I have the good fortune of traveling to some pretty cool horse shows for my job, and this year was no exception. I covered 15 shows, one clinic and the USEA Convention this year for the magazine from coast to coast! Whew.
I gave up a trip to Kentucky this year so I could check off a big bucket list item; going to the Badminton Horse Trials!
I’ve watched my VHS tapes and DVDs of the event from as far back as the mid-90s and never dreamed I’d ever go, but I decided this was the year.
A photographer friend who’d always wanted to go met me in London, and we started with a quick adventure in the city. It’s strange since I was just there in November, but I had a pretty good feel for how to get around.
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.
Cambalda splashed through the brush jump at the Carolina International with Jennie Brannigan.
Ballynoe Castle RM retired at Rolex this year, and Buck Davidson showed him some love.
The trees at Red Hills in Tallahassee, Fla., are gorgeous!
This Snow White pas de deux was really fun at Dressage at Devon!
My first trip to Rebecca Farm didn’t disappoint!
I captured this shot of Laura Graves’ Verdades at AGDF in February.
Jan Ebeling patted FRH Rassolini at the AGDF. Check out that crest!
The light hit Foxwood High’s eye just right at Great Meadow.
Will Coleman and Gideon made a lovely picture under the willows at Red Hills.
Just some lovely fall colors at Devon
This shot of Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow became a cover shot for COTH!
#eqgoals. Mavis Spencer at the Palm Beach Masters.
Clark Montgomery and my favorite, Loughan Glen, at Pine Top.
Jacquie Brooks always has a good time on D Niro at Devon.
Will Coleman and Tight Lines were stick straight at Great Meadow.
Reggie being cute!
Costume hi jinx at the Great Charity Challenge in Wellington.
Braids at Fair Hill.
Hunter knees for Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras at Ocala.
All cleaned up for the Fair Hill jog.
I was a little downhill to capture this shot of Will Faudree and Pfun at Rolex.
This table shot beautifully at The Fork. Here’s Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott.
I thought this was a unique angle as I was walking towards another fence at Carolina. Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless power up the hill.
#knees. Laura Kraut and Confu at the Palm Beach Masters.
I love going to new event. It was amazing to be at the christening of the new advanced course (and future WEG course) at The Fork at Tryon. This is Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude.
D.A. Duras and his groom Shannon Kinsley at Ocala.
Just a nice shot of Joe Meyer and the best named horse ever, Clip Clop, at Rolex.
Tim Bourke and his son Senan at Fair Hill.
Knowing what Will Faudree has been through in the last two years after breaking his neck gives this image from Rolex special meaning.
Beauty in the background at Rebecca Farm.
The water shot beautifully at Carolina International this year. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z tackled this huge drop with style.
Just a nice shot of the Fair Hill CCI*** winner Seleno O’Hanlon on Foxwood High.
#eqgoals. Emily Beshear at Great Meadow.
Sharon White’s Cooley On Show hammed it up at the Rolex jog.
Jennie Brannigan’s I Bella gave this table at the Wellington Eventing Showcase plenty of air.
The Budweiser Clydesdales were mobbed at Red Hills.
I didn’t shoot much show jumping this year, but I got this nice photo of Kent Farrington and Gazelle in Wellington.
Three masters of eventing in one place! Boyd Martin, William Fox-Pitt and Mark Todd at the Wellington Eventing Showcase.
Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C at Fair Hill.
Whenever I’m struggling on the flat, I think of this photo of Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST at Rolex and sit up just a little bit taller.
This review originally appeared in the July/August issue of the Chronicle’s Untacked.
New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred
By Kimberly Godwin Clark
This book came across my desk at exactly the right moment. I’d just picked up my new off-the-track Thoroughbred and was excited to start his retraining. I’ve brought along two other OTTBs in my life—one straight from the track who was quite simple and sweet, and the second who came to me with walk, trot, canter and knowledge of basic jumping, but after reading Kimberly Godwin Clark’s book, I realized there was a lot about the breed that I didn’t know.
Clark has galloped, trained and owned Thoroughbreds for 30 years and has been promoting them for adoption since 2007, both on her own and through her non-profit, Thoroughbred Placement Resources, so she brings a wealth of detailed knowledge.
Before I bought my OTTB, the only time I’d ever been to the track was to watch a race on a summer evening, so Clark’s step-by-step description of how the track works was extremely interesting. She describes the details of everyone’s job at the track, what kind of tack your OTTB wore, and how they were ridden and trained. She then walks the reader through a first trip to the track and what to expect—researching the horse online before you go, etiquette in the barns, evaluating a horse for sale, and how to make an offer.
In the second half of the book, Clark offers advice on everything from how to start a recently retired race horse to what to feed, how to deal with turnout, behavior modifications and when things go wrong.
If you’re new to OTTBs, it’s always a good idea to get help from an experienced person. But before you embark on the journey, New Track, New Life is an educational read to help you have a positive experience with your new partner.
