them, to me, and that’s what I like to get pictures of – the crews that are up there working.”

Photography is a passion that Don probably picked up from his father, the late Jack Cool who used to regularly shoot boat races – something else that Don enjoys. Don often makes the drive to Bakersfield to watch and photograph the boat racing on Lake Ming.

Don Cool Washoe Lake
Don Cool aims his telephoto lens at horses on the shores of Washoe Lake near Carson City.
Horses in Nevada
A photographic work of art shot by Don Cool.