Sunday, December 17, 2006

Season's Greetings!

My oldest, dearest friend, Patty, read and enjoyed my blog recently, and unknowingly reminded me that I have not added any new posts in ages! Shame on me!! Not much happened in November anyway...well winter came and went. And now, with a week till Christmas, spring seems to be imminent.

Ahh Christmas. For me a big part of this holiday is memories. In particular, childhood memories of Christmases past. It is not surprising that some of my favourite memories revolve around horse related toys. How is it possible that a child who rarely ever got to see real live horses could be so passionate about them at such an early age!?

My earliest memory of Christmas is this morning, many years ago, when "Timothy" came into my life. He was named after a colt in my favourite storybook at the time (which I'm a tad embarrassed to say I bought on eBay last year because I just had to peruse it's pages again). Oh the hours we logged on the "trail" together! We had many happy years together, and when my knees were finally level with my ears while riding him, I knew it was soon time to say goodbye.

Now "Barbie" may have been the choice of doll for most little girls but she was far too girlie for me. My kinda gal could be found in one "Jane West" doll. She was part of the "Best of the West" series of toys by Marx. She and her man "Johnny West" (were they married, or just from the West?) provided me with endless hours of playtime scenarios. Of course They each had a horse, she a palomino named Thunderbolt, he a bay with a poseable head (high tech I thought!) I called Buckskin. The set kept growing as I added a palomino colt named Thundercolt (how original!), a buffalo, an English Setter dog, a corral, and a covered chuckwagon! I recently saw many of these toys on eBay...oh my how lovely it would be to hold them again, to fiddle with the plastic saddle and bridle, to place the replica coffee pot in Jane's stiff hand so she could pour Johnny a plastic cup-a- jo (well come on, Johnny had a long, hard day shooting buffalo!). If anyone's looking to get me a Christmas present...

I never did get the real pony I begged for every year, although I never failed to peek out the window first thing every Christmas morning, just in case one was tied out in the front yard with a big red bow around it's neck. Did that really happen to any kid? Do me a favour, if it happened to you, I don't want to ;o).

My hope for you is to have some wonderful memories of your own about holidays' past. Maybe you'll create a few new ones this year.

Merry Christmas, and all the best for 2007!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Who let the dogs out?!

I have come to an unscientific hypothesis about horse owners and please feel free to prove me wrong. Most (I mean 99% of the horse owners I have met) have one or more dogs as well. Dogs and horses seem to go together like turkey and potatoes (ok I'm still thinking about Thanksgiving...). This past week has been the busiest of my entire equestrian photography career and as a bonus, I think I have photographed as many dogs at these farms. Let me give you a sampling of the past week.
It started at Hopeful Farms in Bracebridge on Friday (they are hopeful they will pay the mortgage Jayme says ;oD). I pulled into their driveway after a lovely drive through the country. No one seemed to be about so I stayed in the car for a few minutes with the driver's side door open while I went over some notes. Suddenly there was a lttle white dog in my lap, wagging his stub of a tail and subsequently his whole behind in welcome. Ah...this is the kind of farm dog I like, small, friendly, welcoming, small, cute, small...I continued looking over my notes when a large shadow fell over my page. Seemingly apparating out of thin air, a large German Shepherd was now mostly in my lap as well. Now I have a theory about farm dogs; I am quite sure they would not just outright attack me just for pulling up in the driveway, as I'm sure many people are always coming and going from horse farms. With this thought comforting me I said my hellos to the curious beast and extricated myself from my car. No sooner had I closed the door when a third dog (this creature was moving so fast it took me several seconds to recognize it as canine) was launching himself at me. A whisp of a shaggy border colllie, he circled me at the speed of sound and then shot off like a rocket through the nearby paddock. Did I just imagine that dog I wondered? I made a mental note to ask the owner what kind of rocket fuel she was feeding him.
Well I found the owner and with pack of dogs in tow (another dog joined us, a sweet buxom lab, seemingly a chew toy for the others) we started our photo shoot. My first error of judgement was to choose a spot in a field at the far end from where the rest of the herd of horses grazed. Jayme may be a collector of canines but the equine collection far outnumbered the dogs! My perfect location, a grassy knoll with the distant fall colours in the background, soon was as crowded as a Tim Horton's on a 2 for 1 muffin morning. An assortment of dogs and horses freely walked back and forth in front of or behind my subjects. I was breaking out in a cold sweat thinking of showing my client the proofs, every frame with another horse or dog's body part jutting into it. I realized then how comical the situation was and how much more it just made me love my job. The problem was eventually solved with some treats scattered down by the barn. The dogs did find their way into many a photo but that is life on the farm where the people, horses, and dogs must live in harmony...and share the spotlight sometime.

