In autumn of 2016 Laura was the successful highest bidder during a fund raising auction to have an equine photo shoot with me. Ever since then we’ve pretty much had this date in the diary and so it was with great pleasure that I headed out of Somerset to the South Hams area of South Devon to finally catch up with her and her wonder cob – Eric.
Laura has owned Eric for around 4 years now. He’s a gorgeous chocolate based skewbald chap and is just about 14.2hh. They came together pretty much by accident when he was a 7 year old. Laura laughs at the story of when she was looking to replace her TB mare and was sent the images of a short, stocky cob ‘thing’ covered in glitter! Having finally got over that initial picture she found out more, liked what she heard and saw and ultimately he came home. Eric had had a wonderful young life as stallion (siring a few foals) until he was gelded at 5 and then backed at 6. So he’s a little bit behind your average 11 year old gelding in terms of experience.
What he lacks in experience he really makes up for in heart though.
There are so many things he hadn’t done before Laura got him, some things quite simple such as going in a sand school. This was an event he found mentally very taxing at first, being very unsure of his footing. To this day anything new is generally met with a bit of scepticism, much teetering on the edge of commitment, some snorting and then finally taking a leap of faith in his owner and trusting her that its really not a complex question – whatever it is.
This was something I was going to witness directly on a couple of occasions during the shoot.
During our shoot, which was partly done in the countryside but was mostly about some images on the beach as Laura has never taken him to the beach, I soon discovered that despite his sensitive side he really is proving to be the most brilliant all rounder. Together they’ve done a fair bit of Dressage – with some success last autumn at the unaffiliated Dressage Championships of Great Britain at the David Broome Centre, they also show, show jump and do some eventing – their most recent outing at Port Eliot BE in Cornwall resulted in a lovely double clear, a great start to their season which is due to carry on at Millfield BE later this month. However, you’ll also find Eric out hunting, where he’s often on gate duty. Recently he took part in Laura’s local town May Day parade too. So, despite his caution to all things new, he’s very trusting and has a very strong bond with Laura.
After some initial images in the fields of the Flete Estate, we headed to the beach at Mothecombe. It’s the famous beach used in the film International Velvet. It’s quite a narrow lane down with a cobble based ramp to the final section but Eric just took it in his stride and Laura was soon on board and heading to the firm sand.
This is where I witnessed his sensitive side. He just couldn’t fathom it out at all. The tide was out and the sand firm but rippling. Seaweed ‘bombs’ were dotted around ready to attack him. Some kind words, scratches down the neck and he braced himself and positively launched himself forward! Once fully on the sand, life was (mostly) good. Laura was beaming, it’s so incredible how being on a horse on a peaceful beach can make you feel…
This exciting experience for them both carried on for a while and he learnt to paddle, trot and then canter through the shallow estuary. It was clear he was putting all his faith entirely in his rider to gain his confidence. It really was a lovely relationship to witness and really makes my job an utter joy!
With the light fading and Eric’s confidence levels starting to possible to ebb, thanks mostly to the arrival of surfers and their equipment, we decided it was time to call it a day, he’d been utterly amazing but neither of us were prepared to do anything that might set him back in any way. We didn’t get to do the shots we might have liked but they had a brilliant time and it was another great learning curve for him.
Depending on the day he might be called her Chocolate Unicorn, or, something less flattering if his world falls about. However, its always a tongue in cheek remark as it’s VERY clear just how much love there is for him.
Long live the chocolate Unicorn glitter cob!
Have a fabulous week!
If you’d like a personal equine photo shoot with me, maybe you have your own Unicorn you think I should meet, then please see here for more details.