Just before last Christmas I was approached by a lovely lady, Helen, desperate to give her friend Sarah a really personal birthday gift to remember as she’d been having a really tough time of it lately.  Helen was completely unhorsey but she knew how much Sarah’s ponies all meant to her.

I’ve said it before, so many horsey girls have that classic approach to life that their horse and it’s needs come well above any of their own.   Every last penny is spent on making their horses lives as easy as possible.  New personal needs always wait in favour of horse comforts.  Sarah is no exception, so I was delighted to help Helen give Sarah a personal treat instead and give her the photos of her horses she’d always wanted.

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I was greeted by a huge smile from Sarah on the day of our shoot, a slightly nervous ‘I don’t know what to expect’ smile, one I’ve seen many times before.  I introduced myself and Alice who was with me for this shoot once more and in turn we met all of Sarah’s willing helpers for the session.  With extra ponies to capture for this special shoot it was all hands on deck and my word those girls were an incredible team giving Sarah the chance to really enjoy the occasion.

The normal start for me at a horse portrait session once I’ve met everyone, scratched pony necks and kissed noses is to have a wander around the location and pick out spots.  Sarah bought the land a year ago and they’ve been working hard to turn it round and create their own little haven.  During our mooch about Sarah showed us where her and her partner cultivate plants through the process of aquaponics.  Now that was a real first for me on an equine photo shoot but utterly fascinating.  Aquaponics is a where plants are grown using water, but water that is ‘fueled’ by trout poo!  There’s not an ounce of soil anywhere, just pipes with holes in that everything from lettuces and strawberries through to a huge range of vegetables grow.  Trout waste makes provides the nutrients for the fittest healthiest plants ever, it would seem.

OK, so you may be wondering why I bring this up in a blog about horses and their owners.  However, I realised at this point that Sarah was clearly very aware about how to get the best from plants.  This knowledge and skill has been used in other ways, this time with gorgeous 13 year old Connemara mare Silver.

Silver has been with Sarah for a long time, however for a time the mare was away on loan.  Whilst she was away the mare had some medical issues and Sarah decided to bring the mare home in order to resolve those problems.  Having tried conventional measures with the Vets the mares problems, which partially relate to laminitis but also to some mystery lumps around her neck, Sarah found herself staring at a medical wall.  Vet’s weren’t prepared to assist the mare too much.  So Sarah started to research how plants might be able to give Silver a different outlook because at that point the Vets had suggested Silver had just a few months to live.

Sarah worked tirelessly to find options, natural where possible, that would help.  The biggest discovery with the mare was a deficiency in calcium and magnesium that was put down to the grass where she’d been living being too acidic.  With the correct balance of both of these minerals, together with keeping a close eye on hormone levels and working with her farrier, 3 years later the mare looking great.  Yes, she’s still got a few issues and laminitis is always a threat, but with a lot of management Silver is really happy and enjoying her life once more.  This whole process has made the mare very special in Sarah’s eyes.

I was also introduced to her 2 other ponies.  Chester and Darcy.  Chester came into her life quite by chance and found himself a new member of the family following a holiday!  Darcy used to belong to Sarah’s Dad who drove him.  Sadly her Dad was taken very poorly in 2018 with a brain illness and as a result Darcy joined the wider family unit with Chester and Silver.

Each of the ponies has played a role in the lives of Sarah’s daughters too.  Elder daughter Georgia used to compete Silver in jumping competitions and younger daughter Lily rode her a little too, although she much prefers to drive Darcy these days.

I’ve got to say between all the lovely ladies there to help Sarah we didn’t stop chatting or laughing.  Sarah really has got some very good friends by her side, ready to lend a hand – even Helen who was clearly like a fish out of water handling a horse was really happy to take hold of super little Chester to ensure all the ponies were in the right place at the right time or out of trouble waiting their turn.

They say that a good friend knows all your stories, but a best friend has lived them with you.

Can’t think of a truer statement after this particular shoot.

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Until next time…

Rachel xx


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