Photographs are a wonderful gifting, of being able to capture ‘snapshots’ of a certain day and its memories, or a photo shoot session (as with this ridiculous Mops-to-rabbit interaction, with about 30 photographs snapped off so the illustrator can use as templates for a children’s storybook series). Or – when life gets a bit interesting – if you can capture that split second’s worth of timing (what photojournalists just have to have) that tells a whole storyline in that one moment.
Like humans, some horses are more photogenic than others. Now a serious Elder, The Best is pure white from her original dappled grey younger days. What gives her that special camera appeal – she’s been in guidebooks, newspapers, magazines and very successfully on Facebook too – are those almost black Spanish eyes and super long white eyelashes – and the fact she always has her ears forward! There’s character, plus the absolute confidence of a supremely alpha mare and herd boss besides. For anyone who’s into studying face swirls (the thought-line there is these form as the embryo is forming in utero – character thus equal swirls and whorls) her patterning on this could be a bit telling. A fun subject to explore, fiddle around with.
The wildie colt Mops, bless him, is in this photogenic league too. Huge mop of mane and tail, curved character ears, very expressive body language. He is, in fact, seriously easy to work with, as he’s so tuned in to my body language, he’s read that and moved before you’ve even finished thinking, so it looks like we’re always in sync – and I get to look even better! From a recent photo shoot session with ace equestrian photographer Shannon Daly, were stunning motion photographs. And what was really odd was how I’ d think about him walking out and away into direct sunlight in untouched powder and he’d go and move out, exactly so.
These days with digital – and video on digital cameras – for anyone who’s taught riding and competing, ah, what a gift! In my early instructing days, we’d learn to mimic – bouncing in sitting trot, leaning left over a jump (demonstrating getting ‘left behind’ was not a fun thing to do, at all!) to show a student what they were doing, where perhaps they could improve. Nowadays, it’s just charge up the batteries (you certainly have to do that in Alberta, sometimes with a spare tucked in somewhere warm into an inner pocket as temperatures zero down) and the person who assures you they are sitting absolutely straight, whatever, may look at what you’ve snapped off and think, well, perhaps not… For this kind of photography, the camera really doesn’t lie, bless it, and makes improving glitches, technique, so much easier.
And, sidetracking a bit on the mimicking technique, as a psychological trick if you want to call it that, yes, we’d imitate faults, but also great rider habits too to see if others could guess who we were supposed to be. And where I found, fiddling around with ideas one day, that someone I was teaching – upping jumping heights of the show jumps – was really sticking on that one day, as the fences went up and up. An idea kind of swam in and I asked her who her favourite rider competing over coloured poles was. ‘Oh, Ian Millar’ she exclaimed with enthusiasm, so I suggested she might want to become Ian Millar and ride his style. She sat there for a minute, thinking through his mannerisms, his style, then into the first, round a series of show jumps in the front field.
“Ok,” I asked, “happy with that?” She felt she could get it better, more accurate, so off she and her horse set again, three rounds later very happy indeed with her ‘impression’ of Mr. Millar’s style. She sat there, relaxed and happy, enjoying the moment, then looking at me beginning to dismantle the fences; her eyes widened, she took a deep breath.
“Those jumps,” she gasped, “they’re huge.” I grinned and she sat up bolt upright. “Well,” she exclaimed, “You cunning thing!” I suggested that Ian Millar wouldn’t have liked 2’9” so, of course, I just had to increase the jump sizes and we stood there in the middle of the field, laughing like loons.