Archive for the ‘arabian horse’ Tag

Photographing the Equine.   Leave a comment

I don’t know what it is about horses, but unless they are working, active and under the control of a human, they can be a royal pain to photograph.  Of course I want to treat them like a regular model; that is, pull them aside, without their humans, tell some jokes, get them relaxed, and then start shooting.  But they ain’t playin’ that game!  It’s like little kids who come to your studio for their portraits – but without their parents.

Khallie, myself and GD hang out at the barn after a ride.

I have two horses of my own – arabians (mom & daughter).  They’re my girls, but they can be just as bad as any horse.  I will say, however, that they are smart enough to know about photography by now.  When they see me pull out the camera, they pretty much know what’s going on.  So as long as there isn’t particularly sweet grazing within a few yards of their position, they actually know to stay put.  I should be thankful I don’t have quarter horses; no way they ever get the general concept.

A palomino at TBM Farm checks out the photographer.

Horse photographers who only shoot at horse shows don’t know what I’m talking about.  Now, if your clients ask you to go out in the pasture and get some “candids”, then you might get what I’m saying.  I was out to the barn yesterday and noticed a new horse, a palomino gelding who is young, dumb and pretty.  So I decided I’d like to get some pictures of him in the late-day light.

A young horse is easily distracted.

First obstacle (of course) was that he wanted to stay by the fence closest to where I had let my horses out to graze.  I led him away with a simple rope (didn’t want a halter on him), and he then turned his attention to me and my camera.  So then, every time I got him positioned in good light, he would walk right up to my camera with his big honkin’ nose.   So I started swinging the rope around and clucking to keep him away and get him moving.  That worked, and he ran a bit – but right into the shade of a tree.

I saw this same horse running around like a crazy animal the day before, but now when I was forcing the issue, he would only run 10 yards or so at most, then stop.  His attention was divided between my mares, other horses in the pasture next to his (who were now interested in what we were doing), and me.  I was trying my utmost to keep his attention on me, by making all sorts of noises and using dramatic body language.  But since I had stroked and loved him up previous to this, he didn’t take me too seriously.

I noticed the background was much better if I got a low angle, so I lay down and shot from the ground.  This definitely got his attention, and he strode over to me with comical steps.  He saw it was really just me, so lost some interest, until I began kicking and doing my best imitation of Curly (of 3 Stooges fame), in order to simply get an alert expression.  I got a few shots this way, but I wondered if I was sacrificing too much of my dignity to get them.  It was all good though, since nobody else was around.

A gold palomino strides in the gold late-day light.

My goal had actually been to get him to look majestic in a shaft of the golden slanting light, with an uncluttered, beautiful sky-rich background, in static pose and in motion.  But no way would he stay in the nice light.  All I could get was nice light in the background, he in the shade.

And moving?  I managed a few shots but they were not very sharp.  I estimated minimum shutter speeds of 1/500 sec., but at 200mm this was a tad too slow.  Live and learn.  Actually it is quite easy to underestimate the speed that horses move.  Their motions suggest much slower movement than they actually accomplish.

All in all a frustrating but silly and fun experience.  I figure I might eventually be able to do one-on-one candid portraits of horses.  And if not, the effort will probably make “money” horse shoots (with their humans aboard or in control) seem like a cake-walk.

I’m told horse photography is a ripe business opportunity in this area (the Willamette Valley in Oregon).  Do I really want to spend this much time with them?  Answer:  maybe!

The Arabian Horse (and other horsey matters)   Leave a comment


Khallie and her friends graze in the flowers.

I really have to interrupt the travel blog routine to squeeze in a bit about my horses.  I have two, both girls. The filly in the foreground is my favorite, perhaps because I watched her being born.  Her name is Khalista Siriane (Khallie to her friends), a registered arabian who is considered too small by American standards.  So she’s not worth much in this country, but is worth the world to me.

Khallie is of average size if you take the traditional view of arabs; that is, they are not generally large horses, especially the mares.  Arabian stallions can be, but traditional breeding did not emphasize size except for a certain few lines that were bred to be war horses.  Khallie is only 4 years old, and arabians, unlike most breeds, will normally continue to grow, as late as their 6th year.  Later growth tends to consist mostly of “filling out”, however.

Over the past number of years in this country (USA), arabians have been bred larger and larger, as judges on the show circuit have been rewarding size.  So it is all for the show arena.  War horses I can see, but show?  Give me a break!  Breeders with large, well-conformed stallions of good breeding can literally milk them for millions.  They collect the sperm, immediately freeze it, then ship it to buyers for upwards of $5000 and more a pop!  Considering a stallion being teased by mares is one productive beast, he’s a gold mine on 4 legs.

Arabian horses are prized for their spirit and their brains.  In other words, they are quick to catch on to anything you teach them, but often forget that they are supposed to be going along with your plan at all times.  But if you remember their nature, and give them the benefit of the doubt, they will eventually become the type of horse that thinks on its feet.  They can get you out of a tight spot, often when you are trying to urge them to do something they know would be stupid.  And upon further investigation or thought, you realize they’re right and you’re wrong.

The white horse in the background is my mare Gold Dancer (AKA GD), who is Khallie’s mother and also full arabian.  She is quite typical for her breed, alternately wonderful and infuriating: a responsive speed demon when you give her the green light (no kicking required), but sometimes a royal pain.  She and Khallie both respond to verbal commands very well.  They can easily distinguish commands that vary in their sounds only slightly.  For example my command for stop is Whoa! and for slow-down it’s Whea!  .

I normally ride my motorcycle out to the barn, speeding along at 70 or more on the 2-lanes of looming death called Springwater Road.  After all that excitement, you might think riding the horse is a bit dull.  Nope!  In fact, it’s the other way around.  If she and I are in the mood for running, a ride on GD makes the trip back on my bike less exciting.  Speed on a horse can’t compare with speed on any other conveyance.  Maybe skiing trees fast compares, or at high speed downhill on single-track through forest on a mountain bike.  But riding GD at a run on forested trail with a good number of S-curves, leaning into those turns, that’s the stuff!

But it’s not all excitement with horses.  Mostly, hanging out with them involves listening to their munch-munch-munch sounds as they seem to totally ignore you and graze.  But hanging with them like that, soaking up the fresh air and sunshine, is supremely relaxing.  After a time, looking at them, you begin to realize they aren’t ignoring you at all.  You know they are always aware of you, even if they don’t seem to be paying attention.

It’s the herd togetherness thing, an invisible connection you feel.  And it makes you feel good, in the same way it makes them feel good, being part of a herd.  I now realize how terrible it is to leave a horse alone for long periods, with no friends.  We humans can take it for a stretch.  Horses really suffer.  So please, never get a horse unless you plan to board it with others…or get two.  Happy riding!

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