August 26, 2008

Draft Horse Pulls

One of the places Amy took me to was the Barnstable County Fair. We strategically planned our trip to coincide with the evening Draft Horse Pulling competition. We knew we would have limited light since the pulls started in the evening.

Once we got there we moseyed our way to the main arena via the petting zoo. I'm not a big fan of petting zoos and haven't really seen all that many over the years. I don't mind the animals that get to interact with the public, but the caged, usually exotics bother me. This particular petting zoo had very few of them, fortunately but it had plenty of begging goats and llamas.

Well off to find the all-important horses. We found a few in a small barn, a 4-H display. The aisle was packed with people. There was one horse that has shoved itself into the back of his stall not wanting to be touched and petted by the adoring public. I looked at him for a minute and then turned to talk to someone. I glanced in the direction of the horse and he had come over and was sticking his had over the door and looking right at me. I went over to say hello for a moment and when I left he returned back the far corner of his stall. Horses often like me but I have never been sought out so intensely before.

Finally, we made our way over to where the competition draft horses were. They were just starting to tack up for their classes. All of the horses at this pull were Belgians and they were big!They were tall but mostly they were wide! I was fascinated by the shoes on their feet. really wide toe grabs and huge heel caulks. All the better to grip with I suppose.

The horses started to arrive right as the sun was beginning to set. The first team came in from the pretty side of the gate! Backlit and in step with each other they looked mighty fine for heavy drafts. All the teams came into the arena and found their places along the rail. Most of the drivers hitched the teams to the rail but one driver backed his team up and put their tails to the rail, got out a lawn chair, parked it in front of them and had a seat. Amy and I took to calling this team the refrigerator and the freezer. The Fridge is on the left and he's big. The Freeze is on the right and while not as tall, he's built solid as a rock and super wide.

Let the pulling commence. The teams come up to the front of the sled with the weight on it and the drivers back them up to the sled. A couple of extra hands is necessary to put the tree on the hook to the sled. the most important rule is to keep all hands an toes out of the way of the sled at this time. Many of the teams start pulling the moment they think the sled is hooked. A few teams wait for their drivers cue, very few.

As the night goes on, weight gets added to the sled. Once the team cannot pull the sled a certain distance within 3 attempts, it is eliminated from any further attempts or weights. Some of the drivers know their teams well and bow out before the load gets too heavy for them, many of the driver at this fair took that option, a few teams went on for the win with the big weights.

All in all it was interesting to view and photograph. I had fun pushing the limits of my camera's available light capabilities since I was taking pix for the fun or it. I also was able to get a good close-up look at the harnesses and try some detail images. Here's a link to many more Draft Horse Pull images.

August 13, 2008

Welsh Cob Foal in Maine

A super cute, 11 day old, Section D Welsh Cob foal was the main reason for the trip to Maine. He was a bit shy at first but eventually he approached the black unwavering gaze of the camera lens with the cover of a helpful tree. Soon he was too close to photograph and was rewarded with good scratches all over.

With some encouragement, via trotting out mom, he showed off his future dressage trot. Welsh Cobs and Welsh Cob crosses are becoming popular dressage mounts. There is North Forks Brenin Cardi on the west coast and the up and coming Quillane Apollo on the east coast and the sire of this foal.

After his workout, the as yet unnamed foal, went back to the barn for a good nap with the ever watchful mom standing guard. I had to go stalk other horses for entertainment. Another Welsh Cob mare.

August 12, 2008

Foliage in Maine

We stopped for lunch and behind the building several trees with bright red fuzzy flowers caught my attention. Amy had pointed them out to me from the road once and told me they were poisonous. I still had to go over for a closer look with camera in tow. I took some pics and when Amy's mom came out I asked her what they were. "Sumac," she said. "You didn't touch it did ya?" I told her that Amy had pointed it out in passing once before. I had assumed it was poisonous to horses, not people. Amy's mom told me that Amy discovered it once by playing in it and was covered in hives and itchy for a good long time after that. It's like Poison Ivy. Glad I didn't touch it but she did note that this may have been a non-poisonous ornamental variety.