p.s. I wanted to share a few other photos of dogs from that week: Sue's sweet Golden, Laurie's beautiful Wheaton Terriers, and all those hilarious Jack Russels at Erins, man can those dogs jump!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The trail ride: Part One

I am thrilled to be around horses so much. I could gaze endlessly at them, through the camera lens or not. I love all the different neighs they make, I love to stroke their soft fur, run my fingers through their manes, and even, if they'll let me, a little kiss on their velvety noses. Heck I even love the way they smell! But once in awhile...I have to satisfy a different urge...I just have to ride one.

So the end of September was a fantastic week when I got to go for not one, but two, trail rides. The first was a spur of the moment invite and as much work as I had I dropped everything to go with my friend Sandy. Now although I don't get to see much of Sandy she is very special to me. Although she may not realize it, it was she who started me on the path towards a career in equestrian photography and I thank her for that. It was also, about a year after our first meeting that I photographed one of her horses along with her daughter. With that image I won the first equestrian photography contest I entered "24 Hours in the Life of the Horse". So Karma is at work here I think between her and I.

That lovely horse model in the image is the one she so generously lets me ride. Baylee is a very striking appaloosa mare and she is big...real big! Well those of you with your thoroughbreds and warmbloods may not think so but remember I spend a lot of time around Paso Fino Horses...a smaller (but mighty) breed.

Our trail ride was to be in the beautiful Copeland forest, a bit of a hike from here so we trailered her 2 horses there to meet up with another horsewoman, Sue. I love meeting new horsey people and especially those that just love to ride the trails with their beloved equines. Within minutes I felt as though I had known Sue forever and she and her quarter horse, Dallas, set off with us on the trail. Sandy rode her gelding Jack bareback as we had a wardrobe malfunction (well, a forgotten girth). Sue felt we should stick to the main trails as we had to be aware of 2 dangers; bears and hunters. I never felt so happy to be on a flashy coloured horse as I was quite sure there was no such animal in the forest with polkadots and a spiky little mane and tail.

Why is it that when people invite me out to trail ride, I am always the rider with the least amount of experience in the group, but seem to get the horse that wants to be the leader. While the other gals are happily getting caught up on life I am yelling back "LEFT OR RIGHT?" as I come to a fork in the trail. "LEFT!" Sandy calls to me..."YOUR OTHER LEFT LESLIE" they tease when my finely tuned sense of direction makes me turn right. Baylee, meanwhile, does not like Dallas getting too close behind her and trots ahead whenever she has the chance. It's fun for awhile, as I was always, as a kid, trying to get the trail horses at the local dude ranch to speed up when the leader wasn't looking. But alas my tender bottom starts to object to the thud, thud, thud, as I am tossed repeatedly above the large western saddle in a sitting trot (can I post in a western saddle I wonder?). Finally the trailer looms ahead through an opening in the woods where we left it parked. I am disappointed the ride through this beautiful forest in such good company is over, though from the waist down my body is a little relieved.

Thanks for the great ride Baylee! Thanks for the invite Sandy! Nice to make a new friend Sue! Thank you bears and hunters for staying in hiding ;o)
The Trail Ride Part 2
It was a chilly day on the tail end of September. The place was Forest Gait Farm , home to many of my favourite Paso Finos including my horse nephew, Alberto.

The farm's owner, Jeannie Harris, organized a sizeable trail ride, which is becoming a much anticipated event to her friends I'm sure (and I thank her for including me!). Forest Gait is a 70 acre farm surrounded by the beautiful Halton Hills. A trail rider's paradise to be sure!

That day I was unable to ride my favourite, dependable mount - a very well bred senior Paso Fino mare who could leave many of the other horses half her age eating her largo dust!

