Archive for the ‘equestrian’ Tag

Poor Khallie   7 comments

Khallie close-up.

Khallie close-up.

This is sort of a personal post, totally unlike me.  But it’s also a good chance to highlight some pictures of my favorite little filly, Khallie.  She is on my mind right now because of an accident.  It could have been worse (of course) but she got hurt and that’s bad enough.

Khallie, an arabian filly, is in the mood for mischief.

Khallie, an arabian filly, is in the mood for mischief.

We were just starting a ride.  She did not want to step into a big puddle of water to get around a gate (she has “issues” with water, something I’m trying to gently fix).  So I led her under a strand of barbed wire to avoid the puddle.  This is something some lame-brained landowner put up, not even on his property.  We had done this numerous times in the past, so I was not worried.  Perhaps I was a bit complacent about it, but I allowed the wire to catch on the saddle horn.

Khallie & her mom Gold Dancer do the mom-daughter thing.

Khallie & her mom Gold Dancer do the mom-daughter thing.

Khallie chose that moment to jump forward, and the wire scared her.  She took off, no way I could have held her.  She ran away like the wind, dragging the barbed wire behind her.  She thought she was being chased by the wire.  I jogged after her and finally found her standing in the trees off the trail, breathing hard.  She was very scared.  I only noticed some minor cuts and abrasions, no limp, and so continued the ride (though I shortened it significantly).  I wanted her to calm down before taking her back.

Khallie just a week after being born.

Khallie just a week after being born.

It wasn’t until the next day that her leg swelled up and pus began dripping from a hidden wound.  The wire had apparently sliced cleanly into her flesh, a nice 4-inch long gash, about an inch deep.  Not good, especially the pus, which means it’s infected.  It might need stitches, but the place it is located would likely mean stitches would not hold.

Khallie just loves the snow.

Khallie just loves the snow.

So now she is being doctored, on antibiotics and confined to her stall.  It should heal fine (she’s young) but it still makes my heart break for her.  I know it was really my fault, so I feel quite guilty about it.

A recent picture of Khallie in profile.

A recent picture of Khallie in profile.

Khallie is my little girl, my favorite horse (I have two, her mother also).  I was there when she popped out of her mom, and she quickly wormed her way into my heart.  I love her spirit.  That spirit you can see in the image below when she is barely a week old already longing to get out of the birthing stall.  Her mom is sick right now with a flu bug and so now I don’t have any horse to ride.

Khallie, a little over a week after being born, is already impatient to get out and see the world.

Khallie, a little over a week after being born, is already impatient to get out and see the world.

It’s difficult also because Khallie was just learning to ride.  I’ve only ridden her a half dozen times up to this point.  So now I’m off to the barn to bring her more treats.  Along with cleaning the wound, I feel my job is to baby her and soothe her bruised feelings.  She’s a bit of a prima dona, but I know she has a tough streak in there too.  So she should get through this with no lasting scars, at least emotional ones.

Khallie is very much a people horse, here she greets her mom and rider returning home from a ride.

Khallie is very much a people horse, here she greets her mom and rider returning home from a ride.

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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

Image

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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