Eventing, Olympics and Emotion: My Favorite Photos of 2016

I’ve traveled a lot this year, and photography is my favorite part of my job, so it was hard to narrow down my favorite photos, but I chose the following for two reasons. First, I love a classically perfect jumping photo, so I’ve included a few. Second, I’ve worked really hard this year on seeking out more candid moments. Sure, I can get a hundred shots of horses with perfect knees over a big oxer, but in the end, I think it’s the more emotional moments that really resonate with people.

It probably helped that I had a borrowed Nikon D5 and 200-400 lens to play with at the Olympics, which was amazing, but many of these were taken with our trusty D3 or D4S and a fixed 300m or 70-200mm lens.

Click on a photo to view the gallery in higher res.

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My Favorite Photos of the Year

I had a pretty crazy year of travel for The Chronicle and I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos I’ve taken.

I mostly covered eventing, including Red Hills, Bromont, the Carolina International, Great Meadow, Jersey Fresh, Plantation Field, The Fork, Fair Hill and the AECs, as well as CDI***** dressage in Florida, the USEA Convention, two Jimmy Wofford clinics and the Pan Am Games.

I wrote about my favorite memory for COTH as well.

“This year I headed to my first ever championship as a member of the media when I covered the Pan American Games in Toronto with my co-worker Lisa Slade.

I was a little nervous, having heard tales of chaos and stress at multi-discipline championships from other more seasoned staffers. But I’d also heard them rave about how amazing it was to see Valegro dance to music or feel the tension so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife as the final horse cleared the final show jump in eventing.

In the end, the experience was much more the latter. Sure, Lisa and I had to sneak in PB&Js every day for lunch because the few food vendors were overwhelmed and yes, there were some stressful days worrying about getting our coverage up even though we were wet/hot/cold/hungry/tired, but to me it was worth it to experience the U.S. team on the podium multiple times, and to be able to witness equestrian sport on a global scale.

I wish I’d had time to talk to every rider from another country and learn their story, but reporting on the medal contenders was first priority, leaving little time for much else. I did get to talk to a few South American riders across all three disciplines over those two weeks though, and learning the stories of what they go through to be able to compete at the Pan Ams, which for many is the pinnacle of their career, and how excited they were to bring attention to equestrian sport in their countries was really amazing. They took their jobs as ambassadors of the sport very seriously and with a great amount of pride.

There really were so many memorable moments, it’s hard to choose! McLain Ward riding the spicy Rothchild to his first individual championship medal, Brazil’s Ruy Fonseca so close to an individual gold before dropping the final rail in the eventing to give Marilyn Little the gold, the impressive Brazilians across all disciplines, Steffen Peters’ elation aboard Legolas in the dressage…Some say the Pan Ams aren’t as prestigious as other championships, but to me and the many riders who were privileged to be there, those medals and experiences mean so much.”

Without further ado, here are my favorite photos in no particular order.1DSC_0038

Brazilian dressage rider Leandro Aparecido Da Silva’s daugther gave Di Caprio a pat after his test at the Pan Ams. I’m not the strongest candid photographer (I’m working on it!), but this one was pretty sweet.

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Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM at Jersey Fresh. “Reggie” and Buck’s partnerships is one of my favorites. I just love how Reggie is jumping picture perfect over this massive table and how Buck is in the perfect balance. This is something to emulate!

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Kim Herslow and Rosmarin at the Pan Ams. Dressage riders are the most emotional riders as I came to find out at the Pan Ams. Kim took a moment after her test to give Rosmarin a hug, even among the loud cheering in the stadium.

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I turned around quickly and captured this shot of a rider during dressage day at Fair Hill. It’s my favorite event to go to, especially when the weather and fall foliage cooperates like it did this year!

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A lot has been said about Marilyn Little this year, but this photo captures the side of her I see when I interview her at competitions. RF Demeter is a special partner for her, and it showed after they won the Bromont CCI***.

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Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border standing off at Fair Hill. I love a photo of a good jumping horse, and “Crossy” sure looks scopey here! Kim is soft-spoken, but I love interviewing her because she’s so real. She’ll humbly admit how difficult it was to learn to ride this horse and it’s wonderful that they’re now on the same page (and getting results!).

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McLain Ward and Rothchild at the Pan Ams. This photo (in its’ original form here) was a little back lit, but our design team worked their magic, and it became my second ever cover shot! It’s also one of the rare shots of “Bongo” with her ears forward. McLain’s partnership with this fiery little horse is one of my favorites in show jumping.

 

Moving Along

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It’s been a snowy day here in Virginia, and just when the mud was starting to dry (as you can see from the above photo of my boys!).

It’s been a struggle getting used to not having Ramsey here. We’ve all had to adjust to not being greeted every time we walk in the door or having a cold nose in our laps at dinner, but life is still moving along.

Oh So’s walking has been going well. We’re up to about 30 minutes now, just 10 more to go until we can trot!

Bear is coming along very nicely. He has some days when he wants to be silly, but he comes around quite quickly as the ride goes on. I’ve been working on turns on the forehand and have been “thinking” that concept in trot too to get him moving off my inside leg and into my outside rein.

His jumping is coming in leaps and bounds, both literally and figuratively! He really seems to understand a concept quickly. If we have a crooked or funny jump the first time, he corrects it the second time and that’s it.

