Monday, July 31, 2017

Thoughts on Photography

I am not a photographer. My "camera" is my phone, as I'm sure all you photography snobs (not an insult) can tell. I definitely respect the money, time, and talent that goes into creating professional-quality images. I've occasionally thought about investing the money in a real camera, but then there's still the time and talent issues which I am unlikely to resolve.


One thing I've learned from the photographers I've worked with is that photography is far more art than science. I mean yes. There is a formula to catching "sport" images and knowing the right moment to capture a horse in motion for the different disciplines and eventually, sure, anyone can learn it.
angsty. dramatic. courageous.
But the candids are a different beast all together. Candid photos are all about showing the horse as she is, and there is no rigid mold for that. To do it right, I have to learn to understand the horse I'm working with. I got really good at capturing Courage as a model. He was easy--look of eagles, dramatic posing, and all that is noble and bold about an equine.
equally dramatic corgi
Very few horses are like Courage. He just had that classic quality that made him incredibly photogenic and he was authentically that good looking all the goddamn time.

And see, good candid photography is capturing the subject as they are, not as you want them to be.

I've met a handful of other blogger horses this year and attempting to photograph them has been such an interesting challenge. They are all very cool horses in their own ways, but not one of them is like Courage. I met Hampton first, so let's look at him first.
Hampton is a really cool guy. There are things about him that are dramatic, but he's also sweet and goofy and wants to be your buddy. I took lots of cute Hampton pictures and goofy Hampton pictures, but the ones that really stand out to me are the ones with Karen.
love this
What is most fascinating to me about Hampton is his relationship with Karen. On his own, he's an adorable, bumbling, awkward average-looking horse.

With Karen, he's this amazing, larger-than-life, confident, suave character. The two of them make each other better. 

And then there's Roxie
She's an entity unto herself. Fiercely independent. Brashly opinionated. Utterly fearless. Her relationship with her mom is almost more a mutual respect thing or a meeting of equals than some sort of horse/human thing. They are kind and sensitive and hilarious, but they are their own horse (/person) first. 
big skies
Even capturing Roxie in motion was tricky--the "conventional" motion shots didn't capture her right. Reducing her to a series of angles and math problems completely missed what she is. This shot is completely the wrong moment for your average warmblood or thoroughbred, but I love how it catches the lift in her stride, the wide open space, and her focus on her job. 

Another tricky horse to shoot is Gatsby. He is really more of an overgrown puppy than a horse. I mean. I can dress him up and pose him just so and try to make him look like Courage.
hm that's a no
But one look at the photo, and it's just not him. He was definitely the most challenging in terms of learning his personality in order to capture it. 
so not how courage would have used this light

When I stopped imposing what I wanted him to be, I found who he was all along. 
this is them
Gatsby is an unconventional guy and he has an unconventional relationship with his mom. They're silly and authentic and completely unlike any pair I've worked with before.

Zoe is new to me. She's a whole different horse is so many ways. 
She's brave and curious. Friendly, but a little shy. I'm still learning just what it is that makes her tick and until then, I feel like my shots of her are going to be a little hit-and-miss.
Photography is an art form and I'm no artist. I look forward to getting acquainted with Ms. Zoebird and figuring out her personality.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Unintentionally Amazing

It's probably just the heat getting to me (/turning into an old person), but I have so many people telling me JUST GET ON THE HORSE that yesterday morning, I felt like throwing bricks at the next person who suggested it. We're going SLOW, I have a TRAINER, and the literal SHIT TON OF BAGGAGE I have is not helping anyone. HENCE THE TRAINER.
Alyssa photos!

But Alyssa hadn't been able to meet Zoebird yet (because "competing at Rebecca" is something she does now #badass) so she trooped out to play on a hot, hot afternoon.
I didn't have any big plans--we smooshed Zoe's adorable smooshable face and fed her cookies and laughed about how round and cute she is. Then we put tack on her and I did the simple groundwork stuff we've been doing. I thought about hunting down my trainer's surcingle and driving lines, but it was hot and that seemed like a lot of work, so instead we went to hang out at the mounting block.
she's real cute guys
It's a valuable life skill, right? When her trainer goes to get on her, it will help if she's used to standing next to something, having someone over her, having a little weight in the saddle, etc.

Clearly, Ms. Zoebird was DEEPLY perturbed by all these shenanigans.
many shits given
And Alyssa was like "she looks like you could get right on her" and she was just standing there with a camera and nothing to do, so there would be documentation.


I put my helmet on.

I tightened the girth.
And I got on!

(Well I mean. I weighted the stirrup. Stood up. Got back down. Stood up again. Sat in the saddle. Got back off. A couple times. Then sat down.)
um hello new favorite picture
Zoe didn't even blink. Nada. She was just standing there now with me on her.
what friends are for
It is 2017 so I was like IDEA I WILL RIDE OVER THERE AND GET MY PHONE TO TAKE A SELFIE but then realized that just because you can do shit on your adorable baby horse probably doesn't mean you should, so Alyssa handed me the phone for selfie purposes and after taking a satisfactory selfie, I got off. 
first baby ears pic
It's still the plan to have someone with less baggage do her first real rides and all. But omg!! I sat on my horse and she was fantastic!! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baby Steps

I don't resent the time I invested in Courage. I learned so much from him that I can cross-apply to Zoë. SB-before-Courage would have said "you WILL stand in the wash rack", picked a fight, and made an issue out of a non-issue.

