Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Virginia Trip

Sunday was a ridiculous 7AM-11PM day of driving, adjusting stirrup leathers, and sitting in some really nice saddles on some super nice horses. Rather than bore you with my written synopsis, perhaps it would be better to have you watch this clumsy, slightly unfinished (after horse 3 I was too pooped and the weather was not cooperating with vlogging and navigating) video version of how it all went.

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse Outcome

As you all know, for the last couple weeks I have had the pleasure of riding a certain red-headed pony who hopefully was going to become mine. In the beginning we battled some issues with foot soreness after an overzealous trim, but some padded shoes fixed that and we started our journey of getting to know each other.

Having a trial period with a horse is a wonderful opportunity, as it really allows you to get to know him in ways that a short test ride just won’t allow. I was able to see him in a new environment, experiencing scary things such as giant tarps and deer and cats jumping up and down around the indoor. All of these things he handled with confidence, and his can-do attitude did much to impress me.

The other grace of having a trial period is having professionals come out to assess the horse, teach me how to ride them, and give their honest opinion as to whether or not we make a good team. I had 3 lessons during our trial period, and it really opened my eyes to each of our strengths and weaknesses that only riding a new horse can.

In the end, I realized that the red pony was not the best fit for me at the moment, despite my desperately wanting him to work out. He is a pleasure to be around on the ground, and an incredibly talented and athletic horse with huge potential. However, his past as a hunter jumper meant that he lacked an education in dressage, and at this time I decided that what I really want is something ready to go and show, and through absolutely no fault of his own, he is simply not ready for that.

It was bittersweet bringing him back to his owner, and stuffing him full of treats for the last time. Incredibly disappointing that it didn’t work out, but reassuring to know that he is back with an owner who just wants the best for him and will continue to work on finding him the best home.

Good luck little red pony, and thanks for the ride.

Not-quite-photography Friday: Presto Warrior Design

I think it’s safe to say that when little Presto hit the ground, he immediately charmed all of blogland with one tiny whinny. So when he landed himself in an emergency clinic as a sick little foal, he gained himself a whole community of well-wishers hoping for his health and healing.

When Amanda addressed questions regarding donations to his care fund, I was more than happy to volunteer my design skills to a very worthy cause. I immediately stalked all her media of Presto and landed on a still of him frolicking in his pen. A little illustrator magic, some feedback from Amanda, and an oldies tune on repeat in my head generated the below image!

To buy a t-shirt and help offset the costs of Presto’s stay at the clinic, check out this link where you can buy Presto-related goodies through next Friday! Presto, we are so glad you are feeling better and one day I hope to hear that adorable little whinny in person!

The Photography Business Check up

At the beginning of the year I shared my goal to take my photography to the next level this year. It started with investing in new equipment, i.e a full frame body (Nikon D750) and prime lens (85mm f1.8), and then using that equipment to shoot two pro-bono sessions with well-known local equestrian entities. I also took a survey on the blog of your opinions regarding portrait sessions/equestrian photography in general, and I thank all that participated- the feedback was incredibly helpful! The photos that follow are just a sample of my favorites this year.

And of course I am now partners with Lilybird Flowers!

Since kickstarting everything back in January, I have officially done more shoots in the last 3 months than I did in the entirety of last year. I used any profits from shoots to pay off my new equipment, and now that it is all covered all pennies earned will go into the #newponyfund.

For the first time since I started my photography side-business, I actually am at capacity for how much I can handle. That’s 5 sessions booked for the month of April, and though it feels a little harried between balancing the 9-5 job and time in the saddle, it’s still a pretty cool feeling. The next step feels like building a pipeline of bookings for the future- and this is something I’m less successful in, as most of my sessions are planned weeks out instead of months. Part of this is probably the financial culture of horse people as well as obvious worries about weather, pony soundness issues, and other concerns.

