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Because of Horses

Nov 2, 2017

Sometimes in life, there comes a pivotal moment when — overwhelmed by heartbreak and loss, and watching what had seemed like a well-planned, happy future disappear — you find yourself without a clear path. It can seem like every obvious door is shut — except for one. And that door leads to an uncertain path — one that comes with its own risks and potential for failure. However, it can be in these moments that we find our greatest rewards. 


Today, our guest is Charles Hilton and it’s his journey from a successful corporate career to an internationally published and award-winning professional photographer, that we’ll learn about on this week’s Because of Horses podcast. 


From the perspective of time and the ability to look back, it may seem as if Charles' path to following his passion was straight and true — but in the course of taking each step, it was anything but.


Charles Hilton dropped out of college after realizing that the Fine Arts program he was studying wasn't what he'd had in mind when he decided to become a photographer. He started a business of his own shooting weddings and sports... as well as anything else that needed photographing, a unique trait among professional photographers, but one that has served him well.


"Life" took off and Charles got married, had a son and a daughter, and wound up getting into the corporate world. He continued to shoot on weekends, but his time away from the family put strain on the marriage. Charles decided his family was his priority, so he drifted away from photography for a while.


As his children got older, his daughter became interested in horses, so Charles – having always loved horses – wound up buying one and, through challenges with the former stallion, met now-legendary trainer John Lyons; at the time, John was just beginning to travel with his symposiums. A few years passed, Charles bought several more horses, the family moved to a Texas ranch, and life continued pretty predictably. Unfortunately, Charles marriage had grown shakier over this time and – when his company offered Charles an early retirement – he took it. He and his son decided to start a photography business together, and life seemed to be heading in a new, exciting direction.


Then Charles lost his son. A divorce soon followed.


Bereft and with no idea what to do, Charles loaded an old RV with his camera equipment and started driving. Along the way, he met kind, encouraging people who wanted him to photograph their horses. They would then introduce him to other horse owners and Charles would head to their ranches to shoot for them. Before he knew it, Charles had been to 34 states, his photos were appearing internationally in magazines and horse books, and he was shooting for trainers like Clinton Anderson and John Lyons, who is now one of Charles' closest friends.


Now living in California and happily married to his second wife, Susan, Charles acknowledges that his long path to living his dreams has had its share of heartache and fear – including the loss of vision in his "shooting eye." Through it all, however, he has maintained his unshakable faith, his gratitude for the life he's been given, his wonder at the beauty of the world around him, and his incredible generosity and kindness in helping others who find themselves on similar journeys.



Topic of Discussion:

[1:22] How Charles Hilton’s life and career have evolved

[3:17] How Charles moved to the country and became a horse owner

[6:12] The journey of retraining a difficult recently gelded stallion and how he met John Lyons

[14:13] Leaving the corporate world, personal heartbreak, and beginning to photograph horses full-time

[22:11] Perspective comes with time; Charles’ doubts, self-reflection, and questions during his journey

[27:37] Charles’ self-discovery, battling fears, and life obstacles that he persevered through to achieve his dream

[32:05] Charles’ loss of vision in his right eye and finding inspiration to reignite his passion

[41:30] Charles’ faith helping him through his vision loss

[44:49] The point at which Charles began to feel his photography business was a success and the encouragement he offers to people following their own passion

[48:50] Having the confidence to shoot anything and everything, picking a niche, and developing your photography style

[57:48] Passion and clarity of vision, and the risks of not trying to follow your passion

[59:58] The next steps in Charles’ life: remarrying and supporting his wife's dreams by opening their new business, Rancho 66

[1:06:18] The unique "connection" of a printed photograph in the digital age

[1:09:02] Where to find Charles Hilton online


Know Someone Inspirational, Whose Life Has Been Forever Changed Because of Horses? Because of Horses would love to get to share their story!

To recommend someone please send an email to


Discover More About this Week’s Guest — Charles Hilton

Charles Hilton Photography

Rancho 66


Mentioned in this Episode:

Appaloosa Horse Club

John & Josh Lyons


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