SB-after-Courage says "eh, we'll get there. I'm in no hurry."

Because as much as Zoëbird is a 180 from Courage in every possible way, she's also a living being. She's not a machine that mindlessly conforms.
plus she's wicked cute

So yeah, I could pick a fight with her about how the wash rack is NOT SCARY and SHE WILL MIND and DAMMIT YOU WILL GET THE HOSE AGAIN.

But I don't.

Because Zoë is a kind, sweet, smart creature and if I just take my time and show her that the hose is fun and the wash rack is safe, and hey! We eat cookies when we stand here! Pretty soon, the wash rack is going to be a non-issue and I will have built her trust in me instead of tearing it down.
I learned that attitude from Courage and it's infiltrated every part of my thinking about training horses. That's why even though I know Zoëbird has some quality training behind her, we started slow. I added one or two things at a time. I treated each item (saddle pads, boots, etc) like she'd never seen it before and let her understand each piece at her own speed.

And conversely, she's been pretty patient with me. We had our first session with my trainer yesterday. My trainer ground drove her (hint: they did great) and then she had me do it. Zoë is actually trained to drive and has pulled a cart even. SB, on the other hand, has never driven anything without wheels (hint: skill really doesn't cross apply).

We went slow and I made a lot of mistakes, but Zoë was Zoë and it was a positive experience for everyone.

I'm having so much fun with Ms. Zoëbird. She is absolutely the kind of horse I need right now.

And because of Courage, I can be the kind of person she needs too.

PS: last night, we stood in the wash rack eating cookies and I sprayed off her front legs with the lead line completely slack.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Zoëbird Meets Tack Ho: Phase One

One thing about going from an OTTB to a draftie cross: nothing you own will fit. None of it. I've been sitting over here like "i'll always have my saddle pads", but guess what? Those gorgeous Ogilvy non-slip anti-microbial, contour-cut, tastefully-chosen beauties slip like a bitch on my round, witherless lil mare.
but she's cute!


But hey, at least that means Z-bird is wearing a saddle, right?
saddles delicious!

Well yes. It does mean that. Of course, nothing I own will fit her except maybe the western saddle. But that seems like a lot of leather to lug around when it is a millionty-five degrees, so we haven't pulled it out yet.

I talked a local friend (auntie Crystal) into making a run to consignment with me and we resurfaced with saddles to try. I refuse to shell out $$$$ for a saddle for a four year old who's going to grow and change. We did find one that fit nicely inside the budget and yay! It's an all-purposey one, which I prefer for baby shenanigans.
Breastplate originally purchased for Izzy. Is magic. Fits.
Bits and bridles are a trip and a half. Zozo isn't that big of a horse, in terms of height. Hell, her girth is nearly a foot shorter than Courage's. Buuuuut. Her big smooshy face is not ever going in a cob bridle or (gasp! pearl clutch!) any of my browbands.

A moment of silence for the pretties.

A moment of raucous applause for shopping.

Of course,  "shopping for what" has been kinda the kicker here. Apparently "Zoëbird size" isn't really off-the-rack anything.
a flash of future Zoebird!
Auntie Crystal used to have a big mare, so we cobbled together a frankenbridle out of parts. It's a mishmash of three different brands and sizes, but it looks respectable. Of course, then I got all excited like MUST USE GIANT ASS PADDED BRIDLE WITH BLING BLING and we tried that on:
or not
So uh. That's a no on giant padded. It takes her pretty lil face and makes it look coarse. THE HORROR. I kind think Zo is going to just stay a custom/franken girl in the bridle department.

 You may also have noticed Ms. Zoëbird rocking a full set of boots. They are basically the one thing from Courage that still fits. Sort of. I'm deciding what I like on her and what I don't, but I would be remiss if I didn't share the video of her first time in hind boots:

We are supposed to get this shitshow on the road here pretty quick, so hopefully the girth and bit I ordered show up before my trainer has any real expectations. Or whatever. "Millionty-five" is the forecast for the indefinite future, so Ms. Zoëbird's training is not going to be overly strenuous.

Friday, July 21, 2017

48 Hours of Zoëbird

If you're a serious SB blog stalker, you'll know I haven't updated more than twice a week in months.


And here I am, updating again.

Because omg you guys. I know I've had her like 54 hours as of the writing of this post but like. omg. I love her. Not just in the like "she's new and exciting and shopping yay!" sort of way, but like. This little mare speaks to my soul.

And I hate people who talk about their souls because that's usually a cover for how they don't have brains.

But here I am and I don't even care.