I’m knee-deep in my busy spring travel season, but I just wanted to write a quick update about my trips so far.
My most recent trip was to Pine Top in Thomson, Ga. I’d never been, and since they added a CIC*** last year that was well attended, I thought it might make sense to go this year.
Unfortunately entries were way down, and only 13 started in the three-star, but I’m still happy I went.
The trip there was not super fun, as I got to ride on a tiny propeller plane to the Augusta regional airport, which was loud and scary!
The event was kind of in the middle of nowhere, but the historic farm was really beautiful.
I arrived on Thursday afternoon and walked the cross-country course. I was immediately overcome with this feeling of, “ah…” It was such a beautiful day, everything was really green and pristine, and it just seemed like a really nice, no frills kind of event. It really made my heart pang a little, wishing I was riding myself.
I sat down with the owner of the farm, who couldn’t have been nicer. He even invited me to an anniversary dinner with his wife and 20-plus other people at the local Mexican restaurant!
The lack of media attention was kind of refreshing to be honest. I love all of my regular media friends, and while I had to round up the people I needed to talk to myself, it just made the day feel a little more casual and a little more down-to-earth after spending so much time immersed in Wellington with sponsors and VIPs and wealth.
I wish there had been more riders so I could have wandered around a bit, but I found a good spot and was pretty happy with my photos, and I only came home with one fire ant bite!
I got an email from the farm owners on the Monday after the event thanking me for coming, which was so nice.
I love jumpers but don’t get to cover them often, so that was exciting. The WEF showgrounds just come alive at night with the crowds and literal-circus atmosphere.
The Showcase was so fun to have pretty much all of my media and photographer friends in one place, and I love being immersed in the dressage world too, mostly because the fashion inspires me! I got to interview Mark Todd at the Showcase, which I was slightly nervous for, but I had my friend Shelby from USEA there to keep me calm!
Red Hills is up next, another favorite because of the natural beauty of the park it’s held at, and the Carolina International at the Carolina Horse Park, which holds a lot of happy memories of my own riding.
I’ll be at The Fork in early April on my first trip to Tryon, then on to Rolex!
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.
I’ve just finished off my whirlwind fall of travel, and I’m ready for a break! Since I last updated I’ve been to Plantation Field, Cincinnati, Dressage At Devon, Fair Hill and the Virginia Horse Trials.
Plantation was the first weekend where it really felt like fall. I covered it for the first time officially for COTH, and Phillip Dutton was a fitting winner at his hometown event.
I visited my brother, niece and sister-in-law in Cincinnati the following weekend, and it was kind of hot but I had a good time playing tourist and eating Skyline chili! The city is undergoing a lot of change, and my brother lives very close to downtown which is fun, plus they have a great view!
Dressage At Devon was up next and back to cold and rainy. I went to Devon a few times with my mom long ago, but I’d never been as a member of the media. It was fun to see some different faces than who we usually see in Wellington, even if the scores weren’t as high. I wrote a commentary for the magazine, which I’ve only ever done once before, about how I hope riders and spectators will continue to attend shows like Devon, or Morven Park, which was on the same weekend, because they’re so unique and historic.
My favorite event, Fair Hill, was up next, and while the weather was the driest and warmest it’s been in the 15 years I’ve been attending, it was unfortunately a little underwhelming this year. The entries were down, and Marilyn Little sparked a lot of controversy when her eventual winner RF Scandalous was seen with blood on her mouth on cross-country day.
After two of the most stressful weeks of my work life trying to write the story of the win while also reporting on what it meant to have a three-star national champion win with blood on her mouth, I hope what came out is a fair portrayal of what happened.
The “blood rule” was followed in theory, but there’s since been a lot of discussion about whether it’s right for the public image of the sport to allow a horse with visible blood to continue. I try to always see both sides of an argument, so I won’t weigh in, but I have to say I was disappointed with several things posted on the internet about how the media handled the incident.
It’s difficult when the sport is so small and everyone is friendly. We love feel good stories and stories of winners but we are journalists and have to report on the bad things as well. I feel like sometimes the riders get a little closed off when controversial things happen, but we’re just doing our jobs asking for the facts. If top riders want to get the press and be treated like celebrities, they need to realize that sometimes that means answering tough questions.
After Fair Hill I had a free weekend and took Oh So and Harley to a flat lesson with Heidi. She gave me some tips with Harley about keeping his walk and canter more forward and asking for more bend in all three gaits, so now I have some homework.
Oh So was very good, and we upped the work a little by adding in some canter/walk and walk/canter transitions.
I’m hoping we can get back to where we left off this spring and continue to work on those transitions and eventually get clean changes both directions.
He’s finally pretty much back to full flatwork and now we’re getting ready to pop over some jumps for the first time since June this week, so I’m excited!
Both boys were very well behaved during gale force winds with leaves hitting us all in the face and dust swirling around!
