Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More Babies...

I'm shooting myself for forgetting to buy a 22" girth for Ollie while I was at Rolex. There were so many little shops selling tack and most had sales going on Sunday... sigh. I also think Ollie deserves a nice blingy black bridle to go with his new Albion SLK saddle. Therefore I've been googling tack stores in the Lexington area. Surely there is a good english tack store in this town! Do any of you have any tips for me? I'm planning on checking out Wise Choice Trailer and Tack.

In the meantime, Matt was heading over to Shadwell to take some pictures for Shiek Hamdan. I decided to tag along instead of checking out Wise Choice Trailer and Tack. Matt was busy taking pictures of a 9 day old foal. At 9 days old their legs haven't even straightened out yet. So while he was trying to get just the right pose, I poked around and checked out the surrounding paddocks.

I came across this cute little guy...



Doesn't he have the CUTEST FACE EVER?! He reminds me of the dog Petey on The Little Rascals. The gal who works with the broodmares and foals said she had never seen eyes like that before - with the white circle around them. She said he's going to be a gray when he grows up. I bet he'll look just like his mom.


Then I walked down the most beautiful path to the other paddocks

It's just breathtakingly beautiful there! I passed some workers and they pointed out a paddock and told me there was a very cute foal from one of their champions, Mehthaaf, who was the 1994 Champion 3 yr old filly in the UK. So off I went to meet them.


They both have a ton of "chrome" and so cute.


Her baby is by one of my most favorite of all race horses, Invasor. I got to meet Invasor last Halloween. Seems to me, Invasor is enjoying his lifestyle off the track... :)

I was having a good time meeting some great race mares and their babies today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What One Does Between Rolex and The Derby

Rolex was WAY COOL! I have put up (too many) photos on Flickr. You can view them here. The winner was William Fox-Pitt on Cool Mountain who is sponsored by Albion Saddles! Second place was Phillip Dutton on Woodburn and third was Becky Holder and Courageous Comet!

Stadium jumping made as well as "did in" many of the competitors. The excitement was palpable. I felt so badly for Kim Severson and Tipperary Liadhnan as they went around. It was just a disasterous ride around the arena with knock downs everywhere. They had been in 2nd place until then. On the flip side, riders like Boyd Martin managed to put in a clean ride and moved up quite a few spots in the standings. You can see that Boyd was clearly thrilled...


I love his reaction and that photo. William Fox-Pitt had a nice reaction after his ride as well. It was his first time winning Rolex Kentucky.



He's a beautiful rider and gave an entertaining interview afterwards for NBC Sports.

One of my photography friends was also at Rolex. It was her first time shooting there as well and she had one heck of a day during the cross country portion. As a photographer you sometimes get presented with situations where you have to ask yourself "Do I keep shooting? Do I have the stomach to keep shooting?" My friend, Candice had to ask herself those questions. She was positioned in a spot where there were 3 horrific falls and thankfully everyone (horse and riders) came out ok. Be warned the photos may not be for everyone but you can see her photos at this link.

Interestingly, all three riders that had those horrible falls were wearing an inflatable vest and they came out of their situations in fairly good order.

Monday came around and Matt and I headed over to Churchill Downs to shoot the Derby and Oaks contenders as they worked. I had a good day with my photos being published in the news section of, Brisnet and the New York Times blog called The Rail.

Then that afternoon Sarah K. Andrew fired off a text message to us asking if we wanted to go look for photo ops around the bluegrass area. Of course we said "Heck yea!" Matt was our tour guide and we visited a couple farms - Vinery, Airdrie Stud and Stonewall Farm. Vinery brought out Pioneer Of The Nile for us (2nd in last year's Derby) and he seemed very full of himself and one proud dude...


Sarah got a really cool shot of Kodiak Kowboy with Vinery's trademark lamp in the background.

And while we drove through the property at Airdrie Stud, we came across some very young, very cute foals. My guess is that they are only a day or two old.


and this little one was extremely brave and curious about us


But this cutie, a little colt, told me he wants to be my next dressage prospect when he grows up ;)


not only does he have the cutest blaze but he has 4 white socks - sigh...


What a nice day we had...

Tuesday is our off day and Wednesday/Thursday we need to tend to some work for Matt's clients. As they say, we must make hay while the sun shines. I sure hope the sun finds it's way back out soon!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I have never been to a 3-Day Event. All I knew about it was from what I've seen on TV, usually during the Olympics. It's grueling, it beautiful and it's dangerous. It's the equine version of a triathalon. First day is dressage which demonstrates the level of training a horse has; second day is the x-country test - certainly a test in endurance; and the final day is stadium jumping.

I've been through the first two days so far. I'm totally blown away by the athleticism and power from the horse and rider teams. Absolutely incredible to see in person.

