I have a story to tell you. Jennifer Anstey is the publisher for the Horse Media Group of magazines. She told me she’s planning an article about the different breeds of horses and asked if I could send her a conformation photo of a Lusitano (we have two) and of Dora, the Welsh pony. She also wanted an additional photo showing the horse performing a typical job of that breed. I said, “Great, no problem.” I had tons of photos to choose from for the “typical” shot. For Dora we had her pulling the cart. For the Lusitanos there were brilliant shots of the Spanish Walk. All we needed to do was create the conformation pictures.
A day or two later Jennifer asked if I had the photos. We’d just gotten through two days of rain and I was hoping to take outdoor conformation pictures. I told her I’d get the photos to her that day.
I went to the paddock to fetch Dora. I looked for the white pony and found an 11.2hh creature covered in mud. Being no fool Dora had rolled, covering her body with a layer of dirt to protect her from the bugs. As I led her to the barn I thought back on the days when I had a chestnut horse who really required no grooming whatsoever.
The good news is Dora loves to be groomed. Within 45 minutes she looked almost white. I decided to keep her in the stall to minimize her exposure to dirt and turned to the Lusitanos who are ALSO WHITE!!!!
I looked at Zelador and Zeloso thinking that either horse would be good for the Lusitano photo shoot. Turns out that Zeloso was beyond dirty. I looked at Zelador. His left side was amazingly clean, the right side? Not so much!!!
I picked Zelador for the shoot! I contacted Wendy Gitelman who was due to arrive in an hour and asked her if she could be the photographer. She agreed. I commenced grooming.
Wendy arrived and we decided to start with Dora. The extremely opinionated pony was wonderful. She sort of squared up her four hooves, put her tiny, adorable ears forward and stood still. What a joy. On to the second horse.
I had left Zelador in his stall for cleanliness sake. I took him outdoors into the lovely sunshine, thinking how beautiful the photo would be with the green grass, blue sky and idyllic countryside in the background. I brought Zelador to a halt and attempted to set him up for the photo. That’s when I noticed that the inside of his right fetlock sported a large circle that was a bright yellow/orange. Back to the barn to clean that up.
Outside again. I figured standing Zelador “square” should be a picnic. That horse has been handled and trained like no other. He’s a master at “one-step.” This is a command I give when I want him to move a specific hoof. He does this an inch at a time, facilitating the perfect position for anything I want. Well, not that day! I asked for one-step and he moved the indicated hoof about 12 inches. His stance was so awkward I wondered how he remained upright. I tried again and again. Wendy was stifling giggles. After considerable effort on my part (and with absolutely NO cooperation from Zelador) the horse was standing relatively square. That’s when he started making faces and keeping his ears anyplace but forward. Wendy was now giggling out loud.
Then, for a brief instant, Zelador’s head was in a lovely position. He had a beautiful look in his eye and his ears were forward. I said, “Wendy, did you get that?” She replied, “His pecker is out.”
Pecker!!!!! I stepped to the side to take a look. Sure enough, Zelador’s pecker was out, WAY out. Wendy suggested, “Take him for a walk. With any luck it’ll go back in.” Off we went. Every few strides Wendy called out an update on the position of the pecker. Finally she gave me an “all clear” and we tried, again, to position Zelador for the perfect conformation photo. Believe me when I tell you, it wasn’t happening.
I turned to Wendy and said, “Let’s take him into the arena and put him on a pedestal. I think it’s the only way we’ll get his feet square.”
To the arena we went. Zelador stepped up on the pedestal. His feet were square. His pecker was in. We were WAY ahead of the game. Wendy remained incredibly patient while both of us attempted to get Zelador’s head looking vaguely in the direction of the camera WITH his ears sort of forward. Time passed. After many minutes Wendy announced, “I think we’ve got the shot!”