In my 10+ years of equine photography, I have been lucky to capture the relationships between many special horses and riders.  Unfortunately our animals are not nearly as long-lived as us, and several of the horses I’ve photographed have since crossed the rainbow bridge, including one of my own.  I am so grateful that I have many photos of my horse Santana (who lived to 27), including several professional photo sessions.  Whenever I hear the news that the loved companion of one of my clients has passed away, my heart breaks a little alongside theirs, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to document the beauty of these animals and their unique relationships with their owners.  I’m often told that the photos from these sessions are one of the owner’s most treasured memories, as they were for me in my time of grieving.

This post is about a recently passed horse who was thought of as indestructible for all he went through, which was a lot of adventures (and mis-adventures!) with his girl, Dom.  Ozzy the Standardbred was quite famous on the internet, with his tales and others chronicled at Dom’s aptly named blog, A Collection of Madcap Escapades.  From a difficult birth as a foal to getting stuck in a swamp and being rescued by the fire department as an adult, he often seemed to be the centre of attention.  Dom wrote in his bio: “Ozzy has also done everything from pulling skiers in the winter to cross country jumping to swimming in the lake in the summer. He is an extremely versatile and pleasant horse, and he does a long list of tricks including smile, kiss, hug, back rub, and bow. My former co-worker and partner in crime, Erin, and her horse Willie have accompanied us on countless adventures, including trick-or-treating in town and giving pony rides to MIT students for hack weekend.”

Dom and I became friends through blogging in the mid-2000’s and in May of 2014, I decided I needed to meet her, Ozzy, and the rest of the cast of characters on her blog.  3600 Air Miles later, I was in New Jersey.  Dom lives in a beautiful part of the state, but likes to joke about the stereotype that NJ is full of oil refineries and smoke stacks.  All I got to see was rolling countryside, lush spring growth, and beautiful creeks and lakes.  I spent a few days tagging along with her as she traversed the state for her horse training clients… we even ended up in Maryland one day!  You just never know what will happen in a Dom day.

We also made sure to fit in a photoshoot with Oz the Great.  Dom doesn’t get dressed up all that often, so I was tickled when she agreed to wear a dress for the photos… but first we had to find one that could get wet and dirty, because some of the photos were going to be taken in the creek!  Off to the thrift store we went, but the only dress we liked was a little too small.  Not to be deterred, we purchased it for $8 and I carefully stabbed some holes on either side of the zipper with a pair of kitchen scissors, and threaded some ribbon into a criss cross pattern.  Voila, we had a stunning black and white, corset back dress!

After swapping out Ozzy’s signature lime green bridle for a more fairytale-portrait-appropriate leather bridle, I applied some makeup to Dom in the barn aisle (the only place I’m really comfortable pretending to be a makeup artist).  Then Dom pulled the dress over her pants and put on her pink helmet, because the photo location was only accessible via horseback, and we’re both champions of safety… and it’s not that comfortable to ride with bare legs!

When we got there, we pulled off Ozzy’s saddle (and Dom’s pants…), and let the magic happen! 

It wasn’t long before Ozzy was showing off his playful side, smiling on cue and pawing the water.
I have no idea where he gets his ridiculous antics from!  ;)
 Once in awhile, we would do a serious photo…

Dom knew the meadow nearby was full of yellow flowers, so we went to do a few photos there.

Ozzy was a Standardbred, bred to race in harness.  Standardbreds can be trotters (moving their legs in diagonal pairs) or pacers (moving their legs on the same side together as a pair), and while Ozzy was bred to trot, he paced a lot of the time anyway.  This led him to flunking out of racing and ultimately ended up with Dom as a pleasure horse.  Ozzy was also known to be err, a little bit uncoordinated, shall we say, so getting a “normal” photo of him moving was a slight challenge.  Here he is trotting for a moment, then the next photo is a pace. In the end, we decided to stick to a walk!

Dom and Ozzy had a wonderful relationship whether under saddle or just hanging out on the ground, literally! I had to laugh when Ozzy, the perpetual ham, decided that Dom’s head was a good place to rest his head (his cheeky smile tells me he knew exactly what he was doing!).

We had to backtrack to get home, so we stopped at the creek again for some in hand photos.
Ozzy was very much a “monkey see, monkey do” animal!

The serious photos didn’t last for long before Ozzy was giving Dom backrubs, grinning, and playing in the water again!

I hope you enjoyed this tribute to Ozzy and Dom.  Ozzy was certainly one of a kind, and I’m sure Dom will be telling stories about him for a very long time.  Dom said it best:

Oz the Great
April 29, 2001- March 18, 2018
Thank you for all that you taught me.
There will never be another horse like you.
Run free.

Are you interested in your own equine photography session with your horse?  Admittedly I’m not often in New Jersey, but if you’re from Kamloops or Barriere, British Columbia and surrounding areas, I am always looking for beautiful horses and people to photograph.  Learn more about my equine photography sessions here.