One of my other goals for growth is to incorporate portraits into my horse-shopping travels, which helps offset the costs of hotel/gas/etc. I also love meeting new people and experiencing the relationship they have with their horses. Every equestrian’s journey is slightly different, and every single one has a story to tell. Facebook has been helpful in spreading the word, as well as my connections (and I include blogland in that!) in various areas. My next possible trip may be to northern Virginia/Middleburg area, maybe even this weekend, and if I’m lucky I’ll squeeze in a shoot while I’m there!

Photographing Cambalda will forever be a highlight for me- Ping is the man!

One of the main struggles I have found with this business is the sheer amount of competition there is. While I feel like I am reasonably priced given the work involved, there are others out there who charge a fraction of my fees, or even work for free. Mostly these are younger photographers looking to build their portfolio or just make a little spending money, but I simply can’t, or won’t, attempt to enter a price war that will leave me not being able to cover even my gas. All I can hope is that my style and quality of work will be attractive above the mayhem, but it’s easily to enter into an oblivion of self doubt when faced with the daily barrage of local photography ads.

Still, I am more than excited about the sessions completed so far in 2017 and flipping ecstatic when I think of all the sessions to come. Sometimes I wonder if I am boring readers to death with my Friday photography posts, but I just love to share this other side of my equestrian passions. Thanks for being part of the journey, and if you have something you want to see please let me know!



Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse Update

I am not quite half way through my trial period with the red pony, and already it’s been a busy time for both of us.

First ride at the barn

He came to me quite foot sore after getting trimmed too short, so much of the first few days together was managing his feet so he was comfortable. After getting front shoes and pads put on he now seems 100% comfortable and I’ve been able to get in more rides, and last night jump him for the first time.

Dressage lesson / training ride

The trial has been an interesting experience so far, centered around jiving what I know about him with what I feel about him. Sometimes it feels like he’s speaking German (eh, Swedish?) and I’m speaking English, at other times we get closer to some kind of mutual understanding- Genglish?

Neck straps for life

The next plan for us is to go school cross country. This is something he’s never done before, but will be critical in ascertaining whether or not he wants to be an Event pony. He looks so good in event tack, that I have high hopes!

Let’s Discuss: The Versatile Rider

I will freely admit, for years and years and years I basically rode one kind of horse. These horses tended to be a little heavier, such as draft crosses, Irish horses, or Haflingers. As such, they mostly shared a preference to be heavier on the forehand, require a bit more hand, and for some, be a bit slower to respond.

RIding the IDA team lesson horse G and reinforcing all sorts of bad habits

So when I started competing in Intercollegiate Dressage, I was wildly out of my comfort zone with the older Thoroughbreds that largely supported the Lower Training division. Treating them like the ride I was used to would absolutely backfire- these horses wanted nothing to do with a heavy hand, were more evenly-keeled than on the forehand, and their problems mostly centered around suppleness rather than sluggishness. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me an entire season before I figured out how to adapt, and once I started learning to sit quietly and focus on my position and leave the horse be, the ribbons started coming.

Fast forward several years to my time with Foster. Though I had learned my lessons from IDA, and was a much more sympathetic rider in general, I still easily fell into a rut of riding one horse. Foster was a bit tricky to ride, being occasionally heavy in the bridle, and crooked through his haunches, and I molded my riding to him like most riders do. So it was probably no surprise when I got on my friends OTTB who preferred a super light contact and a different way of posting and basically pissed him off.

Sitting on that same OTTB this February and having a legitimately good ride (and not pissing anyone off) was a huge win for me

Trying various sales horses has brought be back to the former days of learning how to adapt to more types of horses. Some are light in the bridle, others heavy, and all require different approaches to leg and seat and other unique touches that make the horse themselves. I won’t even begin to pretend that I am successful with all, but the exercise of sitting on various mounts and learning their ways has certainly made me a better rider. It is difficult though and sometimes I do forget that I don’t know the horse, and typically the horse calls me out quite quickly for my errors. And while no one likes making mistakes, it’s the process of messing up and learning the correction that I hope will improve my riding in the long run.

Do you consider yourself a versatile rider? What is the “feel” from a horse that you ride best? Do you have a type that you feel most comfortable on? What kind of horses do you struggle to ride most?

