April 23, 2009

A Hoof and Hair day

When I woke up Monday morning I had nothing specific to do for the day except get my pearly-whites polished at the dentist. By the time I got dressed, my day was full. First, I was asked by my farrier to help him find some images I had taken over the last few years to illustrate a piece he was submitting to the American Farrier's Journal. After my dentist appointment and he came over and we found the images he needed.

I am very, very fortunate to have such a talented and passionate farrier who understand equine conformation like no one else I've met. With his 40 years of experience he's seen just about every hoof and conformation combination out there. He is also one of the rare farriers that has no issues with working with a veterinarian to get to the desired goal: A sound horse with a true as can be hoof flight pattern. He understands wholly and fully how important hoof balance is. Not just the toe to heel balance, but also how critical the medial to lateral balance is as well and that getting that balance requires one to understand conformation thoroughly. Every horse is an individual with individual needs based on the way they are built and the tasks required of them.

Next on the roster was an impromptu photo shoot. I rarely have to get the photos taken the day I was booked! So later that afternoon, I headed out to a small farm to get some nice images of some Gypsy Vanners that were going to be put on the market. I was excited, like, OMG! Hair! Lots and lots of hair! Nice horses under all that hair to boot. Three of the four go under saddle and in harness too. The fourth was a youngster, not yet a year old. A mellow & agreeable sort they all were too. I arrived just as the grooming was coming to an end. Perfect timing!

First I took conformation pix of each of them and some head shots, then it was just about time for the really fun part... galloping in a field! But, alas, the sprinklers came on! No worries, the groundskeeper was still around so we requested that he turn them back off for a little bit. First I had 2 turned out together and after a a few shots the other two joined in to make a herd. There was flyin' hair everywhere! I didn't get to send them around too many times. It was their dinner time, they weren't yet allowed to be on fresh grass for too long lest they eat too much and set themselves up for a bout with laminitis and it was long past the barn help's time to clock out. Fortunately, it didn't take long to get what I wanted because they are darned photogenic, even more so as a group.

After the shoot, of course I had to go home a prepare the images for the client. That is always the most time consuming part of the job. By the time I got done with that, the day was long past over and I was about done too.

April 18, 2009

Quincy Finds a New Home

The other day I went to the local book store to find a book for my dad's upcoming birthday. I was having trouble finding it so I went to the desk to find out if they had it and if I could order it for him. While I was standing there waiting for the the employee to end a customer phone call, I saw a book on the counter that caught my eye. The book store was announcing an upcoming book signing for the book. I read the cover, mostly because it had a horse on it, and I noticed a familiar name as the illustrator. Michelle Black. Hmmmm... I know someone named Michelle Black, a horse trainer and riding instructor, but I didn't know she was also painter. I wonder... could it be her? I did not recognize the author's name, Camille Matthews, right off the bat.

When the bookstore employee finished up with her phone-in customer, I asked her if the name on the book could possibly be the local Michelle Black. She said she didn't know, but did the obvious and wise thing and opened the book to look. She said, as I read, that the author was a lady named Camille Matthews and she lived at 1908 Glade. WHAT?!? That was the address of the house I grew up in!!! If the author lives there then it MUST be the Michelle I know! Indeed it was, and the author is the same person that bought that house from my parents, has horses and is involved in therapeutic horse activities. Wow! I decided right then and there that I would return on Saturday during the book signing.

Today, I remembered about the book signing at 1:20 pm. Ack! I gotta go NOW! I called my sister-in-law and asked to steal her kid, Autumn for a little while. The two of us made it to the book store with 10 minutes to spare before the end of the book signing. Michelle saw me and greeted me and I introduced both Camille and Michelle to my niece. They asked her questions which she answered a little shyly at first but she soon bloomed and they personalized a copy of the book, A New Home for Quincy, just for her.

