I recently headed into the South Hams area in Devon for a yard booking of Black Background sessions. These yard sessions are so much fun and give me chance to scratch and sniff a lot of ponies all in one location! The day had been put together by Laura from The Chocolate Unicorn fame, who is a previous full portrait client and now very firm friend. So off I trotted off in Maude the Mini to this fabulous part of the world ready to meet my models for the morning. I knew I’d be reunited with ‘the’ Unicorn, but I wasn’t expecting royalty and one heck of tale from another tail…
♥︎ ♘ ♥︎
Tucked away in a valley behind some large wooden gates lays a quiet little yard that was my destination for the morning. The girls and their horses were all just about ready when I arrived and I was greeted a very happy and bubbly atmosphere. It was the birthday of one of the girls (another Laura, Laura H) and her whole day was a surprise, including this photo shoot which had been gifted to her by her mum Clare. So there were drinks, nibbles, flowers and cake all dotted about the place and there was much chatting and laughter too. The perfect yard feeling to get our sessions started.
I popped around the yard with ‘my’ Laura (Laura S) and discovered lots of nice options to work in and then it was time to be reunited with Eric – AKA The Chocolate Unicorn. He was looking fabulous as ever. He’s barely 15hh and the most gorgeous chocolate minimally marked skewbald. I first met Laura and Eric out hunting when I lived in the area, she went on to have her own personal photo shoot with me on Mothecombe beach in the Spring of 2017 (you can read about that fabulous session here, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.
Eric is a real star in my eyes, doing his thing for all smaller equines by regularly competing in just about every discipline going, and with some great success along the way. He tries his hardest in all they do and is very entertaining along the way, although I’m sure that Laura might disagree at times! He’s also the perfect poser and just loves seeing a camera, his character really comes through in his pictures. Laura S and I caught up with her season so far from the show ring and eventing world and we discussed the ridiculous weather we’ve had all season and how the ground has constantly meant she’s had to remain flexible with her plans this season.
With Eric’s time in the spotlight was over and it was time to meet my next model, Ed.
Now Ed was our little piece of equine royalty. He’s a ‘King’ horse, from the eventing world. King Edward I to be exact and was destined as a foal to potentially be a ride for Mary King although sadly he didn’t quite get there in their eyes, he did turn into a super horse in his own right. Laura H is the responsible adult for this lovely chap and although she doesn’t own him (he’s on loan to her from the yard owner) they clearly have a strong bond. Although I’m told it wasn’t like that at first. Laura H got the ride on Ed after she’d own a number of Thoroughbreds, ex-racers to be precise. The last one she owned gave her some hard times, emotionally and physically and it was decided when the time came to have another horse that it shouldn’t be an ex-racer. She kind of fell in to riding Ed as he was available on the yard and although it took her a long time to warm to Ed and his ways, in fact she really didn’t like him too much at first, you’d struggle to understand that now.
I’m pretty sure that many of the top yards in this country teach their horses to pose as part of their education. I’ve come across a few that have spent time in the yards of owners or riders who are frequently in the press and each of those horses had no problem standing up and flicking their ears forward. It’s like its a natural part of the training process. Now we’ve got no idea just how long Ed was under the care of the King family but he’s certainly nailed his posing chapter from his education handbook!
As I chatted to birthday girl Laura she told me that she had zero clue about her day ahead, the whole day was a surprise and she was just knew that after this session she was being picked up at a certain time for her magical mystery tour to continue. She was totally baffled by what may lay ahead and naturally we all teased her as to what she might be getting up to. I’m pretty sure she had a great time though!
Finally it was time to meet Dylan. A black cob of unknown age with a gorgeously age flecked head and coat and huge feathery feet. Dylan belongs to Sarah and came to her about 17 years ago at the age, they think of about 7 or 8, but actually no-one really knows his true age. He’s certainly well on his way to 30 but carrying life extremely well. Dylan’s working life started as a Rag & Bone pony, pulling a cart with a old gentlemen in the London area. He was very much loved by his owner but age and ill health caught up with owner and sadly he could no longer work. After some time the owner had to go into medical care, which meant his family needed to re-home all of his animals, including Dylan, and it broke everyone’s heart to do so really.
The story is very much like Black Beauty when Beauty leaves his loving Cabby family to go elsewhere. Dylan, thankfully, had a far happier path to happiness than Beauty though as he found himself at an equine sanctuary. Along came Sarah and her parents one day and before long Dylan was on his way home. Having only been driven with his original owner, Dylan had been sat on a few times before Sarah took him away as her new riding pony. Needless to say there were plenty of occasions where things didn’t quite go to plan and Sarah found herself being carted about by a rather strong, and often very grumpy, cob! However over the years they learnt much together and now with Dylan very much in his dotage and mellowing well, they clearly have a huge amount of love between them. He still hacks out a bit and when I saw them they’d been on the yard pub hack now long before.
Dylan just has the most wonderful characterful face and rather dramatic facial markings too. I can well imagine he was one very cheeky chap in his younger years. Now, whilst there maybe a ‘King’ on the yard, this chap is definitely at the head of the knowledge table…
After coffee, cake and a good old life chat my time was over and I said my goodbyes to each of the horses and all the girls. Wish Laura Happy Birthday once more and headed back out through those wooden gates and out of the valley back towards Somerset once more.
If you want to support Laura & Eric on their adventures then you can keep up with them via their Facebook Page Chocolate Unicorn or on Instagram here. Their blogs are also published through The Saddle Bank so head over and give them some support if you can!
Have a fabulous weekend ahead…
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.