The Pleasure/Fun Ride season has commenced!
Although, I’ve got to admit that a March date was a little surprising during the winter when the organisers booked me.
Thermals Rachel, I said to myself adding the date to the planner, you’ll definitely need thermals that day.
Probably waterproofs too. And a blanket…
I didn’t think forward enough to consider that a) the date was the Sunday when the clocks had moved forward, or, b) that date would be Mothering Sunday.
HOWEVER, as I jumped in Maude the Mini (did I ever tell you why she’s called Maude? No? Simple, she’s ‘no-nonsense, a bit squat and has an ample boot’) the sky was blue, not a cloud to be seen and as I made my 2 hour journey east to Cornwall, and the temperature rose nicely. March? Really? Oh, go on then!
As you probably know, I don’t cover many events of my own as an equine photographer; I generally leave the event work to my freelance arm. Contract work where I shoot, hand over images to the day’s “boss”, then leave & get paid for days work.
However, I LOVE covering Pleasure Ride’s as I find them one of the nicest ways to meet horsey folk! Nothing is hurried and there’s no pressure for horse or rider to perform in any way. The riders generally go with a friend or two and chat about their week, their pony, the kids, the Mother-in-Law…
It’s just 6 legs out together enjoying the countryside.
I generally find that most rides like this are mostly non-competitive riders, or those rarely compete or are on younger/older horses getting them out. It’s a great way to educate a youngster as it offers a diverse range of sights, sounds and of course they learn to deal with other horses who may be going faster/slower than them.
On a personal level there is lots of engagement for me. Riders stop and talk to me, I’ll help/encourage them if they are having ‘issues’ at a fence. I get to sniff and scratch ponies and I’m really unlikely to be run over during the whole process. All things that generally just don’t happen for me at a competition.
Sunday’s ride held near Saltash, just over the Cornish border is just typical of a really good ride. It’s well organised by a friendly team, held on tracks and fields with not a road in sight – and there are optional jumps for those with their brave pants on…
From a photographers aspect what works about these events for me then?
• The relaxed environment usually means more faces beaming back at me.
• I can move around if I feel a fence or spot isn’t working.
• If riders want to stop and have specific shots/poses then this can be accommodated too.
• Large groups approaching can be tricky. You know that it’s probable that during the process you may only get a partial shot of someone, particularly if they are approaching at speed. My advice to all riders is to give yourself room as you approach the photographer. We are quick, but sometimes we need a bit more time 😀
After a couple of fence shifts, my initial selection was a really nice sunken road with a collection of skinny logs/tree stumps after, however on reflection having seen a few approach it, most avoided it (remember these are pleasure riders) and the wide choice after the sunken road meant the chances of riders taking different routes at the same time high. All this means the potential for a ‘miss’ from me. My next fence was a staggered line of fences. Again, though, too wide a selection means riders could be approaching from all angles. I finally settled on two fences side-by-side, simple to get either, plus all the other riders choosing to ride past the fence too.
The choice process is very similar to when I’m at an event. We need to consider light at that moment and where it’s likely to shift to throughout the day. Rarely do we get to work with the ‘best’ fence of the day as those frequently have issues that rule them out.
My actual selection was a pair of trakehners – basically logs with little ditches under them. Not ideal as many riders have a dislike/fear of ditches, however big or small they are but when jumped well there’s always a sense of achievement.
The tricky bit for me as riders approached, often saying “oh, we’ll tackle this little log”, is that I don’t want to alert them to the ditch in advance as it will affect their approach and their mental commitment to the fence. For those that saw it and stopped, I feel I can then step in and give them some verbal support in how best to tackle it if they want it.
It’s always surprising just how a ditch can create this reaction – I always say its best to just approach the fence as a normal log. I used to hate them too. I was told, “Look up and not down, remember that where you look is where your horse will look”. It’s totally true. Just ride forward with your normal impulsion, look beyond your fence and your horse will take it like a normal fence and not notice the ditch. The minute you look down, then he will too and you’ll stop.
Easier said than done though and I totally understand that!
However, it jumped well on the whole and those that tackled it positively beamed afterwards.
The standout moment for me at this event was one lady, riding on her own, on a gorgeous dapple grey. They approached, fumbled the jump a little, but she turned back and re-did the fence with a nicer more confident result. She went on to tell me that this was their first EVER event (he was young) and she’d never jumped a cross country fence with him before. He was sensible and trusted her. It was so nice to see someone gently educating a horse and them gaining confidence together. A real partnership was being created.
I’m now looking forward to the rest of my bookings in this section of the equine world!
Have a fabulous week!
View the images from this particular event here