The book is geared for children, ages 4-8 or so and it's a wonderful look into Quincy's world as he moves to a new home. His first big barn, his new friends and his secret fears and hopes. He befriends the horse in the stall next door, Beau, who helps him adjust and answer questions. The paintings by Michelle that illustrate the book are eye-catching and lovely (and some of the originals were on display at the book signing too!) For more about this new beautiful book and Camille and Michelle, visit their website QuincytheHorse.com.

How cool and small is the world of horses that it turns out that I did know the illustrator of the book and was connected to the author in a way too. I knew that those who had bought my parent's house bought it, in part, for the horse corrals and barn. What I originally thought was bad luck in the store not having the book I wanted to buy turned out in my best interest after all. I mentioned this to them while I was there and Michelle said that it's magnetism. Horses do that.

April 8, 2009

Piñon Mesa Competitive Trail Ride

It started on a windy, dusty Friday. Well the ride did, the day itself started quite pretty. On the western horizon, however, was an ominous pink cloud. What was it? Arizona. You see, we could see the wind long before it actually hit our area and it looked as if it had picked up half of Arizona on it's way through.

Check-in for the ride competitors started about 2pm and by then the wind was here and strong. Fortunately it wasn't cold... yet. Everyone that had things to do outside shelter was doing it while also scooping the dirt out of their ears every 10 minutes or so. No one wanted to hang around and chat because that involved opening one's mouth, then you ended up eating dirt too! At least it wasn't cold... yet. Over the course of the afternoon, 35 riders checked in to compete. They got their horses cleaned up for the vet check as best they could in 35mph sustained winds with gusts up past 45mph. At about 5:30 p.m. they held the trail briefing, usually they aren't that early on Fridays but everyone had the same goal... get out of the wind. We also knew that Saturday would not be dusty... it was going to rain/snow soon. At least it wasn't cold... yet. The sideways rain hit at about 10:30 p.m.

Saturday morning was a lot colder, about 32 degrees at sunrise, not as cold as I had anticipated, and there was just a trace of snow on the ground and a light wind. The 30 riders that hit the trail Saturday morning were challenged right away with a log crossing obstacle. Cavaletti in fact. All they had to do was trot through (Open riders had to add a halt well on the other side). There was many different ideas of "trotting through" by the various equines. One of the mules stopped and refused but eventually trotted through. The former eventing horse, who was quite familiar with cavaletti, leapt in then leapt out. Many trotted the first two and sidestepped out by the middle. Some horses did it just fine regardless of the fact that the cavaletti logs were striped with snow. By the time I took pictures of all the riders in the wind, my hands were quite cold.

I decided to head to the northern reaches of the trail to catch the riders again. The roads were damp but nothing that made me think I shouldn't drive down the big hill. Well, halfway down the big hill, I realized my error... when I was sliding down it on the slick, wet top layer of clay! I got the vehicle under control and slowed to a creep for the rest of the hill, trying my mightiest to stay out of the REALLY BIG RUT on the left. It was deep enough that I wouldn't have left the rut without a lot of help once I got in it. I succeeded and was happy to be on flat ground again. I was fortunate enough to slide sideways again while crossing over a deep arroyo. THAT one scared me! There was a pipe for the water under the road and it was a long way down to the bottom... at least a car length. The road was not very wide over the top of it and I just was not sure my vehicle's hind end was clearing the edge. I made it! Whew!
I was quite concerned that I was going to have to go UP that big hill again when I was done. However, with it being windy, it dried out enough to be easily navigable upon my return after taking pictures of everyone again. No more slip and slide on clay and back up on the mesa top where the soil was sandy and I was once again warm and toasty from driving. (Did I mention it was now quite cold outside?)

I went to the lunch area and grabbed a sandwich and headed back out to photograph the riders going down a significant hill. It has been my personal challenge to make a horse going down a hill look good. I succeeded! However the wind picked up off and on and there was sporadic snow flurries too. I was getting quite cold out on that point overlooking the down hill. After everyone made it safely down the hill, it was of the sandy soil sort, I went to catch them all one more time near the end of the 20 mile trail (30 for Opens). I got to my place just before the riders came to it, perfect timing!