I know horse racing and I admire those athletes but something about this sport and seeing how the horse and riders negotiate the obstacles, put in full runs and go after it without self doubt... wow.

Here are some of my pics so far:


This is Amy Tryon on her very spiffy horse Coal Creek...



I love that Coal Creek and many other of the equine athletes are thoroughbreds. They are fantastic for this sport. And I like that many former racers can perform as great eventing horses.

Here is a lovely Thoroughbred named Gin and Juice with rider Hawley Bennett-Awad on board



At any rate, I'm partial to the Thoroughbreds, especially the Off Track Thoroughbred, Courageous Comet who is performing extremely well here! After the first two days he's in 3rd place.

I have many photos and I've only put up a few so far on Flickr. I'll be putting up more so be sure to check back.

As for tomorrow - my agenda is to wake up at "o'dark thirty" meet up with another very cool photographer and blogger that many of you may know, then head over to Louisville and Churchill Downs so we can catch the morning works of many Kentucky Derby contenders then head back to Lexington and Rolex for the stadium jumping portion. I know of three people (Me, Matt and Sarah) who will be VERY tired tomorrow night... But how fun will that be?!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saddle Fitting Day!

I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before.

I ran over to get Betsy's trailer early in the morning and I picked up my boys. At least that was the idea... Toby had other ideas. Toby had a bad experience in a trailer prior to him entering my life. In a nutshell, he will only travel in stock trailers now. Betsy's trailer is a two-horse straight load built for warmbloods. Ollie was fine with it until Toby fussed about getting in. So I let Toby win because I didn't need both of my horses acting brainless.

Ollie was a trooper. We arrived at Betsy's barn and had to walk past a small paddock that has a Quarter Horse stallion. He's a halter show horse and that's all I'm going to say about his looks... The stallion was very vocal as we went by and my insecure, worrier named Hola C Bright was on his toes a little but he was actually very very good. I put him in an empty stall where he proceeded to leave a whole lot of loose poop. He let out an occasional whinny but otherwise was darn good.

The saddle fitter is a representative of Albion Saddlemakers. We started out by measuring Ollie's back, getting his weight with a weight tape and checking out his back for soreness and other problems that poor fitting saddles can create. We caught Ollie at an early stage of "uncomfortable" so his back was in good shape. That's one of the advantages of having an expressive horse. They let you know right away if something isn't working right. On her notes she wrote that his back was clean, soft and supple. Clean, I'm certain she means from damage because as often as he rolls there's not a truly "clean" spot on him...

Then we went to taking a trace of his back. She uses a ruler that is pliable and moldable to areas of his back. She molds the tool to an area of the back then traces it on a sheet of paper. She traced the withers, then the area that would be the middle of the saddle and the area towards the back of the saddle. The fitter told me that with Ollie's short back, that HE probably needs a size 17" saddle. She showed me this by pointing out the location of his last rib and where the back of the saddle should comfortably be. She measured the saddle area and it turned out to be the area for a size 17 saddle!

Ollie was impressive during all this. He wanted to taste the tracer tool, see what was going on and EVERY TIME he stood absolutely square without us forcing him to do it. What a star!

After getting his measurements and tracings, I longed him so she could see his movement. This is what she wrote in her notes- " Lovely walk, metronomic. saddle area goes flat at movement, slightly uphill at walk."

Metronomic - I love it! He really is a rhythmical mover. I sure as heck don't want to ruin that!

After that we put Ollie back in his stall and out came the saddles for me to try. We had a plastic saddle horse which the saddles were placed on and I would try them out. Turns out I like a flatter pelvic floor and wider pelvic area. The super deep saddles tended to make my back curve too much and my butt stick out. So the flatter saddles straightened out my spine. I tried out many different types of saddles and the one I liked the best was the SLK. The one she had was a little bit too wide for Ollie so we padded him up and used shims to make it lay right. Then I got on. I rode him for quite awhile, mostly at the walk because he was wound up again.

After awhile, Betsy and the fitter watched us as we trotted around. It was the first time Betsy had seen me ride Ollie! She talked us through his insecurities and got us moving straighter down the long sides. Then once we both relaxed and I realized that praise is a good thing, we really went to a new level! I would pat Ollie on the neck when he did even the most remote thing correctly and he relaxed. Then he became really round. THEN he went long and low! JUST LIKE THIS!


I was thrilled. Ollie was relaxed. And we were getting a new saddle!!

We ended up ordering this lovely gem of a saddle... We should have it in 5 to 6 weeks. It will be customized for my behind (flatter pelvic area) but will still be a size 17 to accomodate Ollie's short back.

