When Ashley, the Executive Director of the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association, asked me to photograph her with three horses, I knew I was up for a bit of a challenge! Multiple horse photography is not an easy task, so I thought I would share some tips for anyone who might be attempting it. 🙂
To start, we had the two geldings, Levi and Milo (on the left in the photo below) stand next to each other, because they live together. Does that mean they always get along? No, because Milo can be a bit of a grouch to other horses, but there was a better chance of him behaving next to a horse he knew. 😉 Because mares and geldings sometimes have “opinions” about each other, we had Ashley’s mare, Catniss (on the right, below) stand across from the boys.
The boys stayed in roughly the same spot most of the time, but Catniss turned away from the camera at one point and had to be repositioned. I instructed Ashley to look at me the whole time and not worry about what the horses were doing or where they were looking, because otherwise, when they finally all looked at the camera at the same time, she might not be! Once the horses were in place, we had our helpers Crystal and Hannah shaking grain buckets and jumping around to try to get their attention, and it worked until they realized they weren’t going to get any treats right away. What didn’t work to get their attention? My app with horse whinny sounds, goats walking by, and airplanes flying overhead (KTRA is by the airport, so the horses are actually quite used to low flying aircraft). I kept joking that her horses were TOO desensitized. Luckily we got this shot within the first couple minutes, and while I took a few extra just in case, this was a favourite of both Ashley and I. She chose to have this along with a couple other of the shots made into gorgeous metallic prints!
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!
This will be my last blog post before I start focusing on posting my new work on my Facebook page instead. For the time being, I feel more people will see photos on that platform, which is my goal at the moment as I restart my business in my new city, and make new connections!
Last weekend, on May 28th and 29th, I photographed a dressage and jumping clinic at the Pine Tree Riding Club in Barnhartvale, which I am realizing is a real hub for horse activity in the Kamloops area. There are many beautiful acreages out there as well as lovely residential areas, and in the middle of it all is the Pine Tree riding grounds (I have a feeling they were there first, and the houses ended up surrounding it!). Some participants were able to simply ride down the road to the grounds.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since I moved to Kamloops. I have been running around putting up posters, designing new promotional materials, and networking with local people and businesses. I’ve driven about an hour in each direction from the city, scoping out my new territory and getting the lay of the land. I would like to show some photos from my visit to the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association. From their recent spotlight on Social Fire:
“The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association (KTRA) is a charitable non-profit that offers horseback riding to children and adults with a wide range of disabilities. KTRA’s riding lessons benefits the riders by using the motivating medium of horse care and riding to draw an individualâ€™s attention to their strengths, successes and most importantly build self-confidence.”
In the past, I have volunteered with the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association, and it was a great experience to see the positive impact that the horses had on the riders. I encourage you to support your local therapeutic riding association, as the work they do truly makes a difference in the lives of their clients!
The horses in the programs must, of course, be very gentle, calm, and tolerant. I could tell that every horse I met had these qualities just by looking at them from a distance — you can tell by their kind eyes and relaxed stance.
One of my stopovers on my way home from New Zealand in 2011 was in Los Angeles (the others were Tahiti, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, if you’re curious!). There, my travel partner Juli and I stayed with a friend of hers, Christine. Christine has a beautiful warmblood mare, Lea, so we went out to visit her and take some photos. This was my first horse & rider shoot of the new year, and I couldn’t have asked for better models! Christine had a perma-smile on her face, and who wouldn’t, being around a sweet mare like Lea? Besides that, the mare should teach equine posing classes! There was hardly a photo in which she didn’t have an earnest expression with her ears pricked, and she held each “pose” with plenty of time for me to capture the shots I wanted. I swear I could hear her saying, “Did you get my good side?” 😉 To add to the perfection, there were cherry trees (or almond trees perhaps?) in bloom, which made for a beautiful backdrop.