All the Novice and CP riders made it through and I had to wait a little for the Opens to get there. About 20 minutes later they did. One of the riders wanted to have more than an average trail photo so she decided to do a "trick" for the photographer. I'm guessing that after dusting off and having to catch a car ride to fetch the Mule that had no patience for antics at the end of the day, she won't be trying that again. Fortunately she was free of any serious injury despite being dumped on her shoulder after a few rather large bucks. She kept a sense of humor about the whole thing overall and told me later she just wanted me to get a "different" picture. I told her that I got a few alright but probably not the one she had imagined. By now the wind was quite strong again. I was definitely COLD through and through after having been standing in it all day.

At the Saturday vet check, the wind and the snow flurries continued off and on. Eventually the wind died down and the clouds cleared setting up the night to get REALLY cold. Everyone woke up to a 24 degree, calm, clear, sunny day. I spent my day preparing images while the riders rode their 20 miles. By the time I got to camp to sell the photos it had warmed up to almost jacketless pleasant. Except for a breeze now and again which caused me and many others to keep their jackets close. At the awards that afternoon, our vet judge from Kansas, stated that he had never experienced so much different weather in such a short time. Wind, severe wind with no visibility due to sideways dirt, rain, sideways rain, snow, sideways snow, bitter cold and beautiful warm sunshine. He said it would be memorable ride for sure.

April 1, 2009

Best Horse Toy Ever!

I found the best horse toy ever! Well, actually they sort of found me. After receiving an email from a small company that was looking for images to use in a new iPhone App, I rounded up a couple of peers, Amy E. Riley and Lynne Glazer and we three are now the featured photographers with the majority of the images for the App. The company, called Nose-It, is sponsoring the equine photo-a-day App, called Horse Lover. It's a free app to download from the iTunes store and it will send a horse related picture every day to your iPhone or iTouch.

Keith, the Nose-It rep that I was in touch with knew we had our own horses so sent us all some Nose-It toys. I took them out on a sunny day to see if they were a hit with the crew or not. I broke up some hay cubes and put them in the hole in the Nose-It and gave it to the no-brainer. The horse that plays with EVERYTHING whether it be a toy made for horses, the flymask from his neighbor's face or the tank heater... or, even the water tank itself! (He drags that thing around constantly, even totally full but NEVER dumps it over. I don't know how!) Of course he loved the Nose-It. I don't think he even stopped to pick up any treats that fell out. Soon, however, he pushed it too far and it was in his neighbor, Bisti's yard. Big hit there too! Bisti was all about treats and figured out how to get them out but not before spending some time digging, pawing and biting it.
After watching those two, I decided to try it on some of the more skeptical horses. Boomer spent a good long time trying to get his nose IN the hole instead of getting treat OUT of the hole by rolling it. He was just sure it would fit. After a bit he finally discovered gravity and started to roll it around as well. He rolled it until all the treats had come out. I refilled it and took it to Who, the most skeptical of them all, she doesn't play with anything. She approached, gave it a good sniff and like Boomer tried to stick her nose in the hole but very quickly figured out that rolling it was far more rewarding. And there's the clincher, if Mikey, er, Whobie-Doo likes it it must be good.
These things do seem pretty indestructible as well and the treats don't just fall out. There is some lip to the inside of the hole so they do actually have to work at it to get the treat out. Now, several months later, they are all still playing with it. Dopey for the fun of it and he still passes it to both his neighbors. Bisti for the food of it and he will still rough it up, paw at it, try to bite it and I've even seen him standing on it once. Boomer and Who for both the snacks and the puzzle of it. They are still pretty certain that their noses WILL fit. I have since given most of the horses at the place a turn with the Nose-It and they all dig it. A perfect toy for the inquisitive, the cookie monsters, the bored and even those that need encouragement to slowly move around for some light exercise therapy. Oh, and the perfect bonus: Because of it's shape, it doesn't ever roll away under the fence and into the trees so there is never a long walk to retrieve it.