Some of the best equine photo sessions I’m privileged to shoot come through the kindness of others and through the giving of gift packages or vouchers. The response from those receiving the gift is often one of sheer delight at the prospect too. I know from my own horse owning days that rarely would I buy myself something like this, I’d usually spend money on my horses in other ways first but I can’t tell you the number of times I hear people say to me, “I really wish I’d bought one for myself sooner”….
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Alice’s shoot was a gift from a very lovely friend of hers, Steph. Life hasn’t been easy in recent times for Alice who sadly lost her father to an illness last autumn, which would be more than enough for most of us to contend with. So Steph decided that Alice’s birthday later that year would be a perfect way to get something in the diary for Alice to look forward to. Wind forward a few months and I found myself in a lovely little yard in Somerset on the outskirts of Yeovil where the views from the fields went on for miles and miles… I found it pretty hard to pull myself away from those gorgeous rolling hills that frequently fill the southern parts of this beautiful county.
It was a raging hot morning and I was introduced to possibly the liveliest golden retriever I think I’ve ever met. I was honestly expecting to hear that Timmy was about 18 months old the way he was bouncing around the yard being utterly mischievous…. he came past with 2 lead ropes in his mouth at one point…. but no, Timmy is very much an older statesmen but clearly a huge credit to Alice. I’ve no idea where he found the energy to be so active when the rest of us were moving in slow motion to best cope with the heat.
After suitable fussing with Timmy I met Alice’s two horses. Tipper is her chestnut gelding and clearly is the apple of her eye. At 22 years of age he is very much taking life in a much slower fashion compared to his hectic competitive earlier years where show jumping was the main discipline of choice, although he’s pretty much got the equine ‘Been There’ T-shirt, listening to Alice. Now dealing with a few joint issues he’s pottering about but is in very great spirits and clearly has much to give from a light hacking perspective and looks amazing, his chestnut coat burning with shine and good health. Tipper loved his jumping and the pair were out most weekends competing. Her groom back then was her father and they were very much a team unit on competition days. Listening to Alice lovingly discuss the relationship her father had with Tipper was fabulous. Even when he was really poorly Alice made sure her father had access to seeing Tipper, even taking her huge gelding home to see him, as she knew how much it would lift him.
I’ve got to say I loved this chap’s character, he’s definitely one of life’s ‘smilers’ in the equine world.
Waiting to make her acquaintance with me was Genna, her coloured show mare. Now most of you know that I’m a bit of a sucker for a coloured horse having owned a fair few in my time. The first time I saw a picture of Genna I was straight back to Alice asking if she knew her mare’s breeding and was she by a stallion called Dexters Puzzle? Somewhat perplexed Alice said the mare was and how on earth did I know… I explained that I’d owned a few either directly by him or with him as maternal Grandsire and he generally does stamp his progeny in a certain way visually. As he stands back in Buckinghamshire with friends of mine it was going to be a pleasure to go back to them at some stage and give them a very positive update on one he sired. Alice bought Genna unbroken about 5 years ago and backed her herself. Her aim was to show jump and to replace Tipper when his time came. However the mare has been pretty successful in the show ring and when Alice decided to give sidesaddle a go about 18 months ago she knew her mare would be an ideal mount in time.
I’m told that learning to ride sidesaddle is a wonderful experienc. You may recall that an earlier shoot of mine with Claire from Instagram account @life_through_the_ears – had taken it up and was loving it. Alice confirmed that she too was hooked from the moment she sat sideways. Sadly it can be quite an expensive area, with saddles and habits costing more than just a few months worth of baked beans, I can tell you! Sensibly Alice decided to hire the saddle whilst she learnt and got to grips with this new way of riding. Lessons with Lucinda (Cindy) Simms, a prolific trainer in this area, have been a regular way to develop this new skill and now with the pair of them in their 2nd year, Alice has managed to buy both her own saddle and habit and is thoroughly enjoying competing. She told me that those involved in sidesaddle are incredibly friendly and supportive; everyone genuinely wants everyone to enjoy what they do and do as well as they can, even if it means someone else wins before them. I love hearing things like this, because when you are active in a minority discipline it’s so important to send out the right messages to as many as possible in order to grow that sector well. If you are passionate about your sport, whatever it is, you’ll never begrudge someone else doing well.
Genna has her own way of dealing with life and her own special brand of face pulling too. Where dear Tipper would prick ears and readily pose, Genna took great delight in a very funny sideways ear look that no amount of leaping, squeaking or rustling would change at times. She was never rude, never marish and totally happy, she just preferred her ears and facial expressions to generally be quite different!
After some time individually in our session we bought them both together for some joint photos. This is always the moment you often wish that you were a still life photographer really, but I love a challenge and so getting the 3 of them together and jointly ‘smiling’ for the camera became a game I was ready to win… thankfully I think we pulled it off between us all with much laughter along the way. Then it was time for a treat as Alice wanted some pictures in her habit aboard Genna.
I seriously swooned when they joined me in the field. There’s something quintessentially British about a lady riding sidesaddle, even today in a world full of megabytes and cloud-sharing swiftness, there’s something about this sight that stops the world for a moment and gives you chance to breathe and transport you back to a slower pace of life.
I wish Alice and Genna much success for the rest of their season ahead and hope to see their name listed amongst the RIHS Ladies Hunter entries in years to come.
Have a fabulous day!
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If you’d like to book your own photo shoot, or know someone that would just love one but is always putting the needs of their horse above their own, then please do get in touch today here.