Once we arrived at our destination, Karen's place, I immediately jumped into taking pix of the foal. (Baby pix, next post!) Afterwards I poked my camera lens into her garden while she and Beth (Amy's mom) went in to the house to talk business. There were lots of Bumble bees on the cone flowers so I stalked them for a while with my long lens. I switched to the shorty lens for a few still life images and scenes around the place. Too bad the plants were a little bug eaten, I still couldn't resist! There was a totally stray peacock feather sticking out of a container. The only one and no peacocks to be seen or heard in the immediate area. The day was overcast but bright so the feather really glimmered against its rough dark wood background.
There was a rather picturesque farm across the road with some flowers on the outside edge of the field. Of course, I couldn't resist taking a picture of Karen's barn either being all tidy and fresh looking and set on a grassy knoll! I get a little green-starved living in the desert, but I love all the other colors I get there.

August 11, 2008

Standardbreds in Maine

While in New England shooting some hunter/jumper shows with Amy Cody, I had almost a week of down time between show number one and show number two to do some looking around. I went with Amy's mom to Maine briefly. She had to stop by a breeding barn and then go over to a client/friend to see a 2 week old Welsh Cob baby.

The breeding barn was one of the largest red wooden barns I have ever seen. They just don't build them like that in New Mexico. It was fully three stories high and the horses resided on the bottom level. I could only guess what might be in the upper level(s) besides a lot of hay and storage. The farm also had more than one of these monstrous barns.

The farm mostly bred Standardbreds but they also did breeding for local mare and stallion owners as well. Inside, the ceiling was low and it was dark. The mural on the wall in the AI area was funny. All blue skies and green trees! Then sheer number and size of the support beams overhead was impressive. All the better for tons of hay I suppose.

I wandered out to the fields where the foals and yearlings were. Way off in the distance you could see the half cut hay fields. It was quite hot and humid so there wasn't much frolicking going on. In fact there was far more napping. Most of the foals were older and independent as they were, like the thoroughbreds, timed to be born as close to January as possible since January 1st will be their birthdate for life. Only the year counts. The small herd of mares and foals were well cared for as well as the yearlings in the other pasture. So nice to see breeders trim their foals hooves from birth. That makes for so many more successful futures with balanced feet. We didn't stay long, but I was able to take a few images of interest including this soft eyed, friendly broodmare.

August 3, 2008

Quillane Apollo

Just a few images of a drop dead gorgeous Section D Welsh Cob Stallion, Quillane Apollo, at liberty.

August 2, 2008


Amy Cody and I teamed up for 3 hunter jumper shows on the east coast. The first of which was in New Hampshire, the NHHJA Summer Festival Show. We arrived at the show grounds about 7pm Friday evening right as the skies opened up and dumped an awful lot of rain with wind speeds of a velocity worthy of tipping the porta potties. It's true, 3 of them! Well, at least it won't be dusty!
Once we got our bearings we went to find the hotel. We checked in and prepared everything for then next day's shoot.

After everyone was ready for bed, I went out to sit on the porch for a while, check email and the radar and chill. Along came another good rain storm. I sat under the eaves just watching and I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye in the bushes next to me. I thought I saw a skunk! A few moments later he went by again, yup, a skunk! Less than 10 feet away from me. I just stood stock still and he went on his way trying to find shelter from the rain under the bushes but to his dismay, there were no rain gutters so he was getting rain and rain run off from the roof. Saturday night I was ready for him and got off a few snaps from the 2nd floor porch. New Hampshire skunks have more white on them than New Mexico skunks.

The show grounds was nice and they kept the cars from parking anywhere near the competition arenas. Always a treat for a show photographer. So many show grounds are a cluttered, unorganized mess which makes it hard to get clean shots. The arenas themselves all had great footing regardless of the amount of rain the night before. They didn't really drain but the all-weather footing was sure.

On Sunday it rained lightly on and off a few times which helped keep things cool but by the time they got to the last class it had started to rain more diligently and the lightning started. They wrapped things up pretty quick and made the decision to have the last class, a classic, at the following show. We packed up and went into town for a nice dinner before driving back to Massachusetts. It rained hard for about 10 minutes while we ate so we checked the radar on Amy's iPhone before we left. Coastal New Hampshire was going to get hit with one heck of a rain storm in a few hours so we booked it out of there and made it home before the rain started. 1.7 inches of rain fell right where we had been. Overall we got pretty lucky shooting betoween two major storms.

The competition images from the NHHJA Summer Festival can be seen at the website we created for when Amy and I work together as a team. Look for the two NHHJA galleries.