Favorite Photos of 2017

Despite being injured and off my feet for several months this year, I still had the chance to go to a ton of amazing competitions for my job in 2017.

As always, I feel incredibly fortunate to do what I love for a living, and this year I got to check off a couple of bucket list events, as well as go to some longtime favorites. I attended 18 competitions this year for COTH (14 actual trips total, counting the USEA Convention).

A photographer friend generously gifted me some Lightroom classes to work on while I was laid up, and I think my editing skills have gotten a little better this year! I’m always in search of the perfect jumping shot, but I’ve been trying my best to be aware of my surroundings and capture quiet, candid moments as well. My New Year’s resolution is to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and play with different perspectives as I continue to capture some of the country’s best horses and riders.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my coverage this year.

 

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.

 

Introducing The French Bear and some random updates

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It took more than two months to find him, but I’m excited to introduce everyone to The French Bear, or “Bear”, my new project horse.

Lisa found him for me via Diana McClure of DMC Carousel Racing Stables in Berryville, Va.

Bear is a 2010 bay Thoroughbred gelding (Gators N Bears–Femme De Diable, Devil His Due). He raced 16 times this year and was about to race again when Diana convinced his owner to sell him.

According to Diana, who also broke him, Bear tried very hard on the track, but his best wasn’t good enough. He never won, but he did get several thirds and won about $16,000.

I brought him home last Wednesday and Oh So was immediately jealous, of course!

I gave Bear Ace for the first few times in turnout, but he was fairly quiet. I put him out with Sam this weekend and they seem fine together. Sam actually seems uninterested, maybe because he doesn’t want to deal with a “kid” in his old age! Bear seems independent and happy to graze away from him, but he didn’t like being in a paddock by himself the first two days, so that’s when we decided to put them together.

Our first ride on Thursday started when my jump saddle slipped under his belly when I

Sam's enjoying his new buddy.
Sam’s enjoying his new buddy.

tried to mount! Thankfully, he just stood there, but I clearly need a different girth or a different saddle. I’m looking into a more narrow saddle, but I wasn’t expecting to have this expense. He’s so narrow right now though, so we need to find something. He’s about 16 hands, but I think he’ll grow a bit more.

Our second ride started well enough, but then he started being a bit nappy by the gate. A dressage whip helped, so that’s our new tool! I’ve been walking and trotting him over poles and working on very large circles.

On Tuesday night, I had my first lesson with my dressage trainer, Nicky. We started with some basic lungeing, which he knows, but we added an outside side rein. He was very good to the left, but to the right, he was a little reluctant and kicked out a bit when she asked him to go forward. We ended it on a good note though and then got on.

The first thing Nicky noticed was I need to define exactly where I’m going with him, instead of just trotting around the ring on big circles and straight lines. She said I need to decide which letter I’m turning in and think of square turns for a while so he doesn’t learn to fall in and so he learns to listen to both my leg aids.

We worked a little on dropping my weight into my inside seat bone when turning and she gave me a tool to get him to move forward past the gate instead of stopping and refusing to turn right, which is the only direction it occurs.

She wanted me to prepare for the disobedience by lowering my inside hand a bit, then wave the whip, which would be in my left hand, near his shoulder so he sees it. That seemed to correct the behavior, so we’ll keep going with that!

I’m excited and a little nervous to start with “raw clay”, so-to-speak. I’ve never had a horse so green or young, and Oh So was my first OTTB, but he already had his basics on him and was jumping small things.

I think Bear’s willing attitude will make it a lot more fun. He seems intelligent and willing to try things and I think he’s a real cuddlier, a bit different than Oh So for sure! He actually enjoys being groomed and doesn’t fidget, and he doesn’t try to kick my teeth out when I put on his blanket.

I’ll be sad when the time comes to sell him, but I can’t afford to keep and compete two horses at once. I think we both have a lot to learn from each other. I’ll try to update the blog whenever I can with some videos and/or photos after my lessons.

This fall has been kind of weird for me. On the one hand, I’ve been traveling so much that I haven’t had much time to miss riding, but on the other hand, this is the longest I’ve ever gone without riding regularly in my life and I still just feel a little lost.

I never thought at the beginning of the year that I’d be bringing home a new horse and taking on a challenge like this.

My life thrives on routine, which can be good, but can also be a little bit of a detriment. For the last 10 years of my life, fall has been the time I look forward to the most. The weather gets cooler and I start my competition season in September, move on to Morven Park in October, take a weekend at Fair Hill, then finish up the season with a great time with my

My view for Harrisburg

friends and trainer at VA Horse Trials.

I’ll be missing VA for the first time since I can remember, but it gives me a chance to go to Galway Downs instead, so I’m excited about that. I’m just really missing the competition season.

I won’t be able to get to a lesson with Lisa until next weekend, but I think it’s good for Bear to have a few weeks to settle before we put him back on the trailer.

I had a quiet weekend this week after Harrisburg to get to know Bear and relax a bit. Although it was a long week at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, full of 8am-11pm

days with little to no downtime, I felt that the coverage that me and our intern, Taylor, provided was pretty good. We had fun shooting, especially the jumpers, and we

ended up getting some decent hunter people to talk with, which was a what I was worried about.

A Corn Husk horse at Fair Hill.
A Corn Husk horse at Fair Hill.

Check out our Pennsylvania National Horse Show coverage.

We drove over to Fair Hill for a few hours on Sunday and although I was disappointed to miss cross-country, I was glad just to be there and be outside for a bit after a week indoors.

On Sunday, I went to see Cavalia with my mom at National Harbor, which was a lot of fun. We went to see it a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and this show was similar, but with a little bit different theme. I really love watching the acrobatics. It’s basically like Cirque Du S’Olei with horses.

Toppers and Rocky had a fun trip down to the vet on Thursday so Toppers could have a couple of teeth removed. Rocky went for moral support and so I wouldn’t have to deal with him screaming at home while simultaneously dealing with a new horse and Oh So on stall rest.

The surgery was successful and the vet even gave us his two teeth, one of which was rotted and the other fractured. They shared a stall at the clinic and apparently Rocky tried to help by pulling out Toppers’ catheter!

Now I’m off on my final trip for COTH this year, Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif. I’ve been to one event in northern California as an intern, so I’m excited to see some SoCal eventing. I’m flying into San Diego, and I wish I had some time to check out the city, but I have a pretty packed few days. I’ll be flying home on Monday, then heading to day 2 of the William Fox-Pitt clinic at Morningside in Warrenton where I’ll cover it for our website.