As for my other Albion which I use on Toby, it was tested for balance and it was spot on. My girlfriend who was also getting her Albion saddle refitted, is going to use it while I'm away and hers is shipped to be readjusted for her horse. That was fortunate for her that my saddle with some padding and shims will work for her for a short time.

Now I'm off to head to Kentucky. I've got my photo credentials for Rolex and for the Kentucky Derby. So you can guess where this blog is heading for the next 10 days or so. Fun!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our April Lesson

It's been a while since we've had a lesson. Toby and I last had a lesson almost a month ago! We had an equally good lesson this time around as well! He's becoming so nicely balanced and his build shows it. We got to canter again and Toby seems to enjoy it. Especially when I help him out by holding him together. LOL! The two of us are getting better and better and our level of confidence is way up. I'm so happy about it.

Ollie had a lesson as well. We had to use the treeless saddle but at least we could use something! He started out a little bit energetic and not at all relaxed...

He tested the waters...

again and again...

And then he started to relax


and then he started to stretch - low and long!

and what a nice ride he was having!


I was so pleased! They were lovely as they marched around the ring.


It took him a little while before he relaxed but Betsy was patient and the end result was wonderful.

And to think that he was almost euthanized because someone didn't want to take the time to let an injury heal. I'm speculating but I believe this was the culprit. Look at the inside quarter of his front right hoof. The scar goes through the coronary band and up to the top of the heel bulb.

I'm just happy to have him. And his hooves are the strongest I've ever been around! Go figure.

Tomorrow is a big day for me and the boys. We are going to hit the road and go to Betsy's barn. The Albion saddle fitter is going to be there for us. She'll be working with another of Betsy's clients and then she'll get to work with my boys and me. I'm hopeful Toby will go. He has some trailer issues but I think that with his friend Ollie (and they are very good friends) and with Betsy's trailer which is made for warmbloods, that he should be cool with things. I'm excited about it and seeing the process. Of course I'll blog about it.

More to come!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ollie's past and The Michigan Equine Foundation

I had a crazy weekend which included offering up a photo session as a silent auction item for a fundraiser/educational seminar for the newly started Michigan Equine Foundation. My vet, Dr. Tanja Molby, is one of the people behind this program and I told her I'd do what I could to help out. What I didn't know was that my parents wanted to come up and visit. So I was juggling time with my horses, time with my parents and some time at the fundraiser.

My boys are doing well. I found out some information about Ollie which makes me want to dig in a little deeper to find out more. One of my friends in Baltimore that discovered Ollie for me ran into his last trainer at the races, Scott Lake. She went up to him and asked if he remembered Hola C Bright. He knew him immediately and said, "Yes... a nice gray horse." She told him he found a new home and was doing well in dressage. He was genuinely happy to hear that and he told her a story about him. He said that Ollie developed a serious problem (my friend couldn't remember what it was) and that his owners at the time wanted to put him down because of it. Scott said he convinced them that with time he would be just fine. They must have listened! I'm glad they did! But now I'm very curious (for many reason) as to what the problem was. I'm guessing it's when he ripped off part of his heel and hoof. That had to be a big bloody, awful mess because the scar is NASTY. But he's absolutely sound!

I hope I run into Scott Lake somewhere at the races this year! I want details!

Now for the fundraiser... It was a mix of demonstrations and educational clinics along with a silent auction.


These kids were selling bake goods to raise money:


and through the help of a local artist (Tina Evans), some kids made drawings of horses and turned them into note cards and a calendar.


My flash was not working for some unknown reason but here is my vet giving a seminar on Laminitis:


Tanja is from Germany and it's fun to listen to her speak. Besides, she's so passionate about equine healthcare! It's always easy to listen to someone when they are passionate about their subject.

Then Betsy gave a dressage demo on her horse Tanner. I went outside to get some nice shots of her warming up:



and then she went inside to get mic'd up and begin. In this picture, Betsy is being helped out by her fiance, Brian. Guess which couple will be taking wedding photos this summer for them... :)


I love when Betsy gives a demonstration because she explains the macho beginning of dressage as training for fighting on the battlefields. She will ride canter piorettes holding the reins in one hand and using her whip like a sword in the other. It was also a very long time before women were allowed to ride dressage because it was too masculine of a sport...


We had a nice size crowd!


And at the end, Betsy and Tanner gave the crowd a bow -


I'm not certain how much money was raised but I have to believe it was a good start. I'm proud to be part of a compassionate equine community!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bubble Baths

I'm back in Michigan and wishing I was in Kentucky...

The grass is just starting to green, my tulips haven't bloomed yet and I have two hairy beasts that need attention. The past couple of days I've gone out and worked on cleaning them up. Today I went out and gave them the year's first bath after I worked them.