This past weekend we took Harley to the VA Horse Trials for some exposure and I brought Oh So along to ride in good footing. Both boys traveled well together and settled in. Harley was very professional for being 5 and they both thought they were living the life of luxury with Meghan and I tending to their every need.
I schooled Harley on Saturday and Meghan sat on Oh So. She’s only ridden in a dressage saddle a few times, so she was working on getting her balance and playing with some leg yielding, but she was pushing all of Oh So’s buttons by accident, and it was pretty funny. He would offer a turn on the forehand, haunches, leg yield or rein back and not get frustrated, so that was cool to see him play schoolmaster.
A lot of memories came flooding back, and I don’t know if I’ll ever compete him there again, but I’m glad we went.
Today I moved Oh So to a new farm just up the road from where he was in Waterford. I found a deal I couldn’t pass up where I’ll be able to afford two horses if I decide to get one in the spring. The only thing is he’ll be living out 24/7 so I’m pretty nervous about it , but he settled right into his paddock today and made friends with a mare across the fence line. He ate his dinner and was checking out some chickens when I left him, so I hope it goes well.
We won’t have an indoor, but we do have lights, so back to living the way we were at home. I’ll just have to pull out my winter breeches a bit sooner!
Harley is doing his first event this weekend on my (30th, gulp) birthday, and I’ve entered Oh So in a dressage show at Loch Moy the following weekend. It may be the end of the season, but I’m going to squeeze in what I can!
I’ve been thinking a lot about bucket list goals as I’ve been interviewing people this fall, and I came up with a list of my own. I still feel pretty aimless without having any competitions to look forward to, but here’s what I’ve come up with.
Complete another training three-day (I did one in 2006 with Sam and finished 2nd).
Complete a CCI*.
But before that, I’d like to finish a prelim on my dressage score.
Ride at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Earn my USDF bronze medal (maybe Oh So could take me there!)
Ride at another AEC.
Hit up a few other events I’ve never competed at like Plantation Field and at the Horse Park of New Jersey.
Compete at an Area 2 championship (that never seemed to work out with Oh So’s schedule).
I think most of these will have to wait until my next horse, but I’m still holding out hope for Oh So!
Life is back to normal finally after my trip to Rio! Oh So got the go ahead to start ramping up his work again, which is awesome, but we’re only adding 5 minutes of trot per week, so the going will be slow for awhile.
He flexed and palpated pretty well, so the vet decided not to do ultrasound and just told us to start adding trot. He also got his back injected in the areas where he has kissing spine, so hopefully that will help him feel a little better.
In the mean time I’ve been having a lot of fun riding my friend Meghan’s 5-year-old OTTB Harley, who is wise beyond his years.
He only raced twice and then was used to pony horses at the track, and while he’s very green in his body and education, he’s willing to take instruction, and he’s come along quickly over the last two months that I’ve been riding him a couple of times a week.
We’ve taken him off property to cross-country school three times and show jumped twice, and he keeps getting better. He’s pretty willing to jump anything, but sometimes it’s the other jumps on cross-country or the things going on outside the ring that catch his attention.
I’m really enjoying the process of working with a young horse again. I wasn’t sure I was ready to start over after Bear, but we’re slowly starting to trust each other, and it’s fun when it clicks for him.
On the flat he just needs to learn to take the contact forward, down and out. He’s been ridden in draw reins before, and he seemed afraid of the contact at first. Now he’s taking the bit tentatively, but still comes behind the vertical in trot on occasion. In canter he wants to raise his head and hollow his back, especially to the jumps, so we’re keeping them small right now while we work on his flatwork.
Meghan has felt a difference in him, which makes me feel confident that I’ve been doing the right thing despite no proper flat lessons and riding in my jump saddle!
The hope is to get him to a starter trial this fall. I don’t think the jumps will be the problem, just the activity, but we’ll keep working hard!
I’ve had a couple of weeks to think about Rio, and it’s coming a little more in to focus now that I’m not in the thick of it.
I watched all of the cross-country on the NBC replays when I got back to the U.S., and it really helped me understand the course better and how grueling it really was.
While I was out on course, I really had no idea what was going on because of the terrible announcing, so it helped to see it again.
Being there and focusing just on getting the best photos made it almost seem like another horse show until the medal ceremonies. I’ll admit I had a tear in my eye when the U.S. team got on the podium in dressage!
I wish I’d had more time to explore the city, but the day off I did have was amazing. I went to Sugarloaf Mountain and was the highest into the sky I think I’ve ever been. I’ve been to a lot of castles and mountain ranges in my life, but that was so high my legs were getting a little wobbly.
I had a ticket to see Christ the Redeemer that afternoon but the clouds came in, and I didn’t get the view I wanted. Ah well. Now I can say I’ve been there!
I spent the weekend at Plantation Field and now I’m off to Cincinnati to visit my brother and sister-in-law, see my niece and eat chili!
Next week is Dressage at Devon and then on to Fair Hill in the October.