Lisa introduced a small gymnastic for him this week. We did a bounce of cross-rails, one stride to to oxer. He was a little crooked over the bounce the first time, then was stick straight the next.

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Walking with Oh So.

We’ve been cantering short courses of fences about 2′. We’ve jumped roll tops, gates and flower boxes with no problem and we introduced a rollback turn this week too. It’s a lot of fun for me to be jumping again, even if it is only once a week. I’ve found that because I have to sit in more of a deeper seat to guide him to the fences securely, my lower leg and upper body are more stable.

I need to get my dad out to video me since I have no idea what we look like jumping. I think Lisa is surprised by the horse that’s emerging. He’s got a lot of talent for jumping and has a lovely way of going between the fences, which is not something we predicted when we first saw him trotting around an indoor ring clobbering poles on the ground. He has a very good natural rhythm and a desire to stay balanced, so he almost always lands on the correct lead, or changes by himself.

Other than riding, I’ve been keeping busy writing a lot for COTH. I think I’ll try to do a roundup post once a month with links to what I’ve had on our website. I still write weekly for the magazine, but I’ve found myself writing a lot for the website over the last 6 months. Here’s my first roundup, featuring stories going back to November that I think might interest people.

If you want to see all of the stories I’ve written for the Chronicle’s website, check them out here.

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George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions, Dec. 31-Jan. 4 – I traveled to Florida to cover the 5-day clinic.

I’ve Been Ripped Is Making His Mark In The Dressage Ring – A Paint/Arab competing at the FEI levels.

AECs May Seek Permanent Home In Texas – Should the AECs stay in Texas?

Brian Ross Retires – A popular dressage judge retires.

Haidaseeker Playboy Wears Several Different Hats–And Shoes – A Quarter Horse who competes in reining and the FEI levels of dressage.

Emma Ford Returns To Phillip Dutton Eventing – Phillip’s longtime groom returns.

Switzerland Bans Hyperflexion – The country passes a new law at the government level.

Buck Davidson Bids Goodbye To Santa’s Keeper – Buck’s promising two-star horse dies suddenly.

A quick trip south

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I headed south on Friday morning for a quick trip to the Rocking Horse Winter II horse trials to cover the cross-country for COTH. The flight down was non-eventful, but I knew I was in for an interesting time when the car rental guy and the lady sitting next to me on the plane, who had lived in Orlando for much of her life, had never heard of Altoona, Fla.

After about a dozen toll booths, I got onto a four lane highway through, from what I understand, is typical Florida- lots of retirement communities and trailer parks. I did drive through some cute, small towns and didn’t see one horse, until all of a sudden, boom. A photo-1horse trial.

The farm itself was not that fancy, but the cross-country course was awesome. It was located in the Ocala National Forest, where the soil was quite sandy and the terrain was very flat. They were able to make some nice man-made mounds and banks though. I eyed the prelim course and thought it seemed a little stiff compared to an early season course in Area 2. There was one stride to a pretty big drop into water and a couple of pretty severe angled combinations.

858335_10100864363944677_406375108_oAfter walking the cross-country course, I went to watch a little bit of prelim show jumping. It helped to get me a little bit more in the mood for my competition season by being able to watch from the ground.

The drive to my hotel was beautiful, basically going around a big lake and through a neighborhood with pretty willow and palm trees.

Saturday I started out shooting the intermediate, which seemed to ride pretty well. In the advanced, Buck Davidson had 6 rides, so I kind of guessed I’d be interviewing him. He ended up winning two divisions, so I caught up with him at his trailer. He was quite candid talking about his top horse, Ballynoe Castle RM, and I was really pleased to hear him talk about how much the horse meant to him. I even asked him if he remembered Sam, and he did, which was kind of cool.

This trip really represented why I like my job. If it was up to me, I’d be shooting cross-photocountry all day! I feel like I was able to get better interviews by speaking with people in person, so I was really pleased with how my online coverage came out because I tried something a little different.

The trip home was fairly uneventful, save for a kid throwing up in the seat behind me on the plane (gag) and I got home at about 1am. Since I seem to not be able to sleep in, I woke up at 6:30am and had to immediately get going to a lesson in Middleburg. Nicky had ridden Oh So while I was gone and said she had a nice ride on him. For our jumping lesson, we went to an indoor and Lisa actually set the jumps up, which made it tough, but forced me to ride forward and not pick. We did a serpentine over three verticals across the middle of the ring, and a canter bounce, bending line to a vertical, around to an oxer off a short turn. He was really good and actually listened to the snaffle pelham. I think I ride better when I’m exhausted!

On Monday night, I had a flat lesson with Nicky and we worked on a few of the second level movements in preparation for a schooling show on Sunday. We’ve been getting some really nice canter/walk transitions, but I’ve been making them too easy by doing them on a circle, so now I’m struggling a little bit with doing them on a short diagonal like they come in DSC_5582the test.

Tomorrow I’m taking Oh So for some conditioning work then doing a jump lesson with Lisa, so I think he’ll enjoy being able to let loose a bit. We’re planning on a cross-country school next weekend and this weekend, I’m going car shopping for something with better gas mileage. I’m leaning towards a used Prius, because I have exactly $0 to spend over what they’ll give me for my car, so hopefully I’ll find something.