April 29, 2008

Birth of a Foal

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to watch a foal being born. The first time I got to witness it was when I was ten years old. My mom bred her mare and during the last few months of gestation, I read an illustrated Equus article over and over trying to memorize all the important things you should do or make note of. I was also the lucky one, laying on the couch we had moved to the sliding glass door to oversee the barn stall, that saw the beginning and alerted the "masses" (my mom & dad). Being a lot older than 10 now, I don't remember much other than it was really cold that night and it was a filly.

Since then I've witnessed only one other birth. There were plenty of near misses. Another filly by the same mare.... born just minutes before I got off the school bus. A few years later, I watched the mare all day and went into eat dinner. I came back out a half hour later to feed all the horses and voila, there's a newborn standing there. The next one I DID get to see. It was the first foal of that very first filly I saw being born when I was ten and, of course, it happened before I evolved into being a horse photographer. Now I want to photograph the birth of a foal.

I have a friend that occasionally breeds a mare or two. I'm at her mercy, or, her mare's mercy, to meet my goal of photographing a birth. It's not easy, they all choose to have them in the middle of the night or when I'm gone far away at an event. Heck, those mares are tricky, they often even wait for my friend to be away at an event! (Not to worry, they weren't left unattended to.) This year there were four chances. Two of her mares and two visiting mares.

Mare #1 - Gave me lots of "I'm soooo ready" stock shots, waxed, flaccid, round and relaxed: textbook. Foal born at 2am. Mare #2 - a maiden, not much warning, but at the same time, ready for days, foal born at 2am. Mare #3 - foal born at 8:30 am!!!! I got the call, but alas didn't get there in time to get birth shots. Some dummy (me) had taken the camera bag out of the car after the trip to the racetrack so I had to make a trip home to fetch it. However, my friend had it covered. She got many and many and more and everything that I had hoped to catch. I got there in time to see him in his semi dry glory trying to find and figure out how to work lunch.

This mare had a nice clean stall with fresh straw but she also had a mind of her own. She waited until they let her out of her nice clean stall in the morning. Almost immediately, she foaled in the dirt paddock. Go figure.

Mare #4 - sometime between 2 and 6 am this morning.... another miss for me!

April 27, 2008

Peppers Pride

Yesterday I decided, on a whim, to go to the local race track to see what I could shoot. I wanted to get an image or two worthy of a DPChallenge.com entry. I blindly stumbled across racing history it seems. A 5 year old mare named Peppers Pride was going to try for her 16th consecutive win. A feat accomplished by only 4 other thoroughbreds in history including Citation, Cigar, Mister Frisky and Hallowed Dreams. I don't really follow horse racing other than the Triple Crown so I was surprised to have walked into this photo opportunity.

I started my afternoon by heading to the place where the starting gate was going to be parked for the 5th race to see aobut getting some image of the break from the gate. I chatted with one of the gate crew for a few minutes and the track vet came over and asked me if I was with the newspaper. No, I replied, I'm just out here for fun, I'm a freelance equine photographer. He told me in the ninth race, history may be made. I told him I COULD be the paper if necessary. We chatted a few more moments about other things and he left to do his job and I wandered off to set up to take some pix. I was still pretty clueless to the goings on.

Throughout the afternoon I heard a number of announcements over the loudspeakers and finally pieced together what might happen in the ninth race, a race called the Russell & Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap. I got excited at the potential for sellable images from my day at the races that was once just for fun. Before the ninth race I asked a guy with a program what number was on the horse Pepper's Pride. He kindly told me seven, and look for the owner with the ear to ear smile. I proceeded to the paddock and got a couple of nice shots of Peppers Pride.

All the horses left the paddock so I went to the track to get some post parade images too. The sun was not in a place relative to the horses for the best pix but I did grab a few shots that included Peppers Pride's trainer, Joel Marr on the pony horse.

I found the place I wanted to shoot from, and despite my lack of a press pass I was allowed to shoot the race from rail along the winner's circle. It's not quite at the finish post but I was happy none the less. This is a small track so the horses started just to the left of the grandstand and went past me twice.

I got a nice shot, albeit waaaaayyyy over there, of Peppers Pride in the back of the pack! She did not get the best break and at the beginning of the first turn got bumped pretty good but at the beginning of the backstretch she began to make a run for it with guidance from her jockey, Carlos Madiera. Carlos has been her pilot in every one of her 16 consecutive undefeated races.

The Scoreboard blocked my view at this point so I didn't get to witness her surge to the front. I was so happy to see that by the start of the homestretch she was well on her way to history..... with her ears up like it was no big thing.

I took a few more pix of the unbelievably happy owners, a shot of Peppers Pride in the winners circle and ran home to try to upload images to news agencies. If I had had a clue about what was going to happen that day I would have done some homework before I left. I had a hard time finding the right places to upload news images on some of the sites which stole too much time from me.

The track photographer didn't have to drive home to upload so those images made it onto the Blood Horse and the AP picked up the images that the local newspaper, the Daily Times, had gotten. I wish I had been able to get them posted sooner because the track photographer's images showed heavy shadows and the Daily times photographer is a journalistic photographer, not a horse photographer.
I got some nice images but I'm not a track photographer or a new photographer and just didn't have the contact for immediate release. Oh, well..... there is still the magazines! Maybe some monthly publication will want one or two down the road.

Peppers Pride will try to get number 17 under her girth at some point. If she does, she will be the first and I got the opportunity, even if only on an accidental whim, to see her run! More Images!

A Start, Finally

So, I have been sitting on this Blog address for about a year trying to figure out what on earth to write about. I decided to call it Horse Stories, nice and generic, so I can be pretty general. Now, to figure out how it all works so I can add stuff.