We're just getting acquainted and playing right now. We're doing important stuff like selecting her favorite curry:
answer: no bad options
Trying on stuff:
apparently not cob size. still.
Learning about saddle pads:
Trying on boots:
Playing with the hose:
I mean, we've done a little ground work. We're going slow. I'm in no rush and she's a smart little thing. She was a little goosey about the saddle pad on Wednesday, then totally fine on Friday, so I went ahead and put a saddle on her.
and a bridle bc why not
We just walked around and explored and ate some weeds, then took it off again. No pressure. 

I'm having a fun time playing with tack, too. Her head is cob length, but otherwise oversize dimensions. I took my western bridle in and had to have them lengthen the throatlatch 6"+ because no way no how was it going on her. However, the girth Courage used is a solid 12" too long for her. 
And Zoëbird? She learned the barn routine and settled right in. She has a mini-me bff she gets turned out with, two boyfriends, and she's learning to eat treats.

Oh and yesterday she met me at the gate and ate a carrot and it was the cutest thing I've ever seen. <3

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Zoëbird Has Landed!


She's here!
I suspect the only person more excited about this than me is Roxie's mom, because she picked Ms. Zoëbird on Sunday and then proceeded to get all-caps texts like "BUT HOW IS SHE NOW" roughly every five minutes until she dropped her off at my barn Tuesday afternoon. Fortunately, she's a good sport and I got adorable pictures like this:
That I promptly showed to Teresa all weekend (blog recap later I promise!) because I'm that internet weirdo that just shows up at your house and is like LETS DO ALL THE THINGS. Trust me. Things were done.


Zoëbird left the temperate north early Tuesday morning, hauled like a freaking champ all day, and landed in the desert in the late afternoon.

photo by Roxie's mom
She nickered to the horses like "o hai frendz", then trooped into the barn and started eating and drinking like a champion.
um hello gorgeous
I was so excited about her coming that I totally forgot important things like an entire bucket of curries to see which is her favorite or a sampling of cookies from the feed store. But. I made do with what I had. I wanted to DO ALL THE THINGS OMG but that was a long ass haul on a hot day, so I settled for grooming her.
her hair omg

And trying on some stuff.


And going on a handwalk around the property to stretch her legs.

forgot handwalking pics so here's a bonnet pic
I mean. She's a baby. She sorta forgot she'd worn a bridle before and I had to remind her about her walking manners.

But omg she's so sensible. And sweet. And adorable. <3

yeah that's pretty freaking cute
I have some tack sizes to hunt for because yeah, cob size ottb she is not. Which like. SHOPPING OMG.
I dunno how to wrap this up. She's here! I'm thrilled! Breathless updates to follow!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Found: Strong Black Female Protagonist

When I found out that THE ONE Roxie's Mom had found for me to check out was a solid black mare, I preemptively named her Zoe Washburne.

Because I need a Zoe. Calm under pressure, ready for an adventure, and 1000% reliable.
Armed with two pictures and a phone number, I called a stranger out of the blue about the horse he hadn't even listed for sale.

I found a horseman on the other end of the line, someone who loved his horse very much and was in a similar position that I was with Courage--not the horse for him any more, but he still loved her and he wasn't going to let her go anywhere less than the perfect place.

We talked. I tried to ask intelligent questions and not sound like a complete bumbling idiot (and not ask questions like "what size browband" and "do you think she likes sparkles" which were the only things coming into my head). I managed to not scare him off too badly apparently, because he agreed to email me more information.

Emails were exchanged. I knew the owners would want updates, so I sent my blog information along, only to find out that they'd already googled me and found it... which like... apparently I don't sound like a total idiot (or at least not too much of one), so that's promising. We set up a time for me to meet Ms. Zoe (whom they called Bird), annnnnnd I was off on a whirlwind weekend trip.

I brought a friend with me because I needed objective eyes on the ground. Plus pictures. Always pictures.
I pretty much stepped out of my car and went "omg i love her let's put her in the back seat she's perfect".

And then I was reminded that this was as much her owners interviewing me as it was me meeting Ms. Zoebird.

Lil Ms. Zoebird impressed me very much. I knew going in that she was a four year old Percheron x AQHA/APHA that was bred to be a ranch horse, I knew she had six months of driving training, and I knew she wasn't started under saddle. I didn't know that she moved NICE or that she was a hard little worker with a lot of try and a can-do attitude.

Shoutout to R & J if they are reading--what I promised my friend would be an hour of looking at a horse, then going to the lake turned into a multi-hour adventure with some fascinating new friends. Conversation ranged from breeding to corrective shoeing and even touched on beagles and dog training. I value knowing a horse's history and handling and I'm thrilled that Ms. Zoebird is coming from people like this.

We never did make it to the lake, but armed with pictures and video, we trooped home. The whole trip home was basically me being like "omg i want her she's so pretty and sweet and perfect" and my friend being like "yeah".

Trainer and vet signed off. Shipping arrangements made.

Bloglandia, meet my Zoebird. She arrives this week!!
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