My mount for the day was to be Pachanga's son, and Jeannie's usual ride, Santana - a gorgeous young black Paso Fino gelding she had bred, raised, and trained herself.

Letting me ride Santana tells me that Jeannie has far more confidence in my riding skills than even I do. Well I was up to the challenge of this young strong horse. We gathered in the stable yard, a dozen or so riders and their Paso Fino mounts (and thinking we should all be throwing back a stiff drink to warm us; after all don't the hunters do that before a they ride off with the year...ok Jeannie?!). Santana was being a little antsy and I was having trouble keeping him in one place. After a struggle I decided to see where it was he wanted to go. He made his way through the pack until he found Jeannie, who was riding another horse that day. He sidled up next to her and settled down, quite happy I think that he had found his "Mom". Well he was a good boy after that as we stuck close to Jeannie. The trail ride was long...maybe 2 hours or so, and fast, as Paso Finos do not plod! Wow! After the ride there was a veritable feast; a pot luck dinner right in the middle of the huge barn! What a good day; a fun ride, great food, and hours of conversation centered guessed it: horses!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fall Fairs

The mark of a small (and not so small) Ontario town is the annual Fall Fair. As a family we made the trek every year with our small children in tow. They liked the carnival rides the best, and always ended up begging for cotton candy and having to make do with a, not as sweet, colourful snow cone. We were always amazed at the exotic birds in the fowl barn and oohed and awed over the sweet bunnies that came in all shapes and sizes. Then there were the cloven hoofed barnyard animals led by young boys and girls dressed in white like they worked behind the counter of an old fashioned soda shoppe. I especially liked the goats, with their odd rectangular pupils in those big eyes that locked on yours. The "no eared" variety is just creepy to me though...what's that all about? Don't ears serve a purpose in nature? Unfortunately we missed this year's Orillia Fall Fair but the Coldwater Fair is this weekend and we will surely make the journey there. My younger daughter is interested in photography and wants to enter a photo in one of the contests. Good for her!
A couple of weekends ago I went to the fall fair in Caledon to get a few pictures of our friend, Jeannie, who had her lovely black Paso Fino mare, Captiva, there doing a breed demonstration. I will get Captiva on my Horse of the Week page soon.
At this fair I was facinated by another demonstration, a lady and her border collies herding sheep. These dogs are amazing! They come in many colours and can have longer fur or be flat coated. I had to laugh when the owner described their personality as "obsessive-compulsive"! These dogs really need a job to do.
To other photographers, don't you just love those moments when you turn, and with camera at the ready you just happen to spot something whimsical or bizzare or cute or exciting and you are able to capture it for posterity?? Here is an image from one of those moments. I believe she is a "Town Cryer". Wish I had more info on her. What a great looking gal!

Friday, September 15, 2006

At the mercy of the weather.

One thing about being a photographer who specializes in horses, you are almost always at the mercy of the weather. We had to cancel a photo shoot yesterday afternoon in Bracebridge as it was one of those weather reports that said it "should" clear up by such and such a time. Well it still looks pretty gray out there this morning so where's that sun!!! Speaking of sun, here are a couple of photos of sun and grass from the summer . A bit abstract, maybe because I had my eyes closed when I shot these (didn't want to stare straight into the sun so I aimed where I thought I should and clicked the shutter...very technical).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wild horses of Bethany?

As if I hadn't already taken enough photos at Saddlewood of various appaloosas, when my weary sister and I pulled out of the driveway and headed down the road we saw what looked like a herd of wild horses running up the side of a rocky hill. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't on the Montana plains. They were of course the camp's mounts put out to pasture, well not like any pasture I've ever seen. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how tired I am, I'm never tired of photographing horses. This site, this cornucopia of equines, was like a gift to me. The low evening light behind them; large, small, black, white, and every colour in between, burr filled manes and all. How I love horses!

Horses, horses, everywhere!

Continuing with last weekend in Bethany while I was waiting for my models I "spotted" (pun intended) a couple of striking appaloosas. Dang I wish I coulda stayed for the show the next day...too many horses...too little time!

The little brown appy youngster had just had a bath before bedtime. He complained a bit like most toddlers do.

