Gabriel Nivera

Pictures & Conversations

A collection of images and the stories behind their creation.

Donald Warren


Vass, North Carolina - April 26 2016

I am a law abiding person 99% of the time, except when I decide to trespass.  I will often see something I want to photograph then notice a fence or a sign that says “Private Property”, “No Entry”, or some other similar message. I willfully ignore the aforementioned sign, go to where I want to take my photograph and then move along.

This story begins with a little bit of trespassing.  I was driving down a backroad when a pair of painted horses hanging out by the edge of one property caught my eye.  I pulled over and stepped out of the car, made my way to the horses, hopped the fence, and started photographing.   About ten minutes later, a figure starts coming towards me.  Now when I'm clearly trespassing, I generally don’t run away or look guilt-stricken. I wait and try to talk to the person approaching me to let them know what I'm doing. That is exactly how I met Donald Warren.

Donald introduced me to the two horses, Joker and Tommy, who happen to be brothers. Afterwards, he invited me to meet his other horses and the pack of rescue dogs who guard them.  While Donald and his wife used to breed and show horses for competition, those days are now behind him. Most of the horses he owns are retired champions. Today Donald just rides for pleasure.   A few summers ago, he and his wife completed a 10 day ride in Israel. This summer they are going on a 5 day ride in Oregon.  Did I mention that Donald turned 80 this year?

I asked Donald if he had horses all his life. He chuckled and said, “No, I have my wife to thank for that.” 

Donald is a retired Maxillofacial Prosthodontist. and founded the UNC Craniofacial Center at Chapel Hill. Originally from Brooklyn, he got his first horse after completing his residency training at the University of Pennsylvania. His wife said “I've supported you through medical school and your residency, moved where you wanted, done what was good for your job, so now I’m going to get myself a horse.”  He did not argue.  Donald found his first horse in the classified ads from a soldier who was shipping out to Vietnam for $75.00. At that price, Donald thought he couldn't possibly go wrong.  Sandyman stayed with Donald until she passed at 40. She will never be forgotten as Donald’s grandaughter is named Sandy Ann.  Donald has two sons, Don Jr & Michael. One is a circuit judge and the other is a business executive. Both his sons live close by and have horse farms of their own so they come over often to ride with their father.  They go fox hunting from time to time. In reality, it's coyote hunting. However, they don the red riding jackets, unleash hounds, and sound the bugle- just like the old country.

Donald reckons his greatest accomplishment is being married for 60 years. to his lovely wife Perci “I married above my class, she’s from Forrest Hills,” he remarked.  Their anniversary is coming up in June and their ride in Oregon will be their celebration.  I ask him what's the secret to being married for 60 years.  He laughs and smiles at me. “If ever I find out, I'll let you know. I don’t think I’ve figured it out yet.”