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse

Exciting news in horse shopping land! Today I go to pick up a local pony, who will come back with me for a week. During that time I’ll be seeing if we click, getting him assessed by jumping, cross country, and dressage professionals to see if he will be a good fit as an event horse.

In respect to the seller, I won’t be sharing too many details on the blog, since this is a very generous opportunity that I have been gifted. However, keep an eye on instagram and a certain red pony may make more appearances over the next several days.

Here’s hoping it works out!

Let’s Discuss: The Retirement Plan

The latest news to hit the eventing scene is the retirement of Anthony Patch, her veteran 4* horse and the subject of the hashtag #GoAlGo.

At 18, Al had nothing left to prove with multiple top 10 placings under his belt, back-to-back wins at the Advanced level at the AEC’s, and even a couple international events to boot. He’s no spring chicken, and a familiar face on cross country and social media alike. Without knowing the full backstory of what went into the decision to retire him, I am going to assume it was made in an effort to spare him any eventual breakdown that is inevitable to any athlete, horse or human, who is pushed past their prime.

Boyd Martin and Remington, Rolex 2012. Remington went on to compete at the lower levels after his retirement

It is a relief to see top-riders make good decisions for their mounts, even if their adoring public clamors for more. Specifically, I am thinking of Valegro, who left the top of the dressage scene on a high note, even though we all could imagine him eeking out a couple more wins at least. The honor that Charlotte and team showed him in allowing him to age gracefully and without the pressure of GP competition was a fitting conclusion to a team that has been role models for the entire equestrian world.

Jasper now lives the high life of green pastures and occasional hacks, as well as giving rides to friends that are desperate *cough-me* for saddle time

But for those of us who cannot afford to turn our winningest (or only) mount out to field to live the high life, what do we do? With Foster, his wonderful brain allowed me to find him a home that afforded him a slower-paced life that kept him comfortable. But what if your champion that can no longer compete doesn’t have a personality that can be trusted with your average retirement scenario, such as therapy or trail riding homes?

It’s not a favorite thing to think about, and yet we all hope that we will see the day that we are able to retire our beloved horses to the good life. What is your plan for your horse, or what have you done to retire your horse in the past? What retirement situations at the highest levels did you particularly appreciate, or are there retirements that you felt happened a little too late?


Staying in the Saddle

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed a couple appearances from a spotted creature that is most definitely not Fosterpants. TC is a sweet paint hony owned by the barn owner, who very sweetly is allowing me to ride him while I continue on my horse search.

Yesterday I was able to take my first jumping lesson in almost 6 months aboard TC, who is a green but willing guy over poles. We worked on finding the right tempo, bend, and inspiring lift from the point of take-off.

You can tell I have been out of the game, as my leg is not as solid as I’d like, my timing not great, and I’m carrying around more weight than I’d like to- all of which tests my balance more than necessary. However, TC and I are a great pair for the moment as we get fit together and hopefully learn a little while we are at it! I’m so, so grateful for the opportunity to ride this cool little guy and very much looking forward to future lessons and experiences with him 🙂

Photography Friday: Styled Shoot with Lilybird Flowers

When one of my girl friends mentioned to me back in November that she wanted to start a floral business, I was so excited for her, and more than eager to propose we do a photoshoot together that would show off her services.

A styled shoot is an exciting opportunity for a photographer, because you get to exert an unusual amount of control over the aesthetic look of your subjects. In a normal photoshoot, the client chooses their outfits, the location, the horse/pets/etc and so on and so forth- and so they should- its their shoot! But in a styled shoot, the florist and I got to nitpick every detail.

Our model was another friend, who also was my realtor for the House on a Hill 2.0! Katie is a stunning creature and her young Hanoverian gelding, Sully (aka Smush) was a wonderful companion.

The hope is that Lilybird Flowers and I will partner for shoots in the area, using her florals as a wonderful accompaniment to my portrait sessions.

It’s been an exciting week for BGD and I have loved collaborating with Lilybird Flowers so far. Hopefully there will be more floral equestrian shoots featured here in the future!

Happy Friday, all!