Toby was great under saddle. He's doing so well, it's just hard to believe he's 20. Also, he's a pleasant ride. Perfect for me when I haven't ridden in a little while. I didn't work him too hard, he gave me a good effort, then he went under the hose and soap suds.

He's shedding out in a funny way this year. But then we're having a funny spring of hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. So his coat shows that. He has a summer coat that wants to pop through but many stragglers of the winter coat won't let go. Here's a picture of him after his bath (with his girlfriend).


He's clean. What you're seeing are dapples in his summer coat trying to pop out! Parts of him even look brindle (light brown under his black winter hair). I can't wait till those straggling long winter hairs fall off to show off his pretty dappled summer coat. His flank is already in summer coat mode. He's so healthy!

Then there's my yellow tinged gray horse...

I worked him before his bath. And guess what... I used a treeless saddle and he loved it! Me, not so much. I'm a short legged person and I found that I had a very difficult time getting my lower leg to make contact with my horse. I felt like I was doing the splits. What was kinda cool was that I could feel his spine so well with my seat. Sometimes, when we were in a disagreement in his spinal direction it wasn't so good. Kinda like he was giving me a wedgy.

Regardless of how I felt about the saddle, Ollie LOVED it. He was responsive, stretchy, relaxed once he realized the saddle wasn't going to hurt him. He was lovely! So now I know that a well fitted saddle for him will make a big difference. Saddle fitting is scheduled for the 21st!!

After his brief and very good work, I gave him a bubble bath. He came out so clean and white! He almost matched the fence ;)


I normally do NOT like "butt shots" but....


Just look at that pretty clean flowing tail! There's still some yellowness to the tail but it's SO MUCH better than it was. And for the record, take another look at the photo, look at where he is heading. About 1/3 of his paddock is swampy. Toby's in the same paddock. They both went straight over to that area when I turned them back out.

I guess boys will be boys...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Last Day At Keeneland

Sunday was my last day for being at Keeneland. It's time for me to head back to my Michigan home and get my boys back to work. So I wanted to try to capture a whole lot of things about Keeneland. I dragged Matt back for "sunrise services", my favorite time to be at the track. The track was noticeably quieter with many horses/people taking the day off. But there were still some people and horses around working...




And we went over to the saddling paddock which is full of blooming crab apple trees. Here is a picture of some of the Phipps horses going to the track via the saddling paddock:


and one young man who was with his grandfather, checking out the row of Lawn Jockeys and their signs


Then we bumped into Hall of Fame Trainer Jonathan Sheppard as he followed two of his horses out to the track. His horses were going to breeze in company (a timed work) and his routine is to have the horses paddock school before going to the track. That way the horses get use to a routine when they have a serious work.


Jonathan Sheppard is a super nice guy and his assistant trainer, Barry, is equally nice. We often say hello to them and stop by their barn. On this day we saw Forever Together hanging out in her stall and about to be walked around the shedrow. What was interesting is that she handles easier if a rider is on her, so she was tacked up but Barry told us she's only walking the shedrow and about her preference for a rider on her back for the walk. Everyone has their quirks...

Julian Leparoux was on one of the horses, a smallish bay filly. Jonathan told us her name is Rainbow View and she was Champion 2 yr old a couple years ago in England. She has been shipped to the states to race here for her 4 yr old season. And I'm afraid I cannot remember the name of the chestnut which Barry (purple Breeders Cup jacket) was riding...


Rainbow View

Rainbow View put in a good move, she was started a few lengths behind the chestnut, and passed them at the finish. She's a tough little girl! And oddly, she's by Dynaformer who typically has HUGE progeny. Go figure.

Lastly we went out to the track and we happened to run into Negligee, one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks (the race on Friday of Derby weekend). She was looking quite nice as she galloped around the track with her exercise rider.


Later that afternoon, we went back to the track to catch the feature race, an allowance race which had a field full of stakes caliber horses. One of the stars making a return to the track for the first time this year was Stardom Bound. A lovely gray mare who has been very competitive in the past but not so much on this day. Here she is being led back to the barn after finishing way back in the pack

Stardom Bound_04.11.2010_esp_wu_w-11-2

and the winner was a horse named Keertana. Keertana edged out one of the favorites, a Jonathan Sheppard trained horse named Fantasia (Fantasia has the same connections as Rainbow View - Both are George Strawbridge homebreds). Keertana looked tough in this race as does Go Go Gomez. Just look at his expression!

Keertana with Garret Gomez up

So that ended my spring stint at Keeneland. There are a couple more weeks of racing for the meet but I have to tend to the rest of my life. My boys will be happy to see me. :)

And I'll be back to blogging about our retraining efforts.

As for Kentucky, I'll be back starting Derby week and I may get out to shoot Rolex too. FUN!