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!