Racing hero Richard Dunwoody has impressed the Duchess of Cornwall with his photographic exhibition highlighting the plight of horses and donkeys abroad.
The former National Hunt jockey has begun a new career as a photojournalist and for his first major show focused on the welfare of horses and donkeys to celebrate the 80th anniversary of equine welfare charity The Brooke.
Camilla is president of the organisation and with Dunwoody toured the images which depict the animals working in harsh conditions in India, Pakistan, Guatemala and Egypt for their often poverty-stricken owners.
Petra Ingram, chief executive of The Brooke, said: “Each image tells a story. Sometimes it’s a charged story and sometimes a story of hope, but a lot is about what The Brooke is achieving.”
She described the former jockey, who twice won the Grand National, as having an empathy with his animal subjects. She said: “I think he has a genuine love of horses that comes through in his approach to taking pictures and getting the best quality image.”
The mood was lightened when fundraisers from the charity presented the Duchess with a couple of appropriate mementos of her visit - two toy donkeys.
And before leaving the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields church in central London, where the exhibition was staged, Camilla told the former champion jockey, who rode race horse Desert Orchid to seven victories, “I hope your new career goes well, I’m impressed.”
The charity was founded by Dorothy Brooke, the British wife of an Army Major General, who established the organisation in Cairo in 1934 after learning of the plight of British ex-cavalry horses.
It now operates in more than 10 countries including India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Guatemala and Jordan, using a network of mobile teams and field clinics to improve the health and welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules, and educating owners and workers on how best to care for the animals.
Dunwoody was champion jockey three times and retired from National Hunt racing in 1999 with a then record 1,699 winners including victories in the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle.
Born in Comber, Northern Ireland, his interest in photography began as a teenager but it was not until he decided to enrol on a nine-month intensive photojournalism course at the Speos Photographic Institute in Paris, France, two years ago that he began to devote himself full time to his passion.
He said: “I enjoyed using the dark room at school and I enjoy travelling and taking photos allows me to travel.
“Since the course I’ve been working on the idea of making a living from taking pictures.”
The exhibition is the product of four trips over the past two years to countries where The Brooke charity is working.
The feature picture from the display is a double portrait of a boy with his family’s blind mare used to help pull the cart of his father, a rag and bone man living in Guatemala.
The image is a portrait of both the youngster Antonio and the horse standing, with the pair standing close to each other.
Dunwoody said: “The pony pulled the cart along, it was practically blind from birth and was about 13 years old, the same age as the boy, so they had a close affinity.
“In some of the places the people were very poor, struggling to fend for themselves let alone their animals, The Brooke educates them to look after their animals a little bit better - if they do they will work harder for them and their business will grow.”