The striking young white gelding seemed to have translucent skin, he looked quite ethereal. His owner said he had been bathed every day that week and still wasn't clean! Maybe they buffed most of his spots off? ;o)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Have laptop, will travel...

This is the life, staying at my sister's for the night. I'm sitting on a comfy Ikea chair, laptop...on my lap, of course, glass of wine at my side, and a scattering of animals around me in various states of slumber. We just watched Canada win the Nation's Cup...YAY CANADA!! Ian Miller was awsesome as usual.
What a weekend! Friday started off with a pleasant surprise. I'll save it for another day but it was a great way to lead into the weekend. I travelled a good distance Friday afternoon to get to a place called Bethany, where I was meeting up with a young lady for a photo shoot. Charity and her Mom were there for an appaloosa show on the weekend. I specifically wanted to photograph her costume she had on loan. Little did I know the costume was for the horse too! This is one very patient mare named Fancy (her mother's horse). I will share a couple of pictures of our shoot.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Brandy's Troubles

I needed to stretch my legs yesterday after a morning of photo editing so I asked my dog, Brandy, if she'd like to go for a walk (yes I have to ask as she does not always want to walk). She agreed (a head-cock and a wag of the tail) so off we went.

At the corner of our first turn lives a retired school teacher, a very personable lady with a passion for animals and in particular, cats. She seems to have a geat number of them, though I don't dare ask how many exactly. I'm not so sure even she knows. We affectionately refer to her as the "Cat Lady". Now there is one cat who can be seen regularly patrolling her property. He is a robust fellow, and quite striking with his big black and white spots. The kids in the neighbourhood refer to him as Mr. Moo-Cat for his resemblance to a Holstein cow.

As an aside I have noticed in past when I walk my dog past a cat in someone's yard, they usually do one of 3 things; run away, hide under the nearest car, or as a last resort if they are caught by surprise and there is no time for the first 2 choices, they will flatten themselves to the ground so as not to be noticed. Picture a smaller version of a lioness hunting a herd of gazelle, but replace the tall savannah grass with a shortly mowed lawn and you get the picture.

Well that is what MOST cats do, but not Mr. Moo-Cat. You see, Brandy happened to choose Moo-Cat's front lawn to do her business on. Poor dog was a bit of a difficult time shall we say, when Moo-Cat decided he would wander over and make Brandy's aquaintance. Well what a spectacle we must have been, Brandy with her troublesome business, proceded to do the "butt shuffle" on the lawn, I am struggling to hold onto her leash and pooper scoop with a grocery bag, and the rolly polly feline trying to befriend us, quite enjoying this meet and greet we have put on seemingly for his benefit! To add insult to injury, there is a steady stream of teenagers coming down the sidewalk on their way home from high school. My cheeks start to flush as I realize they are smirking and pointing at I assume my dog's obsene antics. I couldn't take it anymore so I promised Mr. Moo-Cat we'd return another time when Brandy was feeling better. As I steered my poor dog home I could still hear the cruel whispers and snickers from the sidewalk as Brandy tried a last ditch effort to drag her behind down the middle of the street we had to cross. I found myself looking over my shoulder just to make sure the sounds weren't coming from the cat...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My horse nephew

I have never owned a horse. My siblings and I were army brats, so a move every 4 years, along with an unlisted man's salary, didn't create the conditions for horse ownership. Of course that didn't stop me from begging, pleading, bargaining, and spilling many tears all for the want of a horse. Now I am in the fortunate position of being around all forms of the equine species on a weekly basis, and that is almost enough to fill the void.

To my great surprise a couple of years ago, my sister, Janet, announced she was buying a horse. She is the oldest girl in our family of 4 siblings, and it is probably due to her that I am so horse crazy. She paved the way, so to speak, for my lifelong passion. So even though Jan does have a son, I consider her horsey addition to the family the closest thing to owning a horse for me. So let me introduce you to my "horse nephew", a handsome Paso Fino gelding named "Alberto La Manana", or Alberto for short. He was the first "Horse of the Week" on my website. You can read more about him here

The first time...

Oh my, I have butterflies as I type my first blog entry. Haven't thought much about this but in the back of my mind it is always something I have wanted to do...well at least in the last year or 2. ( very first blog